by Associate Clinician Christa Haines
Many people ask me what the Paleo diet is all about. For the most part, it is a great way to eat! It is often referred to as the “caveman diet,” or “hunter-gatherer” diet, as it focuses on eating the way our ancestors did. There are cookbooks popping up all over that are Paleo-compliant. It is not in actuality a diet, but rather a healthy approach to eating for life. There are attainable, realistic food plans that can make the Paleo diet a great option for someone looking to incorporate healthy eating into their current lifestyle. Creating a healthy balance of saturated and unsaturated fats, increasing vitamin and nutrient consumption, and properly balancing proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are all attributes of this eating plan that have many health benefits.
So, what is the Paleo way of eating? It is called the caveman diet because whatever is hunted or gathered from nature can qualify. This includes meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. The idea is to be consuming whole foods, which provide better fuel for your body. This is achieved by avoiding all refined, processed, nutrient-deficient, man-made foods. This means avoiding foods like pasta, cereal, and candy; legumes (beans); grains; refined sugar; and pasteurized dairy products. It can be a challenge at first, but it is a matter of eliminating foods that don’t promote health in the body.
Sometimes, when people get on the “Paleo train,” they stop here. They cut out the restricted foods, embrace the whole foods that are Paleo-approved, and that is as far as they go. However, the Paleo philosophy does not and should not stop with simply choosing certain categories of food. In order to truly mimic the way our ancestors ate, we need to evaluate the quality of the foods that we consume. This means avoiding foods that have been exposed to chemicals, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. It can also mean soaking nuts the way our ancestors did. Often, foods that seem to be Paleo-approved are actually filled with man-made ingredients that cause distress to the body. In order to truly satisfy the Paleo standard, choose grass-fed beef, pastured poultry and pork, wild-caught fish, organic produce, and raw, soaked nuts.
A final important concept of the Paleo diet is obtaining a balance between protein, fat, and carbohydrate intake. The suggested ratios for each meal is approximately 35% healthy fats, 35% healthy carbohydrates (obtained through vegetables and fruits), and 30% protein.
Whole 30 is a popular challenge to eat only Paleo-approved foods for 30 days. This is close to a diet, but more of a strict plan to eat healthily. This challenge has a book and a cookbook that help people achieve their goal for the 30 day period.
Paleo eaters give one another a great amount of support. There are thousands of online communities, forums, Facebook pages, groups, and more that are already established and exist to provide accountability and help for anyone seeking this lifestyle. This can be a great advantage to this way of eating.
Is the Paleo way of eating supported at the Well of Life Center? Well, in many ways, the Paleo diet is very close to how we ask our clients to eat. We love learning from our ancestors and going back to the basics of eating foods that grow from the earth, without harmful additives and chemicals. There are a few ways, however, that we differ from the Paleo approach to healthy eating. We encourage our clients to avoid certain foods that the Paleo diet allows, such as shellfish, and fish that feed off the bottom of the ocean floor. While small amounts of pastured pork can be acceptable for certain people with a healthy digestive system, we often ask our clients to avoid pork altogether, as it can contain many toxins and parasitic organisms, due to the fact that pigs do not sweat efficiently. Like the Paleo philosophy, we believe that every meal should contain fat, protein, and carbohydrates. However, we recommend a slightly different ration of 30% fat, 30% protein, and 40% carbohydrates. We also recognize that every body is different, and not everyone is ready to eat this particular way. Sometimes, we recommend a different type of eating plan for a time in order to bring the body to a place where it can even handle a diet similar to Paleo.
The most important difference between the Paleo and Well of Life lifestyles is the approach we take to healing the body. Embracing the Paleo diet can resolve many health issues simply because you are eliminating toxins from your diet and consuming nutrient-dense foods. However, at the Well, we recognize that the body needs more than this to reach a place of wellness. Our foods simply do not contain the nutrition they once did, leaving the body in a place of nutrient deficiency, despite a healthy diet. The only way to properly heal the body is to incorporate healthy eating, healthy levels of exercise, and proper bio-available nutrition to address physical and emotional health. At the Well of Life, we do more than recommend a great eating plan. We tailor an eating plan to your individual body’s needs, and we support it with an entire program to ensure that you are achieving your goals and healing the body in a way that brings it to a place of self-healing and self-regulation. This is what is known as holistic wellness, and that is what we are all about!
In conclusion, the Paleo diet has a lot of great health benefits. It can also be a great resource for healthy recipes and snack ideas! But, just like every diet plan, it has its flaws. Always remember that your body is unique; don’t choose a diet that is designed for a crowd! Come to the Well and talk to your clinician to find out what will fit your exact needs. Maybe a Paleo diet will be a great springboard to get you started, but make sure you are on a nutritional program that supports your specific needs so that you can have quality of life!
Christa Haines, NTP
Christa is an Associate Clinician at the Well of Life Center for Natural Health. The Well of Life Center is a holistic wellness center that specializes in nutrition, chiropractic, massage services, and more. Celebrating their 11th year in business, the Well of Life Center has locations in Doylestown and Bethlehem, and a Spa and Fitness Center in Ottsville, PA. For more information, please visit welloflifecenter.com.