As many of you who follow me know I’m a big advocates of the paleo diet and use its principles as the basis for my own meal plans, but what does the paleo diet mean to me and ultimately my clients.
Firstly contrary to what the name Paleo diet suggests this is not a diet in the traditional sense but rather a template by which we can assess modern foods and decide whether it is advantageous for us to eat them. It is also not some restrictive set of rules that stop you enjoying food, in fact I find it quite the opposite.
Secondly Paleo is NOT or at least does not have to be low carb, just because we remove grains from the diet doesn’t mean we need to remove carbohydrates in fact Robb Wolf eats I believe 2-300g of carbs a day. He has even written a post about which you can read here
When we consider the hunter-gatherer tribes of our ancestors we have to consider the vast difference in the climates and environments in which these tribes evolved. From the Inuit in the the frozen tundra surviving almost exclusively on fat with virtually no vegetable matter to the Kitavans of Papua New Guinea eating vast amounts of sweet potato, yams and tubers. Other tribes survived on a very high coconut (saturated fat) content and of course there was every variation between these extremes. One thing they all have in common is they ate from the land eating single ingredient foods.
The other thing they had in common is little if any instances of the diseases of modern civilisation such as diabetes, obesity, heart attack, stroke, or cancer as well as autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis and neuro degenerative diseases such as parkinsons and altzimers.
My point is that to argue whether this is Paleo or that’s Paleo is simply impossible.
One things for sure though, not one of these tribes had access to the modern food like substances available to us in our modern world.
But They Died Young
Now people will argue about the short average life spans of these ancestral tribes but this can be explained in the high rates of infant mortality and sudden violent death as well as death from simple infection without the advantages of our modern emergency medical care. If any population has a high infant mortality then this brings down the average life expectancy by default and does not mean that people did not live to healthy old age at all.
Where Does This Leave Us?
It leaves us with great variety and room to adapt to suit the individual. Yes we remove wheat, grains, cereals and modern seed oils but we replace this with fantastic vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, fruit, natural fats, and nuts.
Then come the grey areas, dairy, starches, rice being the most notable ones. These are the ones we need to experiment with as although the human genome has changed very little, it has changed. This is why some of us tolerate dairy better than others, some have become more tolerant of carbohydrates which I would hypothesise is only around 1/3 of us, leading to the other 2/3 of us becoming overweight or obese on the current high carb/low fat recommendations.
What I have found is a cyclical low carb approach is a good place to start. In this I use some of Kiefer’s carb backloading principles around insulin sensitivity in the morning and move the vast majority of carbs into the evening meal and in the form of potato (both white and sweet) or rice as it appears from the research I’ve seen that many of us have adapted well to consuming these relatively benign sources of glucose (yes carbohydrates become glucose regardless of how the start or whether they are natural or not)
From this starting point we can see how people are doing and increase or decrease these carbs until we find a nice sweet spot between performance and aesthetics.
Aside from the science supporting this approach and my own findings it also seems to fit the modern lifestyle well as the evening meal is generally the one we share with family so by adding these traditional carb sources to this meal means it quite easy for the whole family to eat together and enjoy the same meal which sets the whole family (children especially) up to have a healthy relationship with food and not feel like we need to suffer to keep lean and healthy.
The only other place I use any quantity of carbohydrates is in the post workout window but that is more for people performing highly glycolitically demanding sports such as crossfit or weight lifting.
In the case of dairy it seems that especially northern European decendants have adapted well to consuming dairy well into adulthood but again this must be assessed on a person by person basis but unless symptoms present themselves I see no reason to avoid organic full fat dairy.
All that is a long winded way of saying eat real food, as found in nature.
If you’d like us to help you with your own diet then please get in touch