What is the Paleo diet?
What is Paleo, or, what is the Paleo diet? It still is quite a foreign concept for many of us in Singapore as it's not popular like Keto, Low Carb or Low Fat diets, probably because it's not aimed at weight loss but, rather, meant for overall health.
When I teach Paleo baking classes, I find it necessary to go through how I define Paleo. A quick search online will yield many blogs claiming Paleo to be a low carb, meat-focused diet.
Basically, the word "Paleo" comes from "Paleolithic", referring to the caveman era, before agriculture, where humans lived as hunter-gatherers. To understand the significance of this era vs agriculture in our human history, here's diagram I show in class:
See how little space agriculture and processed foods take up in our timeline of human history? And this wasn't even drawn to scale. If drawn to scale, 0.4% would have been much smaller.
What to Exclude
The next slide is the fun part:
For many people, when they see this, it's like the end of the world. Sometimes, I'll hear a soft, long gasp in my class as the participants try to take it all in.
The common issue in all these groups are that they cause digestive issues and inflammation in our body. You might think, I don’t feel inflamed when I eat them, or I don’t have diarrhoea from eating them so I must be fine, but this is about the long-term game.
Have you heard of people who suddenly get multiple allergies as they got older? It's accumulated damage. As you slowly dig away at your intestinal lining with these foods, there may be a day when you hit a threshold and can no longer enjoy your favourite comfort foods.
"But Ning! There's nothing left to eat! Are we all gonna starve?? 😱😱😱"
No, we're not. Just take a look at all the delicious goodies we have. ;)
Bear in mind that we didn’t evolve in this ecosystem alone. We are part of nature, and nature is abundant. So, what can we eat?
What to Include
Mainly, these 2 types:
If you’re interested in geeky research like me, read up at thepaleodiet.com/published-research-about-the-paleo-diet/
There’s also this very interesting ted talk you should watch: Debunking the Paleo Diet by Christina Warinner
I actually agree with her on almost everything. (For grains, my best guess is that we didn't eat enough to evolve with an ability to digest it well.)
Unfortunately, the Paleo diet has been overhyped in recent years. Some people misunderstand it to be a high-meat low-carb diet. The truth is, our ancestors ate waaaaay more plants than meat, and high-carb starchy root vegetables were a mainstay of their diets. The emphasis should be on "gatherers", not "hunters".
What It Really Means
To me, going Paleo isn't about following exactly what the cavemen ate. After all, who knew what they really ate? Plus, our environments and lifestyles are wildly different now (I bet cavemen didn't need to detox or destress from a pollutive or chronically stressful environment; they didn't sit at office desks the whole day too).
Paleo simply means evolution. It means going back to basics, eating what our bodies were designed to digest and get nutrients from. It means wholesome, real, simple foods, and cutting out the processed junk and chemicals that our bodies can't recognise. :)
Know Your Why
At the end of the day, we're not following a Paleo diet simply to be cavemen. You need to understand why you're choosing (or not choosing) to follow this. We're doing this for health. For energy. For vitality.
All of us are unique individuals with different ancestors; there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to diet.
Stop following blindly. Listen to the temple of your soul and it will tell you what Paleo means.