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Paleo, Primal, Caveman, and Stone Age are just a few names given to a lifestyle and diet movement taking Australia by storm. But diets are like celebrities – as soon as they rise to fame they are scrutinised, misrepresented, and often misunderstood. The thing about paleo is that it’s not really a new celebrity. The lifestyle - yes it’s much more than a diet - has been around for many years.
The movement had a niche following until a couple of books, ‘The Paleo Solution’ by biochemist Robb Wolf and ‘The Primal Blueprint’ by former athlete Mark Sisson, hit the best sellers list and spread the paleo message into the mainstream. Then came a surge of dedicated forums, blogs and Facebook pages all over the United States and here in Australia.
One of these dedicated destinations is my food and cooking website Eat Drink Paleo. I’m a cook and recipe developer living in Sydney, and I am a big fan of the paleo lifestyle. I started my site because I wanted to dispel some of the myths about the diet and to show how diverse and delicious paleo food can be. Writing for Yahoo!7 Food as The Paleo Cook gives me another opportunity to show what it’s like to eat and live paleo in the modern world.
Eat Drink Paleo: 5 reasons to avoid grains
If you’ve been hiding in a cave, no pun intended, and this is the first you’ve heard of the paleo diet, here is what you need to know:
1. In today’s world we are largely deskbound, consuming packaged, processed foods, living with chronic stress, and not getting enough sleep – all of which can make us sick, fat and depressed. In order to achieve optimal health, the paleo lifestyle draws its core principles from our hunter-gatherer ancestors who ate whole, unprocessed foods, moved more, slept better and stressed less. It’s not about re-enacting the paleolithic era - in fact most in the paleo community hate the term ‘caveman diet’ – but rather recognising our genetic predisposition and applying current knowledge of how different foods and activities affect our body’s functions like metabolism, digestion, insulin sensitivity, and systemic inflammation.
2. We do not run with spears, cook on fire or go foraging in the forest. Sure, I love fishing and berry picking but I get most of my food from fresh food markets, supermarkets, butchers, fishmongers, health food stores and online suppliers. My hunting and gathering goes as far as my backyard where I grow some herbs, lettuce and chilli.
3. We focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods like grass-fed meat, free range poultry, fish, vegetables (including root vegetables,) fruit, berries, some nuts and seeds. We avoid grains, legumes, refined sugars and dairy, although not as strictly. Without going into too much detail, we avoid these foods to control insulin sensitivity, repair gut health, increase nutrient absorption and reduce negative inflammatory effects they cause.
4. It’s not all meat, meat and meat with more meat. I probably consume as many fruits and vegetables in a day as most vegetarians (a lot of my recipes are actually vegetarian). Many of us also consume healthy dairy like full fat natural yogurt, certain cheeses and butter.
5. We love healthy fats like olive oil, macadamia oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, avocados, butter, ghee (clarified butter), oily fish, grass fed meat, nuts and seeds.
6. We try to maintain a healthy ratio of Omega 3/6 fatty acids by decreasing our intake of pro-inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids found in refined, seed based oils, certain nuts and seeds, and grain-fed meat. We also increase our intake of anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, seafood, fish oil, flaxseed oil and grass fed meat.
7. We minimise stress. Sure, a small amount of stress is good for you but for most, prolonged mental and physical stress leads to increased levels of cortisol and causes havoc in our bodies. It can affect our weight, immunity, blood pressure, memory, mood, fertility and sex drive.
Women's Health: Paleo diet foods
8. Another way we control cortisol levels and the effects it has on insulin, appetite and productivity, is by getting enough sleep. According to the 2012 Sealy Sleep Census, 96 per cent of 13089 polled respondents from throughout Australia said they wake up tired each morning, with a mere four per cent saying they feel refreshed. 38 per cent have reported to falling asleep at work or during meetings. Paleo lifestyle prescribes eight to nine hours of sleep in a completely dark room, with no stimulants or distractions (read ‘iPhone and Facebook’) an hour before bed.
9. We stay active with lots of walking, hiking, weight lifting and high intensity, interval training. We play in the sun to get a daily dose of Vitamin D, socialise with friends, travel from place to place, and stimulate our brains by exploring and learning new things.
10. And finally, there is no one-size-fits-all paleo diet, it’s a framework, which can be tailored to individual needs, goals, body types and sensitivities. It’s about how you feel when you include or exclude certain foods.
If you’re into paleo, you want to give it a go, or you simply want some cooking inspiration, come back next week to find out what a typical day in a modern paleo diet is like, and I'll also show you a sample meal plan.
VIDEO: Sometimes in the quest to lose weight the easiest solutions can be overlooked, but taking wheat out of your diet can help you shed almost five kilos in two weeks:[[vid:mm:29722655|width=480|height=270]]