When you hear the word ‘Paleo,’ do you imagine a meat-headed, muscle-bound bodybuilder devouring turkey legs that more resemble baseball bats than drum sticks?
Does Paleo make you think of a carnivore’s delight, a wild game banquet that would make Henry VIII blush with envy?
Lots of people equate the Paleo Diet (short for ‘paleolithic’) with liberal meat consumption. While it might be true that some Paleo dieters do in fact eat an amount of meat that would earn the scorn of vegan PETA card-carrying members, Paleo dieters are at least conscious of the meat they consume.
True Paleo dieters avoid meat that has been raised in inhumane conditions, such as large-scale agricultural confined feedlots. Paleo dieters are aware that excess Omega-6 essential fatty acid consumption (and not enough Omega-3’s) leads to inflammation. Factory-farmed grain-fed meat, in addition to its detrimental effects on the environment and animal welfare, is high in Omega-6’s.
Many Paleo dieters engage in highly-demanding endurance physical activities, such as Boot Camp-type workouts. Consciously-raised meats and wild game help repair and rebuild microscopic muscle tears that occur as a result of stressful workouts.
But the true purpose of the Paleo Diet isn’t strictly to sculpt a “shredded” physique, where each muscle belly’s striations (the sculpted aesthetic of muscle tissue, e.g. “six-pack abs”) resemble ancient Greek statues of Olympic athletes.
The primary purpose of the Paleo Diet is to eat a low-glycemic (low-sugar) diet in order to avoid inflammation.
High-sugar and high-starch foods rapidly convert into sugar and thereby produce inflammation. The cells can only absorb so much sugar before becoming inflamed. The hormone that controls blood sugar levels so we don't pass out--insulin--pounds on cell walls doors’, demanding to dump off blood sugar into the cells, like a parent who can’t wait to drop off their kids at soccer practice so they can get back to watching TV on the couch.
Perhaps not a perfect physiological analogy but the point is inflammation manifests as bad things besides bloating: joint pain, sinus infections, asthma, weight gain, and even cancer, among other chronic conditions.
Some people believe that the archetype Paleo menu is too strict in its absolute avoidance of grains; low-starch grains consumed in moderation contain abundant and essential phytonutrients.
Strict Paleo dieters counter that adequate consumption of phytonutrients and the benefits derived from them may be obtained through eating copious amounts of vegetables.
Whether or not you choose to ‘abstain from grains’ (a clever domain name for a Paleo website, no?), the ultimate purpose of Paleo is to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. This would include a Mediterranean-style diet rich in monounsaturated oils (especially from olives) and vegetables (but minus the couscous).
It would also include other healthy fats such as coconut oil and avocados and nuts. (Modern dairy and non-soaked legumes are mostly shunned because they may cause inflammatory conditions in certain people.)
Eating mostly low-starch vegetables, with a little grass-fed or wild fish and meats and healthy fats will reduce the risk of inflammation.
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