The Paleo or Primal Diet is becoming very popular but...
“Paleo Madness…..Paleo is becoming very popular, as it is the original human diet, around for 2 million years before humans began food production like cropping. It fundamentally is based on avoiding grains, sugar, dairy, and legumes. Eggs and chicken are considered Paleo; however chickens will not lay (enough) eggs unless they are fed grains and grains are not Paleo. Interesting observation and I would appreciate your nutritional views...” commented the Inquisitive Paleo.
“And here lies the Paleo Paradox”, said the nutritionist.
There is a growing movement of health conscious humans who believe if we really want to be fit, healthy and disease-free, we need to return to the hunter-gatherer life our ancestors lived some 40,000 years ago and eliminate foods which come from farming and industrial agriculture.
The Paleo, or primal diet and its modern day supporters advocate that it is more of a lifestyle than an eating regime and its focus is on wellness and sustainability rather than weight loss. The founding principle of Paleo is that the human body is best built to deal with food which is sourced from hunting, fishing and gathering, as opposed to those items grown from agriculture – such as wholegrains, sugar, dairy and legumes.
A typical Paleo meal plan might be eggs and salmon on a bed of sautéed spinach for breakfast, grilled chicken, rocket and avocado salad for lunch. BBQ steak and stir fried vegetables for dinner.
Sounds good, right? Well here is the Paleo Paradox…. Paleos are removing grain from their diet and replacing it with additional protein and vegetables, yet often the protein has come from an animal that has been grain fed! So here Paleo faithful are going back to basics with a Paleo diet, yet due to cost, availability, government regulation and population growth we are eating animal proteins that are fed grains . Hmmm. This is a paradox!
Let’s consider the following: Why Paleo works for people?
A Paleo Purist would only be seeking pasture fed, grass fed, organic and/or well-raised pigs, chicken, beef, lamb, and fish. These types of proteins have significantly higher ratios of omega 3 to omega 6 then their counterpart that is grain fed. We know the evidence around more omega 3 and less omega 6; decreasing inflammation, cholesterol, and many health related issues.
However the Paleo Testers (new to the Paleo way of life) are eating animal proteins that are raised and fed genetically modified corn and grains, cages without air and light, hormones, and antibiotics because they are cheaper and more readily available.
Recent medical literature has shifted away from saturated fat and cholesterol as the cause of heart disease and reveals that inflammation is the real culprit. Inflammation is what causes a cut on your finger to be red, hot and painful as the body heals itself. But low grade, long term inflammation throughout the body most likely does not have symptoms, but is now being implicated to many chronic diseases, cardio vascular issues, obesity and diabetes type 2.
A Paleo way of life emphasizes anti inflammatory foods; proteins high in omega 3, meals and snacks low in sugar and an abundance of nutrient rich vegetables. Sugar and stress are highly inflammatory.
What does that mean to your health?
People go Paleo and stay Paleo because they feel better. A Paleo diet will assist in lower inflammation , greater energy, lower cholesterol, decrease the risk factors of cardio vascular disease, increase immunity, assist in weight loss, balanced blood sugars and additional health promoting benefits. A Paleo diet provides satiation due to quality fats and the blood sugar regulating benefits of proteins.
Will you benefit as much from eating grain fed proteins versus grass fed/pasture raised proteins? Sadly, no. Grass fed/pasture fed/ organic will always yield a more nutrient rich protein. However, it is not easy to find chicken and eggs (in Australia) with kind living quarters when they are being raised on grains. After a bit of research it appears even the pasture fed chooks are omnivores and they are often eating everything and being fed organic grains. When they are found in markets and out in the country, it is rare and often expensive, but truly worth it.
Being Paleo is a luxury and one that we should not skimp on if we can afford it. If you are buying a coffee out every day and being luxurious to yourself with clothing, handbags make up and evenings out, you should consider the investment in your greatest asset - your health and note that nutrition is the foundation of your health. No gym, exercise or doctor can take the place of good nutrition.
Do your best. Don’t stress over being the Perfect Paleo. If it is available and you can afford it, then enjoy and feel grateful that you can eat such quality foods and look after yourself in an optimal way. Be comfortable with the thought of just eating real, whole foods, unpackaged foods over sugary processed foods will benefit your nutritional transformation enormously.
Coining the phrase “The Paleo Paradox” and wishing you good health,
Michele Chevalley Hedge,
Nutritional Medicine Practitioner, (Adv Dip of Nutritional Medicine, Australia Traditional Medicine Society)