Monday, August 4, 2014

Paleo Nutrition: Is it Good For You?

"Contributed by reader, Jen Filey"

Paleo Nutrition: Is it Good For You?
The old adage ‘You are what you eat’ could certainly be argued to have become more relevant in recent years, especially in the US. The fact is that eating disorders and obesity are on the rise, and dieticians and fitness experts are constantly exploring new ways to eat in order to keep us all at the peak of our health, and the importance of what foods we choose to eat is increasingly being shown to be fundamental to a healthy overall lifestyle. Indulging a little every now and then is of course, fairly harmless, especially if you stay active at the gym or through sports.

One of the problems with eating disorders is that they can often have a mental component. Eating too many cheeseburgers just because you enjoy them for example, is something that can easily be remedied by a change in diet and exercise. On the other hand, someone suffering from anorexia has a completely different set of problems to overcome, that is rarely as straightforward. Understanding where and how diet factors into these problems is something that is constantly being explored. While there are a number of resources for sufferers of severe eating disorders, the majority of us are fortunate enough to be able to willingly change our lifestyle and diets to our advantage. The difficulty however, can be knowing which diet or food plans are the best choice for us individually, and paleo nutrition offers us another option in the often overwhelming selection of diets and nutritional advice. 

Understanding Paleo Nutrition
Paleo nutrition essentially means following the diets of our ancestors. It’s often described as the cave man diet, stone age diet, and so on, in reflection of this fact. The diet became hugely popular during the early 2000s, and is still one of the most talked about diet options today. The basic foundation of paleo nutrition is that as humans, we became very well adapted to the food sources that were eaten over thousands of years during our evolution. As animal domestication became more commonplace however, along with the mass production of foods, paleo nutrition argues that we have lost touch with the most nutritious forms of food.

Modern diets are, as a result not as healthy for us, because the human body is still not able to fully process food sources such as grains and dairy products. This inability to process modern foods has led to many of the problems we currently see - obesity, diabetes, and other disorders. The diet itself, therefore, eliminates all processed foods, diary, wheat and so on, and instead focuses on higher protein intake, high fiber intake, and lower carbohydrate intake.

The benefits of following paleo nutrition are said to be a better overall state of health, improved life span, and resistance to disease. These are further raised of course, when used in tandem with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle in general. An additional benefit of the diet, and perhaps one of the reasons it has become so popular, is that many of the foods we all enjoy are still included. Fish, meat, vegetables and fruits are all recommended, so tucking into a succulent steak doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure.

Pros and Cons
Even from looking at the foods that are included in paleo nutrition, it’s easy to see that there are without doubt benefits to following the diet. Plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish is always going to be good for you. In fact, nutritionists in general do agree that the diet plan is overall a beneficial one, mainly due to the fact that processed foods are completely excluded. In terms of scientific research, experts are unable to provide conclusive evidence as to whether the diet is beneficial or not. Some populations for example, have exhibited longer life spans, others have not. There are also concerns from some medical bodies that the diet could lead to some deficiencies due to missing food groups. That said, there is certainly a lot to gain from the diet. Even following the basics, while making sure to complement the plan with any deficient food groups, is likely to get anyone well on the way to a much healthier, fitter life.

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