what is the paleo diet? (plus how I’m doing it)

Paleo is the new Atkins. I don’t actually think this. But it’s what everyone likes to say. It certainly is a way of eating that’s attracting a lot of attention…and with it some terribly hysterical mis-information.

Screen Shot 2012 03 27 at 5.53.08 PM what is the paleo diet? (plus how I'm doing it)
infographic mages via greatist.com

Wondering what the hell I’m talking about? How about I give a bit of a Paleo 101 rundown…with some pointers to how I’ve chosen to interpret this way of living. Because, as hopefully you know, I’m not into doing “diets” or being strict and draconian with my eating, or doing what I’m told I should do (this extends well beyond food, I’m afraid) or getting caught up in a fad.

I like to eat my way… and gently. And so: the below is not a guide to how I think YOU should eat. I’m simply sharing my experiences experimenting, which perhaps might prompt you to experiment, too.

To be honest, I’ve resisted writing too much about it previously, although a lot of you who quit sugar are asking whether you “should also be quitting carbs”. (Should, should, should.)

I’ve resisted in part because I’ve been wary of boarding too many bandwagons and becoming a dreary bore who tells other people what to do. And in part because I’ve wanted to distance myself from the Paleo bores. And there are many. And they are vocal!

But mostly I’ve resisted because I like to try things fully before I buy it and share it (although I’ve written about it briefly here and shared recipes here.).

I’ve now tried out the caper fully – for about five months. So, time to share:

The elevator pitch answer: what is the Paleo diet?

Also called the cave man diet, it’s about eating in a similar way to the way our ancestors – up until the agricultural revolution about 7-10,000 years ago – used to eat.

This equates to: meat, saturated fats (from animals, avocados, nuts etc), non-starchy vegetables, nuts, eggs and a little low-sugar fruit.

It means not eating: anything that arrived on the scene since farming and processing began (grains, sugars, vegetable oils, Dunkin’ Donuts).

But Paleo peeps vary their take on the details (see below). To this end it’s an approach, not a diet (there’s no manifesto or original author who cashes in on the idea).

Why would you do such a thing?

Because we evolved to eat this way – and metabolise this way – over millions of years. Grains and other “processed foods” require radically different metabolic and digestive processes. Our bodies simply haven’t adjusted to these different processes (evolution is a damn slow process) and so we struggle with these “new” foods  at every mouthful. Our genes are 99 per cent the same as they were 10,000 years ago.

We haven’t changed genetically; our diets sure have. Ditto our waistlines and health…

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