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To Paleo or not to Paleo

Eat like a caveman

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock while listening to your ipod at the loudest volume possible for the last year or so, you’ve probably heard some of the hype around the new wunderdiet known as the Paleo Diet. In case you haven’t heard about it, take your ear buds out and allow me to fill you in.

The easiest way to describe this diet (and, in fact, the way that proponents sum it up) is to say “eat like a caveman.” In other words, you should only eat foods that would have been available to paleolithic humans, a.k.a cavemen, the logic being that we haven’t evolved much in the last 10,000 or so years and our bodies are best adapted to this type of diet. Eating this way, it has been claimed, will keep you thin, strong and disease free. If you compare this to the typical western diet (read: shitty) it’s hard to refute.

What does this allow you to eat, you ask? Perhaps a better place to start would be what you CAN’T eat.

All grains, especially those containing gluten, are gone.

Dairy is out.

No processed food allowed.

Beans and legumes of any kind aren’t allowed (this means peanuts, too).

Coffee and non-herbal teas have gone bye-bye.

Alcohol? Think again.

This may not seem like a lot but this combination probably makes up 90% of most westerners diets. What this leaves is essentially meat and fish, of any kind so long as it was raised organically and in its natural environment eating the diet it was evolved to eat, vegetables of all kinds with an emphasis on the green leafy type, the occasional consumption of fruits that are in season, nuts, squashed and tubers (but not potatoes because we have essentially bred the nutrition out of them, though some allow for potatoes and most are okay with yams).

Some aspects of this diet that I like:

  • It is, by it’s nature, pretty low carb and that is always useful for maintaining low body fat and staving off disease
  • There is no nonsense about saturated fat or cholesterol intake. Paleo eaters cook with lard and coconut oils and eat (unprocessed) bacon
  • Tons of vegetables are eaten which means lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber
  • With the exception of the occasional fruit, there is almost no sugar consumed

It's whats for dinner

Things I don’t like:

  • There is the assumption that all paleo man had access to the same foods. A caveman in Scotland, for example, wouldn’t have had access to coconut oil
  • It can be a bit contradictory. They say no dairy yet allow the use of butter from pasture raised cows
  • No dairy. If you have a problem with dairy, don’t consume it. If you don’t it is a wonderful source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and tastiness. I for one have zero digestive problems with dairy and feel no better or worse when I don’t consume it.
  • No processed foods. I’m not saying that I advocate packing down Hungry Man dinners as the next diet craze, but there are some processed foods that aren’t bad for you. Whey protein, for instance, is highly processed from milk and it has innumerable health benefits, not the least of which is a highly convenient source of protein.
  • I freaking love coffee and tea and both are quite healthy and good for you.

With all of that in mind I think that this is a great eating style that someone could adopt should they want to follow a mainstream dieting style. If however, you don’t want to do that I still think there is some value to take away from this. It would be hard to argue that having a diet centered around meat and veggies isn’t good.

Personally, I follow something close to a paleo style of eating. Roughly 80% percent of the food I eat is meat and vegetables and I generally don’t eat grains (except on Fridays which are always pizza night). I do eat tons of dairy but, as I stated, I have no issues with it.

If you do decide to follow a similar style of eating I encourage, as with all diets, to allow yourself an indulgence once in a while. If I had, let us say, a gluten intolerance that was bad (diarrhea for instance) but not life threatening, it would be worth it to me to enjoy something tasty two or three times a months and spend a little extra time on the throne. Although, I will admit that that might be linked to a, perhaps unhealthy, sense of satisfaction from pooping.


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