Paleo - Is it good for you?

Author: Julie Brennan- Naturopath  

Food  and  lifestyle  trends  wax  and  wane,  like  any  zeitgeist.  Research,  marketing and  celebrity  endorsements  can  all  influence our  take  on  healthy  living.  The  Paleo approach  to  eating  is  one  such  trend  that  has  both  pros  and  cons  in  its  ideology.

The  Western  diet  is,  on  the  whole,  full  of  processed  and  highly  refined  foods,    with  little  consideration  for  the  nutrients  we  need  to  optimise  our  health. Salt,  sugar,  trans  fats  and  chemicals  have  been  appearing  in  our  food   in  disproportionate  quantities  over  the  last  half  century,  with  the  advent  of  convenience  foods  to  accommodate  our  increasingly  hectic  lifestyles.  

The  Paleo  philosophy  turns  away  from  refined  foods,  including  grains  that  were  believed  to  be  absent  from  the  diet  of  Paleolithic  man.  It also rejects  dairy and  cereals, whilst  focusing  on  fruit,  vegetables,  meats,  nuts  and  seeds  for  sustenance.  This  is  an  excellent  philosophy,  as  it  returns  to  a  more  wholefoods  approach,  whilst  abstaining from  the  processed  foods  that  are  contributing  to  the  current  obesity,  diabetes  and  cardiovascular  disease  endemic  in  Western  society.  

As  with  any  great  philosophical  movement,  there  are  limitations  that  need  to  be  considered.  Carbohydrates  fuel  our bodies,  our brain  and  feed  the  good  bacteria  in  our  gut,  which  are  responsible  for  digestion,  mood  and  immunity. While  the  body  can  adapt  to  fat  as  its  primary fuel  source, it is  more  ideal  to  feed  the  brain  glucose to  work  optimally.  Prebiotic  foods,  such  as  kim  chi,  tempeh,  fruits,  vegetables,  chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans  and soybeans,  feed  the  bacteria  in  our  gut  and  optimise  immunity,  mood  and  digestion.

There  is  no  harm  in  the  Paleo  approach,  as  it  does  endorse  a  healthier  way of living,  particularly  in  the  absence  of  high  levels  of  saturated  and  trans  fats,  as  well  as  "white"  foods  (refined  foods,  such  as  sugar,  pasta,  flour).  The  only  thing  to  be  mindful  of  is  to  incorporate  foods  that  will  do  the  work  mentioned  above.  There  are  plenty  of  quality,  Paleo-based  foods  that  are  manufactured  with  a  healthful  outcome 

While there are  many  -  and  sometimes  confusing  -    messages  out  there  telling  us  what  to  do,  the  best  advice  is  to  listen  to  your  body  and  do  what  is  right  for  you.

And  everything  in  moderation.   

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