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Friday, July 27, 2012

The Paleo Diet. Worth a Look?

My brother, Chris, is a big fan and follower of the paleo diet, and has been eating according to its guidelines for almost a year now. Though I am not a proponent of the paleo diet (I lean more towards vegetarianism or a vegan diet), I do think it is a healthy way to eat and worth a look. Here is an intriguing post he wrote about how he discovered the diet, and why he follows it. Check it out!

Do any of you follow the Paleo Diet? How do you like it? Let us know in the comments below.

For those who don’t know me, I’m Chris Falletta, Ryan’s much cooler and smarter half-brother. All kidding aside, I’m also much better looking. Ok, all kidding aside, I’m honored that Ryan asked me to “guest blog” this week. I respect Ryan tremendously for the dedication and research he puts into how he feeds himself and his family. He and I have shared many long conversations about diet and food. We agree on quite a bit. I’m going to focus on, not only that, but what we DON’T agree on. I hope you enjoy.

As it usually happened…fueled and inspired by another discussion on food with Ryan, a little over a year ago, I was doing some internet research on how to eat for optimum health and wellness. That is when I stumbled upon this interesting concept called, The Paleo Diet…otherwise known as the “caveman diet”.

As I was just about to scroll past it, down to the next link Google had provided, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give it a read.

I read about this “crazy” idea where I could eat any and all naturally raised beef, poultry, pork, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. I could NOT, however eat grains, beans, rice, potatoes, dairy, sugar and processed foods. WHAT?!?! No grains? But aren’t whole grains good for you? I love my morning oatmeal and my lunch sandwich will be a little messy without bread. Why would anyone choose to eat this way?

As I read on and researched further, the answer that continued to appear…because THIS is how humans were designed to eat. We are designed to eat foods found naturally that could be “hunted or gathered” and eaten without being changed from its natural state. It is written in our DNA to eat this way, much like it is natural for a lion to eat fresh meat or for a deer to eat plants and grasses. You don’t usually see deer eating a freshly killed animal, or lions eating leaves…and you most CERTAINLY don’t see either of them enjoying a buttered piece of whole grain toast.

Former research biochemist and New York Times Best Selling author of The Paleo Solution – The Original Human Diet, Robb Wolf says “The Paleo diet is the healthiest way you can eat because it is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility.”

That is pretty powerful stuff. Since the paleo approved foods were foods I already ate and enjoyed, to try this out all I had to do was eliminate a few things. I substituted mixed fruit, or almonds with dried cranberries for breakfast instead of cereal, toast, bagels or oatmeal. I brought leftovers to work for lunch, which now consisted of a piece of meat and vegetables rather than grabbing a burger and fries. I snack on apples, cuties, veggies and nuts, rather than getting a candy bar or bag of chips from the vending machine. I can’t forget my smoothies, which is a schmorgesborg of almond milk, orange juice, fresh spinach, avocado, carrots, apples, frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries, protein powder, chia seeds and flax seed.

Let me tell you guys, I’m so glad I clicked on the paleo link instead of a link to some unhealthy fad like the atkins diet, the zone diet or even (cough cough) veganism. Within one week of this experiment the first thing I noticed was the meteoric rise of my energy levels. My ten plus year habit of coffee and caffeine pills in order to simply survive each day, became obsolete. The post lunch lull disappeared immediately. I didn’t feel sickly full and bloated after I ate, a feeling that we have just assumed is how we are supposed to feel after eating. For the first time ever, I felt GREAT! I was finally beginning to understand the concept of food as fuel. Before I had been simply filling my tank, but not necessarily fueling it, much like filling your gas tank with soda. It would be full, but it would NOT be fueled. Think about it.

After 2 months of this little experiment, I noticed another surprising gem...I had lost 25 lbs. and had only gone to the gym once in that span. In fact, on the paleo lifestyle, working out a lot is discouraged. Research has shown that living for hours at the gym, 4-5 days per week does more harm than good. What is recommended is infrequent, short bursts of intense energy, like you would see in Cross Fit. Get off the treadmill people, literally and figuratively.

Perhaps the favorite benefit that I have enjoyed, a little over one year into this, is the fact that I have not been sick once since I started. I usually would suffer through 5-6 bad colds a year…not anymore.

I don’t have to count calories or even worry about portion control as it is impossible to overeat this way. Think about it like this, can you eat 4-5 chicken breasts or 4-5 heads of broccoli at one sitting? Probably not, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to eat 4-5 slices of pizza at one sitting. It has to do with starches, blood sugar and too much science for this already too long blog.

But don’t take my word for it. I urge you to research it yourself. Google the following names of people considered the foremost experts on the paleo lifestyle: Art DeVany, Dr. Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson.

Try it. Give it a month or two. You don’t have to jump in 100% from day one. Slowly get acclimated to eating and living the paleo lifestyle and allow yourself the opportunity to immediately compare and contrast how you feel eating this way versus eating your old way. You won’t be disappointed.

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