The Low Down on Paleo
In this new series, “The Down Low on Nutrition”, we’ll answer some popular questions that we hear from clients about the best nutritional support to help achieve fitness goals. We’ll turn to our trainers who are qualified Holistic Lifestyle Nutrition Coaches for insight and their best tips.
Everybody knows someone who is following a Paleo-type diet. There are different interpretations out there, but the basic foundation is to eat wholesome, natural, nourishing foods that our bodies were built to consume (hence the throwback reference to Paleolithic stone age/caveman times). These foods include meat, eggs, seafood, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables. Many Paleo proponents additionally encourage grass-fed and ‘pastured’ meats, wild-caught seafood and organic vegetables – with fruit, nuts and seeds in moderation.
On the flipside, Paleo people eliminate dairy, grains, soy, legumes (beans, peanuts, lentils), sugar, alcohol, modern vegetable oils (canola, safflower) and processed foods. This type of “squeaky clean” diet can be pretty intense and take a lot of preparation, but once you get used to it, it can be quite easy to follow.
And why would you do such a crazy thing? Most people follow it to feel healthier, lose some weight and increase energy levels. Others may be looking for specific resolution with food sensitivities (bloating, skin rash, feeling queasy after eating, etc.) or other modern health disorders such as IBS, hypertension, arthritis, osteoporosis and many more. Lastly, there are people who are philosophically taking issue with the amount of processed and genetically modified foods on our plates, and see Paleo as a complete rejection of an unhealthy diet created for convenience, calorie-counting or profits.
Why aren’t ‘healthy foods’ like whole grains, legumes and pasteurized dairy included in the diet? Paleo believes that these foods irritate the gut, causing inflammation and becoming the source of many health issues and food sensitivities. As The Paleo Mom (Sarah Ballantyne, PhD) notes, “This way of eating protects the digestive system from harmful proteins that cause inflammation (like gluten), protects the kidneys, liver and pancreas from getting overworked and restores balance to your body.”
There are hundreds of Paleo resources out there, from books and websites to bloggers who take on different angles, i.e. “Paleo Parent”, “Beginner Paleo”, etc. Some of good starting points include:
- The Paleo Diet (book and website) by Dr. Loren Cordain, considered one of the top ‘authorities’ and proponents of the Paleo lifestyle.
- Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle by Diane Sanfilippo
- Paleo for Beginners by John Chatham – Chatham has published numerous bestselling books in Health, Fitness & Dieting
- The Paleo Cupboard – good “quick start guide”
If this type of lifestyle seems like too drastic of a change from where you are now, you can start out ‘partially Paleo’, by cutting out a few major offenders such as processed food, sugar and gluten, and see how much better you feel. Notes one of our nutrition coaches, Craig Boyd, “Almost all successful diets (Paleo, vegetarian, Mediterranean, Dukan, etc.) focus on fresh, whole unprocessed foods. It’s the macro nutrients that vary from program to program – if you only stick to whole, natural foods, you’ll be heading in the right direction.”
Contact one of our nutrition coaches to put together the ideal nutritional program to suit your needs: Pepe, Craig, Jade, Kelly or Teri-Lynn.