GUEST AUTHOR: Elsa Freya
Long before the time of juice detoxes and fancy fad diets, our ancestors lived on simple food that relied on our biological and genetic programming. Thriving solely on animal protein, seafood, and vegetables, they had none of today's array of processed meals. Carbohydrates, dairy, and refined sugars were not in their vocabulary. This way of "primal eating" has found its way back to modern times through the über popular Paleo diet.
The Paleo diet argues that in order to be healthier and stronger, we must go back to basics. According to the data reported on Maryville University, the rise of chronic illnesses and a rising aging population has caused more people to seek ways to extend their lifespan and take better care of their health. That explains why wellness trends such as Keto, intermittent fasting, and Whole 30 have been gaining traction. Likewise, Paleo has garnered its own cult following, thanks to its promises of fat loss, increasing energy, clearer skin, and much more. But is it recommended for middle-aged women?
It Eliminates Problematic Food
If our ancestors could survive without chocolate bars and pasta, so can you. The Paleo diet gets rid of foods such as sugar and grains. In a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, sugar was found to have addictive properties comparable to that of drugs. That means it's one of the easiest types of food to consume too much without you noticing and in turn gain weight. This is especially bad for women, because fat cells produce estrogen and an excess of it can lead to cysts, mood swings, and cramps.
On the other hand, the eliminating grains from your diet is also rewarding. Though bread and pasta might be hard to give up, Healthline reveals that they do play a role in causing leaky gut. This underlying condition can pave the way for autoimmune diseases more common among women, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto's thyroditis.
It Focuses on Nutritious Foods
On top of eliminating problematic food, the Paleo diet replaces it with high quantities of nutrient-dense goodness. This includes fruits like blueberries and vegetables such as kale, which are all incredibly rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. For animal byproducts, Paleo dieters only eat high-quality and protein-rich meats that are crucial in reducing inflammation and balancing hormones.
In addition to eliminating problematic foods, the Paleo diet also focuses on including high quantities of nutritional powerhouses: fruits such as blueberries are high in antioxidants, vegetables such as kale are rich in vitamins and minerals, and high quality animal products such as pasture-raised eggs deliver complete protein and nutrients different from those found in plants like choline, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin K2. A nutrient-rich diet is critical for reducing inflammation, balancing hormones and having optimal reproductive health.
It Encourages Healthy Eating Habits
Previously on the RINT blog, we discussed the negative eating habits that could develop if you don't follow a normal eating schedule. By going too long without food, you open yourself up to the possibilities of binge eating.
As a woman, one of the best things you can do to regulate your hormones is to sync yourself to your natural hunger signals. According to the Society of Endocrinology, unhealthy eating habits can impact hormones that affect metabolism, fertility and pregnancy. So instead of calorie counting and restricting what you eat, Paleo calls on the opposite, which is to listen to your body when it demands nourishment.
The Problem with Paleo
It can't be denied that Paleo has lots of good qualities. With its emphasis on whole foods, lean proteins, healthy fats, vegetables, and fruits, having more of these in your diet will certainly be beneficial. But the biggest qualm surrounding these food trends is that there is never a one-size-fits all solution to a person's health goals.
While our ancestors did survive on this way of eating, we have to take into consideration the times they lived in. The life expectancy for hunter-gatherers was usually no more than 20 years. Only a handful of our Paleo ancestors would have made it past their forties, despite their "healthy" diet. What's more is that numerous studies also connect red meat with an increased risk of cancers, which the Canadian Cancer Society warns in one of their articles.
So instead of adopting someone else's strict lifestyle choices, consider your own needs and how aspects of the Paleo diet can complement and enhance it. This might be relying more on fresh seafood or incorporating more fruits and vegetables, or lessening the pop tarts and ice cream you eat. In the long run, these habits have the potential to contribute more positively to your health and satisfaction without the pressure of conforming to some evolutionary theory.
Exclusively written for RINutritionTherapy.com