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Introduction to the Paleo Diet

By Debbie Perry

 

In the last 5 years, more and more people are becoming familiar with and adopting the Paleo diet lifestyle.  But if you are one of those onlookers who still are wondering what in the world this caveman food is and how it may/or may not work for you, then here is your quick pocket guide to some Paleo basics.

Theory

The foundation of the Paleo diet theory is based on the evolution of man. The hypothesis is that if we, as homosapiens, have evolved and thrived over the last 10 million years on specific types of foods, then the introduction of  “modern day” foods may be causing harm. Modern day foods, in the paleo world, would be those food introduced in the last 10,000 years that the human body is not capable of really processing and using well because we are not yet adapted to do so. While refined sugar, flours and processed foods are on the obvious “problematic” list, the surprise to most people is that grains and dairy are members of this list as well since the widespread use of cultivated grains and cattle has only occurred in that 10,000 year modern window.

Paleo Foods

Very simply put, Paleolithic food choices would be meats, seafood, vegetables, tree nuts and fruits.  The consumption of only these food groups would, in fact, resolve a LARGE majority of health issues faced by the people of today. The obvious health improvements would be obesity, heart disease, chronic degenerative diseases and many cancers.  The biggest problem people face is trying to switch their lifestyles over to paleo habits ,when they currently eat over 70% of their food as grain, dairy, processed items, alcohol and fatty meats. However, there are now good resources with lots of ideas on how to switch over to a more natural, whole food eating style. Some of those sites are www.marksdailyapple.com and www.thepaleodiet.com

Paleo Foods for Endurance Athletes

As someone who is probably running, biking and/or swimming for exercise, there is probably a little bit of concern you may be having at the moment on how you think it’s possible to train while eating a paleo oriented diet. The book, Paleo Diet for Athletes, does a nice job explaining how to alter the plan a bit to accommodate for the large amount of carb consumption needed in the endurance world. For the most part, the emphasis is put on using high quality commercial Carbohydrate products (like gels, block, carb drinks and etc) to help make up most of that difference before, during and right after a workout. The other allowance is by adding in some sweet potatoes that are otherwise not recommended for more sedentary folk due to the high carb content. Most Paleo athletes feel like those two alterations to the original Paleo plan are enough to meet their needs.

Should you try it?

Without a doubt, the whole concept of getting rid of processed and refined foods, fatty meats, refined vegetable oils, alcohol and large amounts of dairy would tremendously help anyone to feel better, live a higher quality life as they age and look better too! The extreme to which you take it, is highly individual. There are many people who feel that they theory of evolutionary man is incorrect and therefore keep small amounts of whole grain (not refined flours) in their meal plan.  The same holds true for the addition of raw or cultured dairy.  So, the extent to which a person applies the idea is up that individual. But, without a doubt, converting most of a person’s eating habits over to Paleo foods would bring about a myriad of positive health changes!

 

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