The Paleo Diet: Are There Equal Pros and Cons?

With the current diet industry pulling in over $20 billion dollars per year, many of us are familiar with—or have probably tried—a variety of weight loss plans.  Each year, they boast new names and even new spokespeople; however, the premise is generally the same: If you want to be happy, you must be skinny!

While there’s something to be said for keeping your body fat percentages within a certain range, most of the fad diets we see on a daily basis revolve around one thing—your looks.  The truth of the matter is that very few tote the idea that total-body health is actually what we should be concerned about.  Like a shiny, expensive car, what good is your body it if it doesn’t run properly?

With that being said, you’ve probably heard people speak about The Paleo Diet.  As the most searched plan on Google in 2013, its name stems from the idea that to be fully-functioning human beings, we need to eat the way humans ate in the very beginning—the Paleolithic Era.

The core framework of the diet is actually quite simple, and it provides all of the essential macronutrients (i.e. protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, etc.) that our bodies need to consume on a regular basis.

PALEO WHAT???

For millions of years, humans were what we call “hunter-gatherers,” meaning that before farming practices originated, all food was eaten raw and either acquired from wild plants, trees and roots, or hunted for meat.  Therefore, when it came to consuming things such as potatoes, beans and a variety of grains, without the knowledge that heat would make them edible, they were simply passed over.

It wasn’t until 10,000 years ago that our ancestors discovered the ability to cook those foods; however, their newfound use didn’t mean that our bodies were prepared to process them.

SO, WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU SAYING?

The foods which are NOT to be consumed while on The Paleo Diet include:

×          Grains (to include bread, pasta, and noodles)

×          Beans (lentils, string beans, kidney beans, peas, soy, peanuts)

×          Potatoes (white and sweet)

×          Sugar

×          Salt

×          All dairy products

In short, these items are not only poor in vitamins and minerals, but also lead to increased blood glucose levels, which destroy brain cells, and encourage tissue inflammation and degeneration.

WHAT SHOULD WE BE EATING INSTEAD?

On the surface, it might appear that cutting out all forms of processed foods, grains, potatoes, legumes, and dairy, leaves us with very little.  To the contrary, the essentials of this plan involve consumption of a variety of Paleo Diet foods which include:

×          Meat, chicken and fish

×          Nuts

×          Eggs

×          Vegetables

×          Fruits

WHAT ARE THE PROS?

Clearly, the above list represents an extremely healthy plan that is filled with an abundance of fruits and vegetables, but even more important is the inclusion of healthy Omega 3’s, which are critical to maintaining proper health.  Studies have shown that people who consume diets which are higher in fat and lower in carbohydrates actually maintain more lean muscle.  For followers of the Paleo Diet, this means improved metabolic processes and nutrient absorption, both of which aid in the building of muscle and the burning of stored body fat.

Additionally, as previously mentioned, Paleo is about much more than simply looking good—it’s about feeling good.  Since diets rich in quality fats help us feel full longer, Paleo meal plans are extremely satiating and devoid of detrimental blood sugar spikes.  In their place, your body gets a steady source of energy from low-glycemic carbs, protein and fats, which provide continuous fuel without the pesky hunger pangs that often accompany high-carb diets.

As energy levels stabilize, your body will also reap the benefits of a food plan that is filled with plentiful nutrients.  When you begin to eat a whole host of nuts, fruits, seeds, berries, and vegetables, instead of the empty carbs that most of us are used to consuming, you will begin to experience improved mental clarity, better sleep, and enhanced gut health.

TELL ME SOME OF THE CONS

Still, while The Paleo Diet absolutely produces some incredible results, it’s important to remember that no diet is perfect.  Even though there are obviously an abundance of benefits, many doctors still warn that the increased consumption of protein may lead to a rise in heart disease.  With that, since dairy products are also not included in the list of Paleo Diet foods, many specialists caution that followers may be at a higher risk of calcium and Vitamin D deficiency.

There is also some concern over Paleo’s restriction of certain types of food, since dieters may not only have difficulty with the rules, but may also run the risk of adopting unbalanced long-term eating habits.  In regards to athletes, they also warn that the complete elimination of starchy carbohydrates may negatively impact performance and the body’s ability to recover post-workout.

THE FINAL WORD

Although it’s clear that there are issues with many diets which preach abstinence from certain food groups, many Paleo followers remain confident that their way of eating has nothing to do with starvation or deprivation.  To them, it’s not a diet for diet’s sake—it’s a lifestyle.

In the end, skepticism may always remain; however, there are definitely no shortage benefits to be gained with The Paleo Diet.  Those who have used it in the pursuit of higher levels of fitness stand by its principles and freely point out the fact that, in our haste to do everything quickly, we have lost sight of the fact food should enable us to thrive.  Perhaps, if we all followed The Paleo Diet and chose consume things which would build us up instead of breaking us down, then we might suddenly find the essence of true, effective eating habits.

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