If you are interested in checking out the Zone Diet, click here.
There are two types of eating styles I will focus on: the Paleo and Primal diets. The Paleo Diet is championed by Dr. Loren Cordain (thepaleodiet.com), the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and member of the faculty of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University. The Primal community is lead by Mark Sisson (www.marksdailyapple.com), a former triathalete who holds a degree in Biology from Williams College. Check out their websites, especially Mark’s Daily Apple, which has a ton of information. Robb Wolf also has some great information on the Paleo diet.
The Paleo / Primal (and from now on, I will refer to both as Paleo) diets are based upon, and I quote from Cordain’s website, “…the simple understanding that the best human diet is the one to which we are best genetically adapted.” Basically, humans’ genetic development has spanned over tens of thousands of years. Only until recently, i.e. in the last several hundred years, has agriculture played a major part in our lives. So, to optimize the fueling of our bodies, we must remove the foods that are at odds with our health (grains, legumes, and dairy) and increase our intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants by eating more vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and healthy fats.
Build your meals from the following:
- Lean proteins – grass-fed meat, free range fowl and wild caught fish
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables
- Healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, and coconut oil
Remove from your diet:
- Bread, cereals, pastas, etc
- Legumes such as peanuts, bean sprouts, edema me, etc.
- Dairy such as milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc
- Refined sugars such as soda, candy bars, processed foods, etc
The basic guideline is to shop around the outside edges of the grocery store. Very little is needed in the aisles. On the outside, you’ll find the most unprocessed, natural foods that are the least meddled with by food companies.
Why focus on meat, healthy fats, and vegetables? Why can’t I have my bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the morning? Why isn’t a bagel with cream cheese healthy, like I’ve been told in health class?
The answers to those questions are related to what happens inside your body when you eat food. When you consume food, hormones are released as a response to the type of food that you ingest.
- Protein, when consumed, releases Glucagon which helps normalize blood sugar and energy levels between meals by releasing energy from the liver and allowing us to better access our body fat for energy. Eating protein tells the body to build and repair muscle and ligaments as well as tell us we are “full.”
- Carbs are used for one purpose: to provide energy. Insulin, a critical hormone for regulating blood sugar and body fat, is a “storage” hormone. In other words, when foods like bread, pasta, refined sugars, or other high-glycemic items enter our stomach, the sugar in our blood spikes, which releases insulin. The insulin tells our body to store the nutrients in our cells. If we have an excess of energy to be stored, then the energy is turned into fat. So, if there is a lot of sugar in our gut because of the large bagel we just had, then the insulin response is going to turn most of that digested bagel into fat cells. If we are eating veggies, which don’t spike the blood sugar, then we will have a low insulin response and therefore promote fat burning.
- There are other hormones that play a big part in digestion but I will not go into detail here: Leptin, Ghrelin, Adiponectin, Peptide YY, Cortisol, and Insulin-like Growth Factor-1. Feel free to do some research on your own, particularly on Cortisol and Leptin.
Fat Does Not Make You Fat
Fat is a wonderful and necessary part of a person’s diet. Fat should be the main source of energy in your body (fatty acids derived from dietary fat and body fat). If you are reducing the amount of high-glycemic carbohydrates in your food to stop unhealthy weight gain, the energy needs to come from somewhere. The source of energy should be from healthy fats like avocadoes, nuts, fat from animal proteins, olive oil, eggs, etc. Also, as you increase the amount of healthy fats in your diet, the greater the sense of satiety you’ll feel after eating.
How do I make a “Paleo” meal?
Start with a palm size portion of protein (beef, fish, or chicken cooked in any fashion you like – grilled, baked, roasted, slow cooked, etc). Add to your plate two handfuls of salad or vegetables. You can add a small bit of fruit (think like half a banana, a few strawberries, a small apple, etc). Sprinkle on top of the salad a few tablespoons of olive oil, some salt and pepper to taste, and some walnuts or almonds. Drink a glass of water. Boom! Paleo meal in the bag.
What if I want more information than what’s on these sheets?
Go to “Mark’s Daily Apple” and click on “Start Here” on the top navigation menu. In the list that follows clicking the link, there are definitive guides to how your body digests foods, meal plans, recipes, ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and also some great success stories. Sign up for his newsletter.