Nicknamed the “caveman diet,” the paleolithic diet is based on what our ancestors consumed from about 2.5 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago.
When I first heard about the paleo diet a few years ago, I passed it off as just another fad, and in essence it is. It retains the restrictive “eat this, not that” mentality that is common among fad diets.
Strict diets can be difficult to maintain as time passes. However, after hearing people exclaim about the way they simply “felt better” on the caveman plan, I realized that what this “fad diet” really promoted was simplicity.
Grains and legumes are recent inclusions to the human diet and the premise behind the paleo diet is that our bodies have not yet evolved to digest grains, potatoes or legumes. Nutrient inhibitors found in these foods, like phytic acid, prevent essential minerals in the intestine from being absorbed. Including these foods in your diet can cause not only obesity, lethargy and acne, but also increase your risk of heart disease and cancer.
Promoting locally grown foods and organic meats is a simple solution to the confusing food industry. While following a strict diet that negates grains, potatoes and legumes doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, it has been proven to increase mental alertness, energy and stamina, build muscle and reduce bloat, acne and excess body fat.
Reading about other people’s positive results with the diet made me want to try it. Although experts suggest dedicating a month to the diet to help cleanse your body of the shit you’ve been consuming for years, I had just a week to dedicate to paleo for this article.
As with all diets, there are foods you are allowed to eat and foods you aren’t. The paleo diet, however, makes it pretty simple.
All meat, fish and eggs are allowed, but as with any reasonable diet, those low in fat and sodium are encouraged. What is typically stressed is the use of organically fed or grain-fed animals, since animals weren’t farmed in the paleolithic era.
You should include large amounts of vegetables since many vitamins and minerals come from vegetables. Root vegetables such as carrots and turnips are encouraged and intake of these should be increased for most people.
Fruits, especially berries, are encouraged. Logically, anything that was easy to pick or attain by our distant ancestors is crucial to the paleo diet.
Fats are endorsed, especially coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil because they have amazing benefits for your skin, hair and digestive tract. However, if you’re trying to lose weight and are fairly inactive, use fat in moderation.
Grains and grain-like foods should be avoided completely. Fortunately there are alternative options if you are like me and absolutely have to eat pizza. Alternative crusts can be made out of spinach or cauliflower.
Starchy vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes aren’t endorsed and should be cut out.
Legumes should also be avoided and all beans should be eliminated. Since peanuts are considered a legume, they too are excluded from the diet.
Refined sweeteners like sugar cane, white sugar, brown sugar, refined maple syrup and refined honey are all off limits. Include local, organic honey or unrefined maple syrup instead.
Of course “junk food,” including pop (even diet pop) and anything that contains hydrogenated oils or refined, iodized salt must be avoided. These are crap for you and are proven causes of a list of chronic degenerative diseases.
The first day or two on the diet, I was relatively more hungry than I was on a carb-enriched diet. But my overall feelings of sluggishness and bloat diminished throughout the week.
Admittedly, I went into the diet somewhat unprepared. I was unable to sustain it, succumbing to the bread fairly early.
What I gathered from my experience is that we need to be more conscious of what we eat. Plan your meals and include foods that are locally grown. Include foods that you would find in nature rather than prepared in a warehouse and shipped across the country or world.
Of course, I’m not an expert. I definitely recommend researching and preparing for the diet if you plan on making the switch.
Illustration: Stephanie Mah