A Paleo Refresher
Chances are that you’ve heard of the paleo diet before. The paleo diet rests on the premise that eating what our ancestors did is more compatible with the evolution of our genetics – and our bodies’ needs – which in turn results in better overall health. But our experts, naturopathic doctor Mahalia Freed and registered dietitian and nutritionist Jaime Slavin, both point out that there are some cracks in that line of thought. First, our ancestors come from different parts of the world and their diets would have reflected that; two, the nutritional and fat profiles of our ancestors’ vegetables and meats would be quite different from today. However, both say eating paleo might be the right fit for some people, including those who face autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal conditions and skin issues like eczema or psoriasis, because it cuts out foods that may be allergenic, difficult to digest or cause inflammation.
While there are slight variations depending on the form of paleo you try, the basics are the same: grains, legumes and dairy products are no-nos. So is refined sugar and oils that are high in omega 6 fatty acids such as canola oil. This leaves fruits and vegetables, meat and seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds, fats like coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil, and unrefined sweeteners like honey on the table. You have to consider the quality of your ingredients, too, say the experts. For example, grass-fed beef is preferable to conventional. “Cows are able to convert grass into the omega 3s that are good for our body, whereas cows fed grain are going to have fat higher in omega 6s, which are inflammatory,” explains Dr. Freed. While animal-based proteins are an essential part of the paleo approach, Slavin notes you don’t need to eat a lot of meat or fish, which can be expensive. “The bulk of your meal should come from things like vegetables and nuts and seeds and good-quality fats.”