Published on February 8th, 2013 | by Nick Coe
Paleolithic Dieting: Brontosaurus was a Vegetarian Too
A “paleo” or “paleolithic diet” quite literally refers to consuming one’s food as our ancestors did. Eating like a cave man is a dietary regime that originated in the 1970s, as popularized by gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin. Paleo dieting works on the premise that we have not evolved much since primitive man, so that the best diet for us should be similar to theirs. Obviously, if we all had to hunt and forage for our food, we’d be significantly healthier as a result.
A paleo diet doesn’t require us to become nomadic herders, we just have to be careful of what goes into our mouths. The concepts are quite simple though perhaps difficult to abide by initially. You must limit yourself to eating only flora and fauna that is pre-agricultural, which means refined sugar, salt, potatoes, grains, dairy and even legumes are off the table, and that meat must come from only grass fed origins.
For a vegetarian, this diet becomes even more restrictive, especially considering that most paleo diet enthusiasts promote the avid intake of meat. Fish is a lean and healthy source of protein for most paleo dieters, but for those seeking a vegetarian paleo regime, you’ll have to stick to sources of protein that are mostly plant based. Some people like to tote a paleo diet as being too extreme and just a “fad diet”, but if done properly, a vegetarian paleo diet can be very beneficial, as documented on the No Meat Athlete blog. Below are advantages to eating like an herbivorous caveman.
Suddenly exiling all junk food from your diet may be wonderful long term, but initially you’ll likely feel very irritable, tired and stressed. If you’ve regularly eaten large amounts of sugar and fat, your body is going to need time to adjust to a clean intake of food. We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat”, and it’s absolutely true. Your body will store all those yucky chemicals, excess fat and sugar. The effect is lethargy and a general lack of motivation and energy. It’ll be tough at first, but if you stick to your paleo diet for at least a week, you’ll begin to notice a positive change in your mood and the way your body feels and responds to stimuli; be it food, exercise or daily work.
Weight-loss and Fitness
Most people who seek to change their nutritional routine are seeking to lose weight or become more fit. Some people may scoff at adopting a vegetarian diet for weight training and endurance exercise, but it can actually provide lasting benefits that’ll make you an even stronger athlete. As you begin eating a diet that consists of mainly plants, nuts and fungi, your body will start reverting to it’s natural, healthy weight.
Clean food are innately less calorie packed than foods with high fat and sugar content. You’ll be eating a lot of food, but you won’t even notice that it’s less calorific. The nutritional density and fiber will also keep you fuller longer, and before long, cravings for processed snacks will be gone.
Rejuvenated Metabolism: Fat Burning
As another precursor to effective and healthy weight loss, our bodies will begin to burn our fat reserves on a paleo vegetarian diet. Modern diets are full of sugar, and type 2 diabetes is quickly becoming an epidemic as fast as obesity. As our blood glucose levels rise, our bodies produce more insulin so that the sugar can be metabolized by the muscles and liver. When there’s excess sugar and insulin, our bodies stop burning fat and only reserve it. This “disordered fat storage” is hard to combat without making dietary changes.
When we remove refined sugars and carbohydrate loaded foods like pasta, bread and potatoes from our diets, our bodies are forced to start burning fat rather than sugar. This is excellent, because our body fat percentage will begin to drop, increasing our lean mass, metabolism and overall health. You’ll also look a lot better with less fat mass, which is frankly what a lot of people are after. It just so happens that a beautiful body is a healthy one.
What we eat is intrinsically tied to our emotions on a physiological level. Certain foods contain chemical components that trigger our neurotransmitters to give a “happy” signal to our brains. Many plants contain the natural means to create serotonin, a neurotransmitter connected with mood and appetite. With higher levels of serotonin, we feel more satiated and are less likely to become depressed. When we’re living on a clean diet, we aren’t influenced by constant spikes of glucose that will make us have periods of high energy followed by a crash.
Modern diets have chemically altered us to crave junk, and we eventually become dependent on the “comfort” of certain foods. This dependency is often translated to eating disorders and episodes of binge eating. In order to avoid problems and foist away morose feelings, people consume as much junk food as they can, only to suffer from more depression a result. The science of food dependency is quite real.
Research conducted by the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canari has shown that people with poor diets are 51% more likely to be depressed than those with a clean diet. Not only will switching to a paleo diet heighten our moods biologically, but a psychological component will also be addressed. When you commit to a healthier lifestyle, you feel proud of the change, and exercise will only increase your motivation to stay on track.
A paleo vegetarian diet may seem like a daunting challenge, but it’s very possible for most people. It’s important to recognize that actively planning your meals will become a priority, because you’ll need to make sure you’re getting all your vital nutrients such as protein and omega 3 fatty acids. You’ll need to keep track of your daily intake to ensure proper nutrition. The last thing you want to do is become malnourished. As long as you’re diligent and thoughtful of your choices, a paleo vegetarian diet will be extremely healthy and beneficial. Even if you don’t stick with it for life, you’ll reap the rewards and experience of living an utterly clean lifestyle.