Weighing the Facts on the Paleo Diet Trend for My Health
So a good girlfriend of mine just moved back to Australia and in her goodbyes she gave me a long spiel on how awesome she is feeling after doing the paleo diet. It’s such a hipster trendy thing to do, that I’d only think my older sisters would even consider doing it, but my ozzie friend’s only a year older than me. [20.] So, I’m trying to decide if it’s scientifically right for me to do, you know?
By now, it’s safe to assume everyone has heard about the paleo diet, all the USA idols are: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Matthew McConaughey, Megan Fox, and Uma Thurman. Are they just telling us they are? I can’t imagine a world without chocolate!
Paleo is short for Paleolithic — sarcastically referred to as the caveman diet — is a meat oriented, low-carb diet all about grain, bean, dairy and raw sugar. Meat, fruit and vegetables? This appealing simplistic nutrition system for a body was based around the concept that our bodies have not adapted physiologically fast enough to actually digest the major changes in our diet from our far off ancestors — the supposed cavemen. In the 1970’s, gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin’s book: The Stone Age Diet gained a lot of ground preceding Loren Cordain’s book: The Paleo Diet (subsequently trademarked, of course,) in 2002. It didn’t gain much traction however until the last several years, especially in 2011 when dedicated restaurants to the scoffed at fad began popping up.
Eating like The Flintstones is all about eating whole foods absent of dairy and gluten, both of which are known triggers of major allergic reactions. Because the diet has few carbohydrates, I’ve seen a lot of girls (and guys) lose weight on it. The people, (often hipsters,) will tell you the diet prevents the diseases of civilization — Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, of course. They may also swear it has the scientific ability to reverse your body’s autoimmune problems, diabetes, and even give skin a clear complexion.
On the flip side, too many studies are inconclusive on whether the weight lost is long term or whether it has cardiovascular effects. Labeled as “blowing smoke” by some naysayers, some on the side of science have countered with the evidence of Paleolithic men and women eating varied diets including grains. There was a study in China examining the correlation between animal products and by-products and chronic illness.
So What I Gotta Give Up?
Only just about all grains, including wheat, corn, barley, rice, quinoa and amaranth [which I’ve just gotten into]. …And also beans, lentils and peanuts, (even though thousands of years, it was too fast for this animal body). This is also true for dairy, alcohol, too salty foods, (MSG — duh!) and added sugar are also no-nos. A lot of drinks have these other forbidden ingredients: corn syrup, artificial coloring, preservatives and many flavoring. Most vegetable oils as well.
My mom was confused, thinking gluten-free and paleo were the same diet. I had to tell her that paleo is gluten-free but is actually more restrictive than merely going trying to stay off of glutens. Gluten problems are only found in foods that are not from the Paleolithic age.
OK, What I’m Gonna Eat?
Properly raised meat, (organic if possible), fish, poultry, eggs, vegetables, fruits and nuts are going to be the main topics of the menu. People generally start eating more animal protein than normal, so not many of my vegan or vegetarian friends will even bother to be part of the diet or the fad. Non-starchy vegetables will be part of those friends, and my diet if I do this, especially tubers with low glycemic levels such as yams, a.k.a. sweet potatoes or satsuma-imo. Dining out may become a problem, and mostly people have to make their own dinner nights, inviting people over and sharing dinner, but sometimes it’s hard to organize or coordinate schedules. Within the limitations people can eat whatever and whenever they’d like, using cooking oil substitutes such as animal fats or less-processed olive and coconut oils.
That is a photo of some matcha (Japanese heavy green-tea) desert bowl at a local restaurant: matcha ice-cream, topped with a sugar-boiled sweet potato and some red beans. It’s very subtly sweet, but tasting less refined or overwhelming than when I have something stereotypically American or European. No, this too, would be forbidden by a true paleo diet. In Japanese and other Asian cultures, we do have quite a lot of options to contribute to this global wide health trend. I have the feeling we are just seeing the beginning of this ancient connection into our biological and societal pasts. It may not be a scientific must for me to do, but I wouldn’t mind doing it sometimes, like at Burning Man or something.