Is a Paleo-Style Diet Right for You?

Kristin Davis RD, LD

If you’ve been toying with the idea of eating a more ancestral diet, here are four reasons that might just get you off the fence, from the book, It Starts with Food, by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig.

According the Hartwigs, the food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options. And there are four ways that food can affect our health. Choosing foods that make us more healthy seems reasonable, but just how does food impact our lives? Let’s see!

1. Food should promote a healthy psychological response.

How do you know if food is affecting your brain? Cravings! Processed foods are intended to make us want more, by not only tasting great, but by leaving out the nutrition our bodies need. Our brains tell us we need more, even though eating more of these foods will never leave us satiated.

2. Food should promote a healthy hormonal response.

The major hormonal players include Leptin, Insulin, Glucagon, and Cortisol. Certain foods impact our hormonal ability to direct energy into storage, as well as our ability to get it out. Foods also control our hunger and fullness by directing our hormones. Let’s just say that high-sugar and carbohydrate consumption can cause our hormones to get out of whack and wreak havoc on our systems.

3. Food should support a healthy gut.

Gluten, dairy, need I say more? Perhaps. A healthy gut is a happy gut, filled with “good” bacteria. When foods we eat cause digestive problems, we can end up with a lack of the good guys and an overabundance of the bad. Add to that a leaky gut, a condition that allows bacteria into our bloodstream, and we’re in trouble! We can also have problems with the absorption of vitamins and minerals, all because of the foods we eat.

4. Food should support immune function and minimize inflammation.

Inflammation is a sign that our immune system is working. If something gets into our system that doesn’t belong, our immune system uses anti-bodies to get rid of it. Your body will actually work at getting rid of an invader over general repair and maintenance so if you are constantly fighting intruders, your body never makes the time to take care of itself. Chronic inflammation can lead to insulin resistance, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and even weight gain to name a few negative side effects. What you eat matters!

So, a Paleo-style diet can help eliminate the foods that negatively impact our bodies while at the same time promote the consumption of foods that not only sustain us, but actually help us to thrive!

It Starts with Food encourages the elimination of certain foods for 30 days. After 30 days, you can add foods back into your diet to see if they negatively affect you. These foods include:

  • Dairy
  • Sugar and non-nutritive sweeteners
  • Alcohol
  • Beans and legumes
  • Grains of all types
  • MSG, carrageenen, and nitrates/nitrites

After a controlled re-introduction of some or all of these foods, you can assess how you feel and make an informed, personal decision about the foods you eat.

For more information about starting a Paleo-style diet to improve your overall health, take a look at this website www.whole30.com. Questions? Ask me at kdavis@swfamilyphysicians.com.