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Paleo PDF Print E-mail

Paleo is based on what our ancestors ate. The Paleolithic era was a long period that lasted millions of years. It is classified as the time period between 2.5 million years and ending about 10,000 years ago.

At the time, humans obtained food through hunting, fishing, and gathering wild foods. They used homemade tools, bones and other means to gather what they could from their environment, but didn’t practice agriculture and trading yet. What exactly people ate during these years changed according to location, season, food availability and how modernized the humans were. So there isn’t one specific group of foods that all Paleolithic people were eating.

The appearance of our Cro-magnon ancestors in around 40, 000 B.C propelled the human species to the top of the food chain. They began to hunt in organized packs making them the most formidable predators on earth. With few natural predators (other than themselves), the population exploded. Fat and protein was their main fuel and within a short period of time all the big game was extinguished within their hunting range.

The migration of the human race was imminent and by 30,000 B.C bands of hunters were travelling farther and farther in search of meat. By 20,000 B.C. Cro-magnons had moved fully into Europe and Asia and it is likely that the mainly carnivorous human became omnivorous, with a mixed diet of nuts, grubs, berries and roots. Populations also thrived along the coast-lines, rivers and lakes where fish and sea-food were abundant.

Around 10,000 years ago farming was first established and people began to settle into civilizations; they planted and harvested foods, raised livestock and traded instead of simply gathering their food and hunting for it. After this time is when dairy products, grains and other agricultural foods were introduced. The Indo-European invasion heralded a new diet revolution by introducing new foods and lifestyle habits including the domestication of cattle and the resultant dairy products.

In an article published in Science, the ancient epigenome of the Neanderthal was compared with that of modern humans and genes were identified whose activity had changed only in our own species during our most recent evolution. Among those genetic pattern changes, many are expressed in brain development. Numerous changes were also observed in the immune and cardiovascular systems, whereas the digestive system remained relatively unchanged!

The Paleo diet looks different for every person, taking into account someone’s food preferences and also any current health conditions. For some people, a diet higher in good fat is helpful (like those who struggle with insulin resistance or weight fluctuations for example), while for others continuing to eat plenty of unprocessed carbohydrates (like starchy veggies or fruit) is preferred. It’s true that the Paleo diet usually features plenty of nourishing healthy fats and adequate protein–but not in obscene amounts. Just because you’re following the Paleo diet doesn’t mean you’ll need to gorge on bacon, coconut oil, nuts and loads of fruit.

The Paleo diet doesn’t recommend any particular macronutrient split. There’s room for adjustment and customization depending on what works best for you. Just like with any “diet”, there is a fair amount of variability depending on how strictly Paleo you are. However the pure paleo diets exclude all processed sugar, grains, dairy products and legumes. Unlike the Atkin’s diet it does not focus on high protein consumption but follows a more balanced approach with regards to eating (grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone-free) protein derived from meat and eggs.

In a nutshell, the paleo way of life focuses on eating whole foods that are absent in additives, preservatives, pesticides, colourants, sweeteners or anything artificial and processed. The premise is that if it wasn’t around 200 years ago then it wasn’t around 20,000 years ago (yes, that means no KFC or MacDonalds).

Who should follow the Paleo Diet?

If you are a fan of whole foods the way nature intended then this lifestyle is for you. If you’re addicted to the unholy trinity i.e. sugar, bread and dairy then stay away. Some diets that claim to be Paleo include whole milk products (unpasteurized) and some grains (ancient grains like kamut, amaranth and buckwheat) but that is really an academic debate regarding when the Neolithic age truly ended. The nature of the Paleo diet means that carbohydrate consumption is restricted but it is not necessarily a low carb diet in the true sense of the word.