Food:

LANI LOPEZ NUTRITION

The Paleo diet is the ultimate in going 'back to the good old days'. Paleo, short for Paleolithic, is a diet which directs us to mimic the (assumed) dietary habits of our stone-age ancestors.

Beloved of athletes and the less athletic seeking weight loss, the Paleo diet has become the new Atkins diet, enjoying faddish popularity worldwide.

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Nutritionally speaking, Paleo is a far better option than the maligned Atkins diet, which has, thankfully, fallen out of favour.

Winning ways
Friends of mine who have fallen for the mysterious lure of endurance sports, marathons, harbour swims and Ironman events swear by Paleo - although they do get a break on the 'no-carb' rule, eating kumara and yams before big workouts or events.

Even for non-athletes Paleo offers health gains. Increasing intake of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and lean proteins while eliminating (yes, completely) processed food, refined sugar, potatoes, pasta and bread can be effective for weight-loss, improving the body's ability to use food as fuel rather than store it as fat. It also brings health benefits by reducing salt and sugar in the blood stream.

Evidence - anecdotal and clinical - shows shrinking waistlines and lower bad-cholesterol levels. The potential benefits of Paleo makes for quite a compelling list; improved insulin, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic response. Increased energy, improved weight-control, improved acid/alkaline balance, cholesterol management and improved immune response.

Research suggests that Paleo followers eating less meat gain anti-cancer, breast and prostate benefits.

A common criticism of Paleo is that culling dairy from the diet threatens calcium needs, especially for women. But enthusiasts argue that this is baseless as the finest sources of calcium are in fact green-leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Are you ready?
The improved availability of energy from eating this high protein, vegetable rich, high-fibre and dense micro-nutrient diet readily explains the enthusiasm of athletes who push their body hard, relying on optimal health to succeed. Athletic enthusiasm is relevant in considering if you are ready for Paleo.

It takes discipline in two ways.
First in eating the high density and volume of vegetables you need; no sugar, bread, pasta or starches. Dropping all dairy so no cheese, butter, milk or cream and of course ending alcohol intake too. If you like fish, lots of leafy green veges, love meat and can afford organic, great.
But one barrier remains. Exercise, which is a key part of Paleo. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle involved lots of movement to get food and this diet is balanced by exercise.

Lani Lopez Adv. Dip Nat, BHSc. is a naturopath, clinical nutritionist and founder of lanilopez.com. Talk nutrition and winter wellbeing with Lani at facebook.com/lanilopez.com

Principles of Paleo
DO EAT: Meat - high-quality organic at best, or grass-fed at least; lots of fish, eggs, fruit, vegetables (non-starchy), herbs and spices, lots of leafy greens - especially spinach and kale.
EAT MODERATELY: Nuts and seeds and oils; olive oil, fish oil, avocado (healthy fats)AVOID: Dairy, grain and starch, legumes, convenience and processed food, sugars (including artificial sweeteners), alcohol.

THE THEORY
Our digestive systems weren't designed to handle processed modern foods and diverse modern food sources. Digesting these foods causes or aggravates health problems. The Paleo solution goes back about 10,000 years to a stone-age diet before farming, processing, refining, canning, frying, pasteurisation and homogenisation. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn't (reputedly) suffer from modern dietary-induced illness or disease, so eat them like and live well.
The rebuttal: the theory is based on hearsay as we really don't know what our ancestors ate. Recent study of early-man suggests that heart disease was a factor even then.

YOUR PALEO PATHWAY
Based on a 1970's book The Stone-Age Diet by gastro-enterologist Walter Voegltin, the Paleo diet has boomed lately. I don't eat as much meat as recommended, enjoy a little dairy now and again and am a big fan of the low GI benefits of legumes - especially at this time of year.
I follow a paleo-ish path, supplemented by lots of raw veges. Find the path that works for you and do so with the help of a clinical nutritionist for best effect.

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