If only there were one diet that could decrease body fat, improve blood sugar, balance blood lipid levels and reduce cardiovascular risk, all in one.
There IS a diet that does all of that—and you don’t have to starve yourself or eat foods that taste like cardboard. In fact, the Paleo diet is chock-full of delicious and satiating foods. The premise of the paleo diet is that as humans, we are not adapted to eat the ultra-processed foods of today. It puts emphasis on foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors fought for and foraged. Now there seems to be an epic mismatch between what our genes can handle and our modern diet—there has been a skyrocketing of chronic diseases like Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Cancer, and Autoimmune diseases. Many of these diseases were rare hundreds of years ago. Now, you don’t have to look for more than 20 feet to find someone afflicted by one of these conditions—(or at least it seems.)
The Industrial Revolution changed our ancestral diets from a majority of whole, unprocessed foods to quick, shelf-stable foods. But we know that foods that have a long shelf-life are not good for Your life. While gaining convenience, we seemed to have lost our connection with pure, unadulterated foods from the earth. New foods introduced since the Industrial Revolution are white flour, sugar, vegetable oils, processed dairy, and alcohol-all in abundance.
The majority of subsidized foods in America are potent disease-creators. “Foods” like soybean and corn oil, genetically modified corn, hybridized wheat, hormone-laden dairy, and antibiotic-pumped livestock are the opposite of healthy.
If your health is not where you want it to be, you may want to take a look at the foods you are eating! The food you eat either builds you up or breaks you down—literally. We form our entire body out of our food. If you eat a nutrient-poor and inflammatory diet, be prepared to have:
- -Less than optimal hormone function
- -Imbalances in blood sugar levels
- -A poor-functioning brain
- -A damaged gut
- -A compromised immune system
Food is not just calories: it is information for your genes! There has been a myth perpetuated that food is just like gasoline into a car—it doesn’t matter the source just as long as we get the right amount. We now know that the right kinds of food can literally turn your genes On or OFF. Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms are the building blocks of our DNA. Manipulating one SNP can optimize a gene or make its effects non-existent. Poor dietary choices can lead to expressions of harmful genes—we’ll discuss what scientists term Knock-On and Knock-Off genes another time. High quality, nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory foods can literally keep your genes in check and express positive effects. (Keep that in mind the next time you put your fork into your mouth!)
The Basics of Paleo:
Vegetables will be the staple of the Paleo Diet. Shoot for vegetables to cover about half of your plate. Ideally go for organic vegetables, as most vegetables today contain pesticides and herbicides, which can greatly affect your hormones and detox pathways. Consuming fermented vegetables can be a great way to feed the good bacteria in your gut. You can bake, steam, or sauté vegetables—whatever suits you!
-Fruits (in moderation)
Fruits are nature’s candy. Although they can contain high amounts of phytonutrients and antioxidants, fruits can be loaded with carbohydrates and natural sugar. Sugar is sugar, no matter how you slice it. Stick to low-glycemic fruits like ones within the berry family (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries.)
High quality, grass-fed, and free-range meats are amazing sources of nutrition. Sources can be turkey, pork, beef, poultry, and venison. Organ meats like liver are even more nutrient-dense and are considered one of the most nutrient-packed foods on the planet. They include proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins needed for optimal health.
Eggs can be a great source of protein, and they include choline—an essential for good cellular and brain health. You want to ensure you get eggs from free-range and organic chicken which roam around in the sun and eat bugs and grasses, not grains.
-Nuts and Seeds
While nuts and seeds can have great sources of fat, they can also be harder to digest. Soaking them overnight (raw) can increase absorption.
Fish and shellfish are a great source of DHA and EPA, which are needed for brain health, immune balance, and to calm inflammation. Focus on smaller fish, like sardines, anchovies, and even salmon. Make sure your fish is wild-caught, not from raised on a farm loaded with antibiotics and hormones. Steer clear of farmed tilapia, as it is the most toxic foods on the planet.
Fat is your friend! The body needs good fats for hormone production, brain health, cell communication, immune function, and many others. Good sources of fats would be avocados and avocado oil, olive oil, coconut and coconut oil, and grass-fed ghee.
-Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are extremely high in antioxidants and are incredibly nutrient–dense. Americans eat little herbs and spices compared to other countries. Using these liberally on food can have a profound positive impact on your health.
Foods not allowed:
Phytates found in grains bind to minerals like manganese, zinc, iron, calcium and make them more difficult to absorb. Grains can also cause damage to the intestinal villi in some people, causing inflammation in the gut and potentially the rest of the body. Grains, even whole grains, which have been touted as a ‘health food’, are considered an incomplete protein source, meaning that they lack all of the amino acids necessary to heal and repair tissues in the body.
Foods like lentils, peanuts, beans, and soy are not allowed on the Paleo diet, as they contain lectins. Lectins can potentially damage the small intestine and block nutrients from getting absorbed.
-Processed foods and sugar
Processed foods and sugars are extremely inflammatory and can damage the gut lining. Inflammation is the driver of all disease. Processed foods have been linked to poor health and even cancer. As a good rule of thumb, stay away from any foods that are in a box or a bag.
Processed vegetable oils like soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and margarine are inflammation bombs that damage cell membranes and can lead to cardiovascular disease.
Any type of alcohol causes leaky gut and inflammation in the body. Therefore, even moderate alcohol consumption can set your health back (if you are looking to improve it.) Wine and beer can be more problematic, as they contain and feed yeast.
Today, almost all dairy is processed and sourced from cows that are fed hormones to increase yield. The majority of antibiotics (up to 80%) used in America is used on livestock, due to close quarters in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations.
Artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Sucralose, Dextrose, Saccharin, Aspartame can severely damage the gut microbiota and can still affect insulin levels, which can affect blood sugar long-term. Pure stevia leaf extract seems to be safe for use.
Like we covered earlier, the Paleo Diet has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, reduce cardiovascular risk, decrease the risk of diabetes, and aid in weight loss—and that’s just to name a few. The Paleo diet is also rich in micronutrients needed for optimal health and longevity such as Magnesium, potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin B12, and many more.
While results do vary between people, don’t you think it’s worth a shot to incorporate this anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet?
Try it for yourself:
A Paleo Diet can be extraordinary for your health. When you take out inflammatory, processed foods, you give your body a chance to heal. Implement the allowed foods and eliminate the forbidden foods. You can start by making swaps for items on the forbidden list (ghee instead of butter, coconut milk instead of cows milk, olive oil instead of canola oil..etc). Give yourself a few weeks to adapt to your new diet. Don’t beat yourself up and try to stick with it.
Focus on quality, not quantity in the beginning. You want to be counting chemicals, not calories.
Stay away from anything in a box or a bag and opt for fresh, unprocessed foods. Enjoy!
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