The Paleo Diet: What Is It And Why Is It So Popular?

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  • The Paleo Diet is huge in the States, and celebrities including Megan Fox and Miley Cyrus are reportedly big fans. But what is this "caveman" diet all about? Here's everything you need to know.

    We’ve spoken to Katy Mason, nutritionist at The Nutri Centre, to get the lowdown…

    What is the Paleo Diet?

    ‘The diet focuses on what would have (supposedly) been eaten roughly 8,000 years ago by our Stone Age ancestors, the Palaeolithic people. One of the most startling things about the Paleo Diet is its elimination of all grains. It claims that the human body doesn’t tolerate the phytates, gluten and lectins found in grains.The diet tries to eliminate all the things that appear in our modern diet that the body may not be able to cope with easily. This includes foods that are farmed, cultivated or processed, including grains, dairy products and preservatives.’ 

    What CAN you eat on the diet?
    – Root vegetables 
    – Meat
    – Fish
    – Eggs
    – Seafood
    – Nuts and seeds 
    – Fruit
    – Coconut oil
    – Olive, macadamia and avocado oil
    – Grass-fed butter
    What CAN’T you eat?  
    – Beans
    – Soy products
    – Potatoes
    – Peanuts
    – Processed foods
    – Starches
    – Overcooked meats
    – Dairy
    – Artificial sweeteners
    – Hydrogenated or trans fats
    And what should you avoid? 
    – Starch seeds (chia, amaranth, quinoa and buck-wheat)
    – Honey
    – Dried fruit (these should be excluded completely if you’re overweight or have a metabolic syndrome)
    – Tomatoes, chilli peppers and aubergines (if you have an autoimmune condition or allergy)
    – High GI fruit (if you are overweight or have diabetes)
    What are the benefits? 
    ‘Being low in carbohydrates and high in fibre and fat makes this diet excellent for regulating the amount of sugar that’s in your blood stream. This can improve your energy and concentration throughout the day, and help with weight loss and your general health. Although the diet eliminates carbohydrates from grains and legumes, it allows you to eat fruit, which means you get to enjoy something sweet. You can also have unlimited vegetables, which provides some good slow-releasing carbs. This makes it a more balanced and sustainable diet than others that exclude grains, such as the old Atkins diet. Paleo is a good diet for people who may have food intolerances, especially to grains and dairy, and could be worth trying if you have unexplained symptoms that may be related to food intolerances.’ 

    And what are the disadvantages?

    ‘If you don’t eat enough vegetables and fruit while on this diet, you may be at risk of certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies. This is because grains and legumes – which are high in certain nutrients – are eliminated. The fibre and nutrients in fruit and vegetables should replace those lost – but only if you eat them! Excluding grains and legumes from your diet will make it harder for you to eat out, especially at lunch time. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it will encourage you to eat fresh foods, which are usually far more nutritious.’ 

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