"Paleo" is a way of eating that emulates how our ancestors did during the Paleolithic era; a period that lasted 2.5 million years. Back then, humans were hunter-gatherers. Generally speaking, the men ventured out to hunt for meat and fish, while the women gathered vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds. Life was more physically demanding as we had to obtain our own food each day, but what we ate was all natural. Or now known as "organic".
The diet revolution that changed everything
Although there was nothing nutritionally wrong about the hunter-gatherer diet, it completely shifted ten thousand years ago. Historians call this major turning point in history the "agricultural revolution". From this point forward, we eliminated the need to constantly hunt for food by domesticating animals and cultivating vegetables on farms. We settled down and started eating a diet heavily based on grains, legumes, and in some parts of the world, dairy.
The downside of the grain-based diet
The underlying theory of the paleo diet is that even after ten thousand years, the human body hasn't adapted to an agricultural, and more recently, processed diet. According to Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint, grains contain "lectins", which are natural toxins that defend them from being consumed. Lectins wreak havoc on our gastrointestinal tract by stopping it from repairing itself from normal wear and tear. Grains are also made of carbohydrates that our body breaks down into glucose for energy. The problem is that our body stores leftover glucose as fat! In addition, gluten is found in popular grains like rye, wheat, and barley. While only 1% of the population suffers from a celiac reaction (a severe autoimmune response) when eating gluten, many more are intolerant. This can cause medical conditions such as dermatitis, joint pain, reproductive problems, acid reflux, and more to develop over time.
Say goodbye to most of your favourite foods
By eating just like our Paleolithic ancestors did, the paleo diet says no to grains, sugar, processed foods and dairy. Consequently, you'll have to say goodbye to rice, noodles, pasta, potato chips, candy and milk. But how am I going to get my energy from carbs without these foods, you ask? Our bodies don't need as much carbohydrates as we think. In their absence, our body burns fat for energy through a process called ketogenesis.
The upside of paleo
The paleo diet proposes that we eat lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. Paleo eaters often say that they feel stronger, leaner and more energetic after making the switch. Makes sense if the food we eat are all natural, and our bodies are burning fat for energy. From a health perspective, studies have shown that an incredible number of diseases including celiac and gluten insensitivity can be managed and reversed by following a paleo diet. Oh, and to top it all off, you won't have to count calories ever again!
Is the paleo diet for you?
Just like any other diet, there's only one way to know whether paleo is for you - you need to try it and see if it works. Robb Wolff, the author of The Paleo Solution, suggests that people should adhere to the paleo diet for 30 days and then reflect on how their body feels. If you've already taken the leap to start your paleo journey, check out The Dos and Don'ts of the Paleo Diet to keep yourself on track.