The caveman diet

PUBLISHED: 17:45 17 March 2014 | UPDATED: 17:46 17 March 2014

Evolution

Evolution

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Andrea Bayles, a nutritionist based in Warwickshire, takes a look at the potential benefits of a back-to-basics diet modelled upon the diet of cavemen.

There’s a new buzz word in the world of nutrition... Paleo!

Paleo is derived from ‘Paleolithic’ referring to caveman. In terms of a diet, it is based on the idea that human genetics have hardly changed since the beginning of the agricultural revolution (i.e. grains and cereals) when the Paleolithic era finished.

There is strong evidence coming out from Paleo experts that saturated fat is not as ’evil’ as it has been hailed and that whole-grains are not as good for us as we are led to believe. These are strong statements, but more and more people are feeling the benefits of following a Paleo diet and are improving their health, particularly those with chronic conditions.

The diet is based on the foods that our ancestors ate; mostly meat, organ meat (offal), fish, eggs, plants ie vegetables, and traditional fats such as lard, coconut oil and olive oil. Bone broth soups figure highly in the diet and, for those who can tolerate them, nuts and seeds as well as some fruit.

The diet does not include dairy – so out with the cheese, yoghurt and butter! All grains are to be avoided and this includes wheat, rice, oats, spelt, rye, barley, cous-cous and any other starchy cereal. In addition, all beans and pulses should be completely avoided, so vegetarians and vegans, this is not a diet for you.

Fats are a major source of energy to the body (as well glucose) and they help to support our immune system, provide us with healthy skin and hair and they help to keep our body temperature under control. We know that fat-free and low-fat products on the shelves of our supermarkets contain additives and sugars to make them taste good. In fact nutritional researchers have shown that there is more sugar added to a low-fat yoghurt than the calorific value of the fat it would contain if it was full-fat! Sugar is converted to glucose, which, if it isn’t used up as energy, just converts to body fat!

Fats are a rather complicated area of nutritional science, with different types such as monounsaturated, trans-fats and polyunsaturated which can be further broken down into Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. Ensuring you get the correct balance and ratio of these fats is an important factor when considering the Paleo diet. The Paleo diet uses fats as the main source for energy consumption as opposed to the glucose energy generated by carbohydrates. When eating Paleo-style, carbohydrates are derived from plants and fruits. These will provide you with a high fibre, macro-nutrient-rich source of carbohydrates.

Going back to this ancestral way of eating has been explored by many scientists and nutrition experts all over the world. The health benefits and weight loss potential are great reasons for using the Paleo diet as a way of defining your own personal dietary regime. By removing the food groups mentioned above, remaining off those for a set period of time and then re-introducing foods one at a time, you can see and experience for yourself whether or not your body tolerates that food.

If you are suffering from autoimmune diseases, chronic illness, diabetes, gut problems, sleep issues or stress-related health conditions then re-setting your diet using a Paleo approach may well be the start of a new dietary regime for you. For example, people suffering with arthritis-type conditions benefit from removing certain ‘inflammatory’ foods from their diet. Using a Paleo approach will enable you to monitor symptom’s and flare-up’s of symptoms whilst improving your diet and health. It’s a great way of learning your own ‘dietary code.’

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This article is by Andrea Bayles, a nutritionist based in Warwickshire.

For more from Andrea, visit her website: www.andreabayles.co.uk

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