It’s not breaking news but it’s also not leaving the headline space. We are talking about The Paleo Diet. What is the Paleo Diet? It is a reference to the foods that we our ancestors ate which for the most part included meats and seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, explains Markus Giebel, CEO of Eternity Medicine Institute, Dubai.
So what’s new? Are we all not eating these even today? Yes, but if you went through the list of foods carefully, you will notice a glaring amission - grains, legumes and cereal. This is the big category that Paleo dieters insist is bad for health.
“For many people, the day probably starts off with a piece of toast or a sweet pastry, accompanied by a coffee with a spoonful or two of sugar, right?” says Giebel. “For lunch, maybe a sandwich with crisps and a soda. And for dinner, pasta, as it is a nutritious meal.”
But, this, he believes, “completely contradicts the way of eating that has shaped the human genome for the past 2.6 million years, and in the process is causing health problems of epidemic proportions.”
Evidence based on decades of research reveals, says Giebel, that our Paleolithic ancestors were virtually free of chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and others,” he says. (Paleolithic Era extended from about 2.6 million years ago to 12,000 years ago).
Things began to change after the end of the Paleolithic Era, when we transitioned to an agricultural society, says Giebel.
“As we fast-forward to food-industry developments of the 20th century, there is the advent of junk-food,” he explains. The turning point from where developed societies, particualrly countries in the West, began to see the consequences of veering away from traditional foods and indulging in modern, highly prcessed foods. “Your body is now enduring abuse that it is not capable of managing,” he says.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), he says, has provided figures that state the rise of obesity to almost double proportions as compared to the 1980s. Millions in the US, and in the West, die each year as a direct result of being obese.
“This rapid downward spiral in global health all matches up with changes in diet over the past four to five decades.
Add to this higher stress levels, physical inactivity, and increased exposure to toxins and we begin to see the bleak scenario.
Giebel and his colleague at the Clinic, Dr. Graham Simpson, Chief Medical Officer of the Institute, both believe it is best to go back to roots and adopt the diet of our ancestors.
Eating the way our ancestors did during the Paleolithic era helps not only shed the pounds quickly, it has also shown to a reversal of chronic illness such as heart disease and diabetes, says Dr Simpson.
“The foods of the Western diet, which include among others processed grains and refined sugars, have far-reaching effects on our health,” he says. “The biggest problem is the high glycemic index of many of these foods. With the Western diet, blood sugar and insulin concentrations are constantly at unnatural levels, and then we see the concept of silent inflammation occur,” he adds. “This constant inflammation starts to cause damage to the inner wall of the arteries, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and other life-threatening or life-altering illness.”
The Paleo Diet, according to him, which include meats and fish, most vegetables, fruits not too high in sugar, nuts and seeds, are natural foods that keep the blood sugar levels at normal levels and thus avoidg the insulin spikes.
Does that mean not a crumb of bread, lentils or grain should pass though our lips, ever? “Even I admit to having a piece of bread or a sweet every now and then. To avoid these foods entirely is difficult. What I tell people is that they have to find their own balance.
“In my perfect world, I would eliminate these foods entirely because I know that obesity would all but disappear, and along with it most instances of these horrible diseases.”
According to research, the Paleo Diet also helps in general our mental health, and in the management of serious mental and psychological disorders such as depression, attention deficit disorder, Alzheimer’s, and others, according to Dr Simpson.
How would vegetarians benefit from the Paleo Diet?
Dr Simpson agrees that it would be tougher for them given that meat is a main part of the diet. But there are various adaptations of the Paleo Diet for vegetarians.
He shares his three basic rules for making the The Paleo Diet work:
1) When in doubt, stick to meat, fish, vegetables, berries, and nuts. Avoid simple and refined carbs such as pasta, white rice, and bread.
2. Give yourself a “cheat day” once a week. Don’t go overboard, but allow yourself to indulge in one of your favourite, not-so-healthy foods.
3. Don’t be obsessed with counting calories: If you eat the right foods, you can even increase your calorie intake and still maintain a healthy weight.