What is the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo Diet: A Brief Overview

After the Great Flood, God told Noah:

“Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.” (Genesis 9:3)

The word “paleo” means “older or ancient” and thus the Paleo Diet got its name from the idea we should be eating the way our ancestors ate. The Paleo Diet movement tends to focus on the notion that we should eat a certain way because our bodies “evolved” based on what our ancestors (i.e. hunter-gatherers) ate prior to the advent of agriculture. The archaeological evidence does show that hunter-gatherer peoples tended to be healthier than agriculturalists. Their bones do not show evidence of the same level of diseases found in the remains of agricultural peoples. While this is compelling evidence that points us in the right direction I do not believe it rises to the level of full justification for “paleolithic eating”. What interests me more is the scientific evidence and studies that show this way of eating leads to improved health. Not to mention my own personal experience which has been very positive. Additionally, rather than focusing on evolution, I much prefer to look at it in terms of eating the way our bodies were created by God to be fueled.

Think of food as a drug that we are putting into our bodies multiple times a day. Many of the illnesses plaguing our society are what are known as “diseases of civilization” such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer, just to name a few. With that in mind, we should be eating what heals our body and supports our immune, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems, our brain function and our major organs. The paleo diet does just that.

Instead of focusing on what we should NOT eat I prefer to focus on what we SHOULD eat:

High quality sources of protein such as meat, fowl and seafood;

Colorful vegetables and fruits;

Healthy fats such as nuts, avocados, olive oil and coconut.

There are tons of amazingly good recipes that use only the above groups of foods along with herbs and spices. (Check out a few of my recipes here)  You will not feel the least bit deprived.   Additionally, meals high in protein and good fats tend to lead to a feeling of satiation much longer than eating the government recommended “low fat, high carb” diet. Thus, you will stay fuller longer and consume fewer calories overall as a result. My personal experience has been that I am simply not hungry eating this way and my epiphany is realizing I do not have to go around hungry to be fit and lean.

We do need to discuss the foods that should be eliminated when eating Paleo. The Paleo Diet advocates the removal of grains, legumes, dairy, sugar and trans and hydrogenated oils. Future posts will get into more detail about why these foods should be avoided. But for now suffice it to say eating protein, veggies, fruits and good fats simply provides much more nutrient density.  The U.S. government advocates 6-11 servings per day of grains. But grains, especially grains containing gluten such as wheat, barley and rye, are gut irritants. Gut lining irritation keeps us from properly digesting our food and can lead to inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation is the root cause of many of our “diseases of civilization” and eating processed foods alters our hormone levels in detrimental ways. Eating grains and sugars causes insulin levels to spike which, over time, can lead to diabetes. When you eat processed foods you are putting yourself at a much higher risk for autoimmune diseases, cancer and the like.

Try eating Paleo for thirty days. (Check out the Strictly Paleo Plan for help) It is not as difficult as you think. There are lots of good resources for recipes that exist in cookbooks and online. See how you feel after thirty days of strict paleo eating and then reassess. Some people find they can add in some limited dairy with no ill effects. Others, like me, find they simply feel better continuing on the strict-Paleo path. (Although I do indulge in the occasional Parmigiano-Reggiano or other similarly awesome cheeses.)

For more information on the science behind the Paleo Diet you should check out Robb Wolf’s blog www.robbwolf.com .  I also recommend his book “The Paleo Solution” along with Mark Sisson’s “The Primal Blueprint”. Mark Sisson also has a couple of great cookbooks that I highly recommend, “The Primal Blueprint Cookbook” and “Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals”.  Please also check back here for future posts where I will discuss my personal experience eating this way and the difference it has made in my health and well-being as well as new recipes.

Recent Posts

A March Snow and a Recipe: Seared Scallops with Strawberry Relish

Snowy Cows | photo by Lea Valle

This is the year I finally learned to love winter.

In Texas the seasons are: almost summer, summer, still summer and Christmas. So my first winter spent in the northeast U.S., those many years ago, was a shock to my system mixed with wonder and joy at the novelty of the abundant snow. That year the winter weather lingered long into spring leaving me feeling, novelty or not, I might have made a mistake in venturing out of the familiarity and warmth of the south.

Snowy Trees | Photo by Lea Valle

But subsequent winters were far milder. Sometimes, much to my surprise, I found myself disappointed there was not MORE snow. It was a creeping, unconscious adaptation to a climate with four distinct seasons – winter not the least among them.

Snowy Willow | Photo by Lea Valle

This year the winter seems never-ending. The roads have potholes, the school vacation days are quickly disappearing from the calendar and the longing for spring grows stronger every day. But no amount of complaining will change the inevitable coming of winter snow. And this year I finally have learned to accept and embrace it. Shh, don’t tell anyone, but when others bemoan the next storm, I am quietly rooting on the snowfall.

Snowy Fence | Photo by Lea Valle

In spite of the inevitable inconveniences of the season, there is strange comfort in the quiet, forced sequester at home while the snow envelopes the world around us. I look forward to the quiet drives around town drinking in the peaceful landscape blanketed in newly fallen snow. I relish visits to the neighboring cows who seem only mildly perturbed at the cold, strange white matter covering them and their home fields. Even the time sitting at my desk peering out at the peaceful falling of new snow is a time to appreciate, rather than curse, the essence of winter in all its glory.

Cow with Sign double

The cleanup and annoyances that are all a part of the onslaught will come later. But for a while I resolve to be like a child in awe of the proverbial “winter wonderland.”

Boy with Snow | Photo by Lea Valle

Taking in the world made new, camouflaged as a cloud.

Snowy River | Photo by Lea Valle

So if you find yourself in the dead of winter lamenting the snow, take a moment to reflect. Because if you have even a hint of the mind of a poet, you might agree that newly fallen snow, covering the old, is not only beautiful but a sermon itself on the beauty of repentance.

A March Snow Poem with Photo

Seared Scallops with Strawberry Relish Continue reading

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