Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Original Paleo Diet - Origins, Principles and Experts

Our dietary evolution, as seen only too plainly in the drawing above, has definitely taken a turn for the worst.  This is probably why so many people are jumping on the Paleo diet bandwagon these days. But do they really know why they should be eating this way?  Before espousing a particular belief - regardless in what area - I think it's important to study for yourself the background and information available.  This is the only way you can make an educated decision on what is right for you. (Image from

However, with saying that, I am very much aware that there is an overload of information available and not everyone has the time to sift through it all.  This is why today I want to go over the general background and principles again, and give you a few links that you can follow to learn a bit more about this way of eating without totally becoming overwhelmed.

The Origins

According to Wikipedia, the Paleo diet was first popularized in the mid-1970's by gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin and has since been promoted and adapted by a number of authors and researchers in academic journals as well as in books.

The plan is based on the ancient diet of wild plants and animals that we were thought to have consumed during the Paleolithic era - hense the name "Paleo".  This was a period of time about 2.5 million years ago which ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture and grain-based diets.

The Paleo diet is a contemporary version of this Paleolithic diet, and consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, roots and nuts.  It excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar and processed oils because these things were not available to the Paleolithic man.

The Principles

So what exactly do you eat on the Paleo diet? Here is a very simple and brief guide. All your meals should consist of these 3 components:

( 1 )  Lean protein such as eggs, chicken, beef, turkey, pork loin or seafood.  Grass-fed pastured beef is recommended, and if this isn't available you should at least look for hormone free.  In some countries grass-fed is not labeled as such, but if you look for organic sources you will know that they are as close to natural as possible.

( 2 )  Lots and lots of multi-coloured non-starchy vegetables such as salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and tomatoes.  Starchy vegetables are not recommended on a daily basis and should be used as supplementary energy sources by athletes.

( 3 )  Good fats in moderation such as avocado, butter, olive oil, and nuts and seeds.

You should also be eating some fruit,but if you have weight issues keep this to no more than 2 servings per day and concentrate on berries and low-sugar melons.

Even in the Paleo world, there is a bit of a difference on opinion on where these foods should be in terms of priority.  Though most basic Paleo proponents believe protein should be the base, others - like Mark Sisson - have now changed their recommendations and are making vegetables and fruit their most important food group.

The Experts

Now for what the commonly considered experts in this field have to say .....

Robb Wolf explains Paleo in this article.   

You can also get some detailed information on the history of Paleo here, and a more comprehensive explanation of how we have evolved through time here.

Whether or not you believe in the premise that we should only be eating what our ancestors ate, studies have shown that for most people this is the healthiest way to eat.  However even the experts agree that this is not a one-size-fits-all plan.

In order to make Paleo work for you you need to educate yourself not only on what the experts have to say, but on feedback from your own body, and for this the only way is with personal experimentation.  That being said, if you start with the basic principles above, chances are that unless you have major health problems or sensitivities to food, this plan will work for you.

The food pyramid chart makes it easy to remember and follow the food guidelines, but if you happen to be of a more technical scientific bend, you might prefer the flowchart below from

 “Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”   - George Bernard Shaw

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