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Benefits Of A Primal Blueprint Diet

If you’ve followed my material for any length of time you’d know that I’m a big proponent of a Primal Blueprint or Paleo type of diet.

After all my years of research and study I’ve come to one basic and fundamental conclusion. The obesity epidemic that our country is up against is largely due to the fact we’re eating the wrong foods.

A diet of natural foods has been replaced in our country with foods that are processed, refined, and altered in ways never imagined a mere fifty years ago. The problem is not limited to junk foods and manufactured or man-made foods that make up the bulk of the standard American diet.

Changes in agricultural and farming methods for large scale food production have lead to meats full of hormones and antibiotics…plants, vegetables, and grains that have been chemically altered…and the list goes on.

Bottom line is the world has changed and our foods are not the same. I truly believe that God has given us all we need for optimal health from eating natural foods but the problem is regularly eating unaltered natural foods.

While it may not be completely practical or possible to go organic all the time, I have come to the conclusion it’s really in our best interest to head in that direction. The chicken breast we buy at Wal-Mart is nowhere near the same as what would’ve come from the local butcher shop fifty years ago. It is what it is…

This just means we’re going to have to search for the best foods if optimal health is going to be a priority. Following a Primal Blueprint type diet and looking to select foods that are as natural as possible is the best approach in my opinion.

I found an excellent article on the Paleo Diet by Linda Hepler, BSN, RN, written for Max Muscle magazine that explains the reasoning for following a Primal Blueprint or Paleo type diet. I’ve included segments of this article below.

Mark Sisson (pictured) is – for lack of a better word – ripped. At 57 years old, this former 2:18 marathoner and fourth-place finisher in the Hawaii Ironman World Triathlon Championships has the toned physique of a man half his age, with an enviable 8 percent body fat and washboard abs.

A rigorous diet and training regime? No way, says Sisson. In fact, he exercises only about three to four hours a week (instead of the 20 or 30 he put in way back when), most of this done at a moderate pace, such as one might do while hiking. As for diet, he eats as much food as he wants whenever he feels like it – and not always at regular intervals.

If you’re thinking that this eating plan is way too simple for an athlete – it is. Sisson, and many other athletes these days, are returning to a simpler way of eating, similar to that of our primal ancestors.

Called a “Paleo” or “primal” eating plan, Sisson says that it has been gaining momentum over the past several years. “Our primal ancestors were lean, strong, smart and productive,“ he claims.

And you can be, too, Sisson says. All you have to do is to forget everything you’ve learned about diet, and go back to the beginning.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors, the Paleolithic people, ate what was available to them 2.4 million years ago. While this varied from region to region, the typical diet was composed largely of animal foods, such as wild game, fish, shellfish and ostrich eggs. This was supplemented with gathered plant foods: tree nuts, vegetables, tubers and roots, fruit, berries, seeds and mushrooms.

Although these ancient people may have had to fear being trampled by a buffalo or hit by an errant arrow during a hunt, they didn’t worry about high blood pressure. In fact, historical and archaeological evidence shows our Paleo ancestors to have enjoyed good health and freedom from the chronic diseases that we experience today.

It was only after these hunter-gatherer societies transitioned to an agricultural grain-based diet, and subsequently added feedlot-produced meats and animal products, that our overall health began to deteriorate. Today, we are plagued with the results of these dietary changes: obesity, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol levels.

Why would the addition of such foods have such a disastrous effect? Those who embrace the Paleo diet believe that it is because our bodies aren’t meant to eat sugars, grains and processed foods.

While we may have changed our dietary habits over 2 million years of evolution, DNA evidence documents that there has been very little change in the human genome over the past 10,000 years. Which means that altering our diets from what we are designed to eat has resulted in inadequate nutrient and fiber intake, and an overload of carbs. Eventually this adds up to poor insulin regulation, overall body inflammation, obesity and chronic disease.

“And that’s where Paleo nutrition comes into play,” says Brendon Mahoney, owner and head coach of CrossFit San Mateo in California. “When you follow a Paleo diet, you are eating what your body is designed to eat – eating for how it evolved.”

A Paleo diet focuses on the foods that were eaten prior to agriculture and animal husbandry, says Mahoney. This includes lean meats (preferably grass fed or organic), fish (best wild caught), shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, veggies, roots and a small amount of fruits (ideally berries). Acceptable oils are those that originate from fruits such as coconut, olive, avocado, almond, walnut and pecan.

By eating a diet higher in protein and healthy fats and lower in grains, sugars and processed foods, you’ll not only stay full longer (due to the higher satiety value of protein) but also your blood sugar will stabilize.

A further bonus: without all the excess carbs and the extra insulin being produced to handle them, your body will change the way that it produces energy. Says Mahoney, “The body will switch track and begin to burn fat more efficiently as fuel rather than to depend so heavily upon carbs.”

If you just can’t get your head around a lower-carb, higher fat diet (especially in light of the FDA’s focus on the importance of grains and low fat), consider this: the Paleo diet is based upon science.

A two year study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in the August 3rd, 2010 edition of the medical journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, found that a lower carbohydrate, higher fat diet improves cholesterol and cardiovascular health risks more than does a low fat, higher carb diet. And numerous recent studies have pointed to a lower carb diet as most effective in regulating blood sugar and insulin levels.

As for the importance of carbohydrate refueling for athletes, “There’s a time and place for carbs, especially for elite athletes who need to replace muscle glycogen,” says Mahoney. “But you don’t need to be constantly inundated with carbs. Eating a small amount of readily absorbed carbohydrate after a workout, like sweet potatoes, mangoes or a banana – that’s sufficient.”

Ready to go Paleo? Even if it just sounds like something you’d like to read about, there are a wealth of resources available to learn more. But prepare yourself for some confusion.

Just as there were regional variations in our ancestor’s diets, there are 21st century variations in people’s interpretation of the Paleo diet. There is the very low-carb and moderate carb Paleo diets, the raw Paleo diet and the vegan Paleo diet.

Some “Paleos” advocate use of fats such as butter, lard and bacon; others don’t. And there are some who say that raw dairy should be included, although most agree that this is not strictly Paleo, since there were no domesticated livestock during the Paleolithic Era.

But whatever the variation, the common denominator is that the Paleo diet isn’t simply a fad diet but instead a healthy eating plan for life – one that is heavier on lean meats, healthy fats and veggies; moderate in fruits, nuts and seeds; and eschews refined and processed foods. And this is something we can all aspire to.

There are many good books and websites available where you can learn more about a Primal Blueprint or Paleo type diet. Here are some to try:
Information on the background and basis for the Paleo diet:
The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, PhD
The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf
The New Evolution Diet by Art De Vany, PhD

How to live a Paleo lifestyle, including information on primal-style exercise:
The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson

Low-carb, grain-free, dairy free recipes:
The Primal Blueprint Cookbook by Mark Sisson with Jennifer Meier

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Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. You can receive a FREE consultation and no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal training programs and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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Category: Nutrition.