Published on February 5th, 2013 | by Nick Coe0
The Ten Commandments of Paleo Health
The paleo diet is hot. It is getting a lot of press and many people are getting impressive results by following it. Its premise is simple; eat like the cavemen, or paleolithic humans ate, and enjoy better health and a healthier weight. Like the best diets, the paleo diet is not actually a diet at all. It is a lifestyle and a method of eating that brings permanent results through the adoption of new and healthier habits.
The paleo diet is based on the idea that the human body has not had time to adapt to the changes introduced by the development of agriculture. For the vast majority of our time on Earth, humans have existed as hunter gatherers. We ate what we could forage for, or what we could hunt down and kill. This paleolithic period of history lasted for at least two million years, while the changes in diet and lifestyle brought by the development of agriculture and communal living came about a mere ten thousand years ago. Evolution has not had time to catch up, and our bodies remain essentially unchanged from those of our hunter gather ancestors. Only now we have access to many more types of foods– and there is the problem.
“Modern” foods that have entered our cultural diet since the neolithic agricultural revolution, foods like dairy, grains, and processed sugar, are eliminated in the paleo diet in favor of lean meats, fruits and vegetables, healthy oils, and nuts. This way of eating reduces the incidence of many of the diseases of modern life such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Here are the Ten Commandments according to the paleo diet; simple tenets that can help to get you started on a new and healthier lifestyle. This is not a complete diet plan by any means, just basic rules and guidelines.
1. Thou Shalt Not Eat Grains.
This is a big one. Grains contain gluten, which is a troublesome ingredient for some people. They are also high in calories and are generally difficult to digest. This also applies to food made from grains, i.e. pasta, bread, and other complex carbohydrates. Believe it or not, modern grains are the product of millennial-long genetic modification. Corn, wheat, and most grains began as wild grasses that achieved their current form after thousands of years of cultivation.
2. Thou Shalt not Drink Dairy.
Cow’s milk is for baby cows. We are all lactose intolerant to some degree. Although not strictly forbidden in a paleo diet, consumption of dairy is still inadvisable due to the antibiotic-laden diet of most dairy cows. In addition to this, the pasteurization of milk destroys most of its healthy nutrients along with the unhealthy bacteria.
3. Thou Shalt Not Partake of Sugar.
This is a tough one, but it is common sense. We all know in our hearts that processed sugar is bad for us. It spikes our insulin levels, and of course over-consumption of sugar can lead to diabetes and obesity.
4. Thou Shalt Not Eat From A Box.
For that matter, any processed food is off-limits. If humans have not adapted to grains, then we are definitely not ready for most additives and preservatives. This is a rather large generalization, but a pretty firm one.
5. Thou Shalt Not Eat Beans or Legumes.
Beans and legumes share many of the drawbacks of grains, including poor digestibility; they can’t be eaten until they have been processed by soaking and/or cooking. Before that, they are mildly toxic.
6. Thou Shalt Eat Healthy Meat.
The goal here is to eat grass-fed or wild meats, free range poultry, and wild caught fish. Beef and other meats that are grain-fed will not be as effective for weight loss, or as healthy. This is definitely a case of “you are what you eat”– some of the effects of the grains, antibiotics, and chemicals that most farm-raised animals are fed transfer to you when you eat them. Even the stress that caged animals feel when they are penned up will transfer to your diet in the form of elevated hormones in their meat.
7. Thou Shalt Eat Vegetables…
Vegetables should make up a sizeable portion of a healthy paleo diet. For one reason, they are nutrient-dense and low in calories. You can literally eat all the vegetables you desire on the paleo diet as long as you avoid too many of the starchy ones such as carrots. Another good reason to eat lots of vegetables is the fiber and roughage they provide. In the absence of grains and beans, it will come in handy.
8. …and Fruit.
Fruit is the source of most of the carbohydrates in the paleo diet, and it also has the fiber you will need. But don’t go overboard; fruit is high in natural sugar, and even natural sugar can be a problem in excess. Consider it the caveman’s dessert.
9. Thou Shalt Eat Fat.
Fat has a bad rap. Some fats are healthy, especially in the context of a paleo diet plan. Animal fats from grass fed and wild meats, olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil are great sources of energy, nutrition, and anti-oxidants. In fact, low-fat diets are generally less healthy than diets with a balanced amount fat, protein and carbohydrate. Fats are necessary for energy stores, and the absorption of vitamins. And consider this: the brain is entirely made up of fat.
10. Thou Shalt Partake of Nuts.
Nuts are loaded with healthy fats, protein, and fiber but as with fruits, they are highly caloric, and you don’t want to overdo them. Nuts also contain lectins, which can irritate the stomach lining, and phytic acid, which can inhibit digestion of some nutrients like calcium, iron, and magnesium. So moderation is the key here.
Once again, these commandments are a simplified guide to the paleo diet and lifestyle; you should do your own research before making any changes to your diet, especially when the changes are as drastic as the conversion to a paleo diet tends to be. The takeaway here is that if a food couldn’t be foraged or hunted by our caveman ancestors, then we probably shouldn’t eat it either. The invention of the modern diet has progressed faster than the process of human evolution, and the results of this imbalance have begun to manifest as many of the current health issues of today such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and food allergies. Why not try eating like a caveman for 30 days to see if brings some positive changes? You may be glad that you did.