There’s been a lot of talk lately about the ‘Paleo Diet’. Although this diet is nothing new, part of the increased popularity can be attributed to the influence of CrossFit. While I do not subscribe to any one particular diet, if I had to choose one it would be paleo, albeit slight modifications.
So what is the paleo diet? The foods involved in this eating regime are whole, unprocessed and largely plant-based. It is fashioned from the assumed ‘caveman’ diet, that of our hunter/gatherer ancestors, and avoids cereal grains (oatmeal is out), legumes (no peanut butter), dairy (easy for ‘lactards’, hard for cheese lovers), refined sugars (that’s a given), processed foods and salt. It also stresses a macro-nutrient profile of 20-35% protein, 35-45% carb and 20-45% fat. In comparison, the Canadian Food Guide recommends a macro-nutrient profile of 10-35% protein (less than paleo), 45-65% carb (considerably more than paleo) and 20-35% fat. Also, the Canadian Food Guide stresses a high importance on eating the ‘four food groups’: grain, dairy, vegetable and fruit and meat/alternatives (the former two are out on a paleo diet).
I generally eat a well-balanced diet consisting of whole foods, many of which are plant-based. My focus is on variety throughout the week and I include foods from all the traditional food groups. Why? Because nutrition experts agree that diets consisting of whole, natural and varied foods provide the best micro-nurtients, those required for the body to function at it’s best. I also avoid supplementation (vitamins, powders, etc.) because real food provides the nutrients my body needs. While I choose healthy foods most often, I also believe in moderation and would never turn down chocolate cake, nachos, or cheese and crackers (those are out with the paleo diet).
Some food for thought; our ancestors, to our knowledge, had a short life-expectancy. If we were only expected to live to 35 we could put virtually anything in our bodies and be just fine. But that is simply not the case therefore the longevity of this diet from an evolutionary perspective is limited. Secondly, our ancestors were eating what they could when it was available. The notion of ‘carb counting’, fat intake and portion control was null. Lady Caveman didn’t care about her muffin top but about being strong enough to give birth and care for her family. Nutrition science has progressed over the centuries to offer a better understanding of how the body functions and what is required to reach this optimal state. When government organizations lay out recommendations for food intake they do so from evidence-based research. The Canadian guidelines are certainly general but a good estimation of what people should be eating. With that said, there are a multitude of diets and the best one is that which is based on an individual’s location, access to food, genetics, dietary needs, and preferences. Above all food should be enjoyed and not obsessed over because it is the fuel that gives you energy to live. So eat on and live well!