Diet is quickly becoming a four letter word. People associate the word diet with self-deprivation and extreme discipline. When I use the word “diet”, I mean it strictly in the scientific sense of what foods you eat. I do not mean calorie restriction or making food choices to achieve weight loss. In fact, many people use paleolithic nutrition in order to achieve weight gain when they are underweight. So, how would these diet implementations be different?
If you are using a paleolithic diet with the goal of losing weight, I strongly suggest limiting your intake of sugars, including fruit and paleo treats (like my Almond Coconut Bars, Coconut Macadamia Banana Muffins or Chocolate Molten Lava Cake, recipe coming soon). This will help regulate your appetite. I also suggest eating 2 or 3 distinct meals a day (instead of snacking all day) and making sure that you don’t eat for at least 3 hours before bed. It is also helpful to manage your stress as best you can (this also includes not doing any exercise that is too strenuous for your body; stick to long brisk walks instead of running, for example) and get as much good quality sleep as you can (aim for 8-9 hours or more every night). Yes, get all your paleo ducks in a row.
If you are using a paleolithic diet with the goal of weight maintenance or gain, you can eat more of everything: more fruits, more nuts, more good quality proteins, and more fats. It is still important to be aware of your omega-3 versus omega-6 fatty acid intake. Foods that are good sources of omega-3s include: grass-fed meat, wild game, free-range poultry, wild-caught fish, canned salmon, canned sardines, and omega-3 eggs. Foods that are high in omega-6s include: conventional meats, nuts, seeds, and many vegetable oils (most of which we avoid anyway). I will go into all of this in more detail in a future post, I promise. I should also mention here that we now know that saturated fat does NOT cause heart disease (the original research from the 1970’s was flawed—it turns out the real culprit is too many carbohydrates!). Do not worry about your intake of saturated fats. In fact, the short and medium chain saturated fats found in avocado and coconut are EXTREMELY beneficial to your health. Because excess carbohydrate intake is now being linked to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer, I do suggest still limiting your total carbohydrate intake, although perhaps not as drastically as for those who want to lose weight.
Regardless of your specific weight and fitness goals, paleolithic nutrition will help optimize your health. A paleolithic lifestyle goes beyond the short-term goals of looking great in a bathing suit. Now, we get to think about longevity and improving our health for the long-term.