Does Anyone Really Know What the Paleo Diet is?

Why is everyone talking about the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo Diet continues to gain more and more traction. I have noticed a recent upsurge in the number of internet articles discussing the Paleo Diet. Moreover, several news outlets are now reviewing the Paleo Diet with some touting the pros while others harp on the cons. How can one diet have so many different critiques of it, with seemingly very few of them agreeing? And more over, why is the Paleo Diet receiving so much attention of recent as compared to the past.

The Paleo Diet is not a new diet

Let’s handle this last question first. In short, the Paleo Diet works. Otherwise it would have dissipated from the files of many nutritionists long ago and been buried as nutritional folklore. Some still think of it this way, but the time has come for the resurgence of the eating patterns that have mankind to flourish for the last several thousand years. This rejuvenation has developed a following. The Paleo Diet is the science of eating before there was science to know how to best eat. In the last three decades, researchers have been studying the effects of the Paleo Diet and often the outcomes of these studies portray it in a positive manner.

The Paleo Diet doesn’t follow a protocol like other diets

In contrast however, the Paleo Diet has been the subject of some negative attention. Some note that it is high in protein and that this is detrimental to our health. Yet others worry about the inclusion of such high amount of fats and the possible increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Are these concerns justified? It is really difficult to answer these questions in the context of the Paleo Diet as no one has a consistent definition of what the Paleo Diet is. Almost every popular diet out there has a specific protocol. For example, take Atkins. Atkins cuts out carbohydrates for a short duration and then slowly brings them back in. Weight Watchers is another good example. You know that you will be allowed a certain amount of points to eat each day and different foods contain different point values. But there is no consistency among the literature focused on the Paleo Diet.

The Paleo Diet isn’t a diet

The Paleo Diet is a diet unlike any other out there. This is the reason that there is so much confusion. The confusion in fact is not derived from the complexity of the diet, but rather from its simplicity. Foremost, the Paleo Diet is not a diet. The word diet as it is traditionally used implies that there is an end to a specific way of eating once a goal has been achieved, often weight loss. Rather, the Paleo Diet is an eating pattern. It is a way of eating that you adopt as your lifestyle. Paleo Lifestyle if you will. This means that the changes that you make are ones that you would adhere to the rest of your life. At this point, you should ask, what is so different about eating Paleo that would make me want to consume it for the rest of my life? Simply, the Paleo Diet is the consumption of real food in its most natural state. It is nothing more, nothing less. Yet, as we humans often do, we tend to make things complicated and begin adding rules and do and don’t lists.

Paleo confusion cleared

It is this simplicity of eating food in its natural state that allows for different variations of the Paleo Diet. To illustrate this difference, a vegan can be Paleo so long as they are eating vegetables and fruits in their whole state. An Inuit can also be Paleo eating their native diet of most high fat and protein because it is still in its most natural state. You can see with such extreme differences still being able to fall under the category of Paleo that this would allow many variations to originate. Moreover, it allows many opinions to creep in as to what is the best version of the Paleo Diet.

One Paleo diet does not fit all

As a practicing doctor, I like to refer to the science when available to aid in the decision making process about the right version of the Paleo Diet. This is easily done with a working knowledge of the medical literature as well as proven lab tests that aid in providing a better understanding of the underlying biochemistry that a person has. Some foods that are ideal for one may be completely detrimental for another, but yet both fall under the context of Paleo.

Where to Start?

The right starting point differs for everyone, but there are certainly some commonalities that one would want to acknowledge when considering a transition to the Paleo Lifestyle. The consumption of foods as close to their natural state is always superior to the ingestion of refined foods. Refined foods are devoid of nutrients and living qualities, whereas foods in their natural state provide these living qualities as well as nutrients and other cofactors that aid in the prevention of disease and promotion of wellness. You will not go wrong with eating living foods. These foods can be cooked in different ways, eaten raw, mixed with other foods, eaten fresh or frozen. The bottom line is that you are placing a nourishing food in your body. If you can do that, you can easily adhere to the Paleo Diet.

 Dr. Arland Hill,DC, MPH, DACBN




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