Fad or fiction? We explain what lies behind this latest diet to see if it really is a fad or has some benefits.
PALEO and the PRIMAL diets
These diets both embrace one simple thought that to gain the best health we can, we would be better off eating real, natural and unprocessed foods.
FOODS to eat more of...
Meats, fish and shellfish
Fruits and berries
Nuts and seeds: hazels, walnuts, almonds, pecans (but not peanuts see below)
Vegetables and roots
Healthy oils: coconut, olive, avocado, unprocessed butters
FOODS to eat less of...
Legumes: beans, peas, kidney beans, chick peas and peanuts
Dairy: cheeses, cows milk, yoghurt.
Potatoes: use pumpkins and sweet potato instead.
Fruits and berries
There is no single 'Ancestral' diet as our ancestors lived right across the globe in any number of different living conditions. The principles of both the Paleo diet and the Primal diet embrace one simple thought that to gain the best health we can, we would be better off eating real, natural and unprocessed foods as close to our ancestral diet as possible.
Way back when, our ancestors did not have any other way to feed themselves but to hunt and gather. An agricultural existence only arrived on our timeline approximately 10,000 years ago. A sneeze in our human timeline. Before that we existed on what we could hunt and gather. Our bodies evolved over the millennia to function well and thrive on this way of eating (as long as we survived childhood and avoided accidents and beasts hunting us!). Then ten thousand or so years ago, agriculture started to develop and gave us a more stable food supply which led to a big explosion in our population, but also brought us to the relatively newer problems involving dental changes, illnesses and a digestive system that wasn't as good at utilising those farmed foods (especially grains). To make matters worse, we have now fast-forwarded into industrialization, and at such a speed that our bodies cannot change as quickly as our capacity to create non-natural and genetically-modified foods.
Thinking about your health and the consequences of a modern diet, the Paleo principal may well be the one for you. Some people will find it difficult as recommendations exclude staples like bread (modern grains are highly modified) and dairy products, all of which break down rapidly to sugars and proteins which appear to stress or damage our digestive system over time. While some people worry about cutting things like grains and dairy products out of their diet, rest assured that the same nutrients (in greater numbers and more easily accessed by our bodies) are abundant in the foods you will be able to eat.
The main consideration is that you make changes slowly and get used to adapting your menu. Change one thing and don't make another one until you are happy with the first one! Focus on what is being added in or what you are gaining rather than what you'll miss. Once you are used to the changes and feeling full of energy you won't miss the foods that make you feel sluggish and tired.
Eat only whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense, nourishing foods.
Aim for proteins (meat, fish, eggs, poultry) that have also eaten unprocessed, nutrient-dense, nourishing foods.
Fish, vegetables, eggs and fruits are best when farmed in a natural fashion or caught wild.
and never, ever buy and eat foods that have no resemblance to what they claim to be or have a longer list of ingredients than if you were to make it yourself ( or ingredients you can't pronounce).
I advise shopping around the outside of the supermarket or market... avoid the aisles where things come in packets and tins.
There are a lot of exceptions to these rules... for example, milk chocolate and chocolate bars should never pass your lips, but high-quality 70% cocoa dark chocolate is fine in moderation.