The origins of the Paleo Diet
A common question we get asked is “What is this Paleo Diet that I keep hearing about”?Controversial for some, and a way of life for others, “Paleolithic Nutrition” was a term first coined by anthropologists Eaton & Konner in 1985, to describe the dietary habits of humans in the Paleolithic Era.
Our dietary evolution
ThE paleolithic era began over 2 million years ago and spanned up until about 10,000 years ago. During this period, hominids then modern humans followed a hunter gather diet, consisting of foods from wild animals (ie lean meats, internal organs, bone marrow – but no dairy) and uncultivated plant sourced foods (ie fruits, vegetables, nuts seeds but no cereal grains or legumes).
Then about 10,000 years ago, we changed from a nomadic lifestyle, to a settled life style. Agriculture and farming began, and the first crops developed of grains and cereals.The Egyptians recognised the value of grains, especially wheat, and used them for trade, and to make beer.
Put into an historical and evolutionary context, our eating habits have only changed dramatically very recently.Our genome has had only a small amount of time (1% of our evolutionary timeline) of exposure to foods introduced in the agricultural era.Our genome was created for us to do lots of physical movement, and to survive during food scarcity.This short time period has been proposed to explain that humans have not yet evolved the capacity to effectively process foods such as dairy, grains and legumes. It’s been proposed that there is a discord between our modern diets and our physiology, which has included the increased levels of obesity, cardiovascular disease, mental illness and other chronic illnesses.
How to eat Paleo
The Paleo Diet advocates us to eat the types of foods our ancestors ate, without the processed foods that we have created, (through agriculture and food modern manufacturing), for ourselves.
But of course, this is largely impossible, as most of the animals and plants they ate are no longer around.And we seldom go out hunting for ourselves these days, (the only time many of us may hunt now would be if we went fishing).But the ‘modern’ paleo diet is fashioned on the idea of eating unprocessed foods, no grains/dairy/legumes, and plenty of fruit and vegetables.
If done in this fashion, it would have the following nutritional breakdown;
•65% fruits & veges and 35% animal protein
•High protein intake, up to 2-3 g/kg of body weight
•Lots of omega-3 fats, less omega-6 fats
•Mostly low glycaemic load carbohydrates
•More potassium than sodium
•A high level of vitamins & mineral (2-10 times higher than a standard diet).
What are some other reasons to consider the Paleo Diet?
1. Based on unprocessed, whole foods – fewer additives, unhealthy trans fats, less hidden sugars or salt
2. Low in salt and rich in potassium – helping blood pressure
3. High in fruits and veges – can meet the Aust Dietary Guidelines of 2 and 5 serves per day
4. Low in Saturated fat and high in Omega – 3 fats – which means lower inflammation
5. Rich in protein and fibre – fuller for longer
6. Gluten Free – reduces digestive inflammation
7. Low GI – lowers insulin and blood sugar
8. Rich in plant based rich in phytochemicals – reduces risk of certain cancer types and dementia
9. Balances body pH – reduces acid load
What are the risks?
As with any dietary pattern that involves the exclusion of food groups, such as grains, there is a risk that a person may not be eating all of the nutrients that their body needs. And this is often the largest criticism that gets levelled at the Paleo Diet, by groups such as the Dieticians Association of Australia (DAA). Whilst this is a legitimate concern, it is also the same concern which needs to be considered by vegetarians and vegans. And these diets ARE endorsed as ok by the DAA and other Paleo critics. The take away message is that, if managed correctly, the nutrient profile of the Paleo Diet can be large and diverse, and in many areas trumps that of the standard modern diets easily. But if you are wanting to explore these options further, speaking to a qualified nutritionist may help to give you an insight into these areas, and greatly enhance the nutrient density of your diet. And then hopefully your chronic disease risk will be reduced, and you will be full of energy, youth and vitality! Not a bad set of health goals to aim for.
For more information about the Paleo Diet, or any other health information, please contact us or call 0411 772 500.