What is "Paleo" Anyway?*

Tuesday, 18 August 2015, By Jeff Osborne

If you watched channel 9 and Chanel 7 on the weekend of August 16th, 2015 and saw the stories from Mike Willesee on the Sunday Night program and Charles Wooley's 60 minutes story you wouldn't be alone if you were confused about what all this "Paleo" talk is all about?

See the stories here:

http://www.9jumpin.com.au/show/60minutes/stories/2015/august/the-wooley-mammoth/  and 

https://au.news.yahoo.com/sunday-night/features/a/29270243/the-first-five-weeks-willesee-road-tests-the-paleo-diet/

Most of the criticism that gets flung at paleo comes from a complete lack of understanding as to what it actually is and isn't. Pete Evans did a fantastic job of clarifying that only to have the 60 minutes story completely botch the whole story. So here are some facts about paleo to clear things up:

1. A 'Paleo' Diet is not about what 'Caveman' ate!

Loren Cordain popularised the diet with his research into what our ancestors ate (or more importantly didn't eat) and since then people have been confused as to what eating paleo is all about. There is no one diet that our ancestors ate, and we are only taking educated guesses at what it is that they consumed from assumptions we have made. The truth is that we don't know for certain what a caveman actually ate, but we do know there are a few things that many of us consume today that have only been introduced into our diets relatively recently.

The human body has been evolving for around 2 million years. Think about how long that really is! That means that the past 5000 years of recorded history account for roughly 0.0025% of our total history. And during that time some foods have been introduced that our bodies have not had time to adapt to. Because our bodies have not adapted to these foods, argues the paleo diet, they cause chronic inflammation and therefore increase a host of bad side affects from diseases to discomforts. In terms of actual scientific evidence that this is true… the evidence is mounting in favour of this hypothesis but it is by no means conclusive.

2. A Paleo diet is restrictive and you have to give up all the food you love!

How 'Paleo' you go is up to you. Chris Kresser does a fantastic job of this in his book Your Personal Paleo Diet. A paleo diet consists of mainly vegetable, some naturally fed animal protein, some fat and a little fruit. If you choose to include other foods in there, even the so called BAD FOODS like grains, legumes, vegetable oils, sugar and dairy, that is up to you. The truth is that everyone handles these foods differently. Some people take wheat out of their diet for 30 days and feel amazing, others don't really notice a difference. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that eating more natural and unprocessed foods is good for you and for most people taking the 'crap' out of your diet will result in a benefit.

Realistically you need to take a food item out of your diet for 30+ days before you can add it back in and notice the difference. Many people take out a food they have never had a problem with and when they reintroduce it they are amazed at how bad it makes them feel. Normal is what you are used to, not what is best for you.

3. Paleo is a weight loss diet!

Many people lose many kilos on a paleo diet. The main reason is they reduce the amount of sugar and low quality carbs they have. But don't mistake it for a weight loss program. Paleo is designed to reduce inflammation  and be best for your health, but you can still have too much of a good thing. Quite often people eat low carb on a paleo diet but that may not be the best thing for you. Paleo isn't necessarily low carb, but is definitely isn't a high carb diet. If you want to lose weight eating the right macronutrient make up specifically for you is a much smarter short and long term strategy.

4. The Paleo diet is all about eating MEAT!

Sure, eating meat is in the paleo diet, and you could argue that we owe our large brains to the consumption of meat and meat fat, but if you think paleo is all about eating as much 'dead animals' as you can find you are missing the point. Pete Evans did a great job of describing this in his interview where he explained Paleo is mainly vegetables, a palm sized piece of naturally raised meat (grass fed beef, free range chicken etc.) some natural fats like avocado and nuts. 

We have been told that eating meat is bad for us and that it causes things like bowel cancer, but the truth is no research has shown that at all. There have been some studies where people that ate meat had higher instances of bowel cancer but without looking at the whole picture it is like blaming drowning on the increase in ice-cream consumption. Just because they happen at the same time doesn't mean there is causation.

So what do I do???

If you are really curios and/or you have some kind of auto-immune disease or inflammation like irritable bowel syndrome, Hashimotos, Crohn's Disease or just a suspected wheat intolerance you might get some benefit out of trying it. Even if you don't you might find it works well for you. Hey, even if you just increase your vegetable intake and eat high quality meats i'm sure you will benefit! Is paleo for everyone… I don't think so. The best description and a place to start your research is here: http://robbwolf.com/2012/10/24/shades-paleo/

Before you start saying that it is crap or it is the cure to everything, do some research and get the whole picture (not just from paleo bloggers) and you might find somewhere in the middle is the right fit for you and your family to live a healthy, happy, long life.

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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