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The Paleo Prescription

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 If real space-agers and stone-agers ever met, the time travelers would surely marvel at the differences between 21st century folk and our Pale ancestors. We rely on technological conveniences; 0 they relied on stone tools. Did evolution favor us, with so few of us hunting wild animals and gathering plants? Is it enough for us to use our primal instincts when hunting for barcode bargains and gathering our social networking friends?


From their cave art and goddess sculptures, we know of our Paleolithic ancestors’ creativity and spirituality.  And if a human of 40,000 years ago saw our battles of the bulge and lifestyle-caused ills, they may think we’d lost our minds with our health.  Experts say that our Paleo ancestors’ genetic codes are less than .02% apart from ours; thus we require the same nutrition as they did 40,000 years ago. 


In Paleo times, unwrapping food required peeling, skinning or cracking a shell.  So much of what we eat has been chemically preserved for long shelf lives in cans, boxes and cellophane packaging.  Our Paleo ancestors, adept at fishing, may have discovered salt as a preservative but they would not recognize much of what their descendents – that’s us -- consider food. 


What did Paleos eat?  Nuts, seeds, plants, vegetables and fruits that they found, and meat and fish caught with their family and friends.  It was simple and nutritious.


Take away electricity and cell towers, and how different are we from our Paleo kin? They built houses with walls, and fireplaces; were industrious with tools, and practiced spiritual beliefs that included burial traditions. Not too different from us after all!


Proponents of our Stone Age ancestors’ evolutionary diet say we can reverse obesity and disease caused by our processed man-made foods (frozen meals, fast food, corn syrup, refined sugar, hydrogenated oils, chemicals, preservatives, artificial flavorings and colors) in our diets. Eliminate even some of those culprits, and you’ve won half the battle.


A health-focused attitude is the key to building health-sustaining habits, but no need to be extreme to go Paleo; give yourself some leeway on grains, starches and dairy. Listen to what your body tells you in that regard. If you are sedentary and prone toward metabolic syndrome, limit starches and grains. The best rule of thumb – Paleo and otherwise – is to forgo processed and refined foods.  Eat foods closest to their natural forms in every category -- proteins, fats and carbs.


One can argue that if the Paleolithic lifestyle was sustainable, their descendents wouldn’t have invented agriculture 10,000 or so years later. So, does it really violate our genetic engineering to consume foods cultivated through modern agricultural means?


A little logic goes a long way. For those whose physical activity level is Paleo-like, with a lean body, there is no need to abstain from wholesome crops like brown rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, legumes, etc, as part of healthy carb-loading. Even Paleo diets surely varied based on climate and availability, so let’s not get caught in a diet trap here either -- no pun intended!


If your system can’t process gluten and lactose, the sooner you accept it and eliminate it from your diet, the better. And if you can tolerate gluten and dairy, moderation is still advisable.


No matter how you feel about dietary theories, we all need more fresh, raw fruits and vegetables as foundational to health. This is especially so given our un-Paleo Western refined grains, sugar-and-fat temptations, assaulting our senses at every turn, plus all the toxic assaults on our bodies in unnatural environments that our Paleo ancestors couldn’t imagine. 


We needn’t abandon cooked food but it helps to understand that “life begets life” when it comes to health as well as procreation, so ingesting more living foods is a true recipe for longevity.


Want a good way to get in touch with your roots, literally and figuratively? If you’ve got a patch of earth, great rewards can be found in tilling the soil, planting seeds, tending your garden, and harvesting vine-ripened treasures.  Besides the extra nutritional density to nourish your body, you’ll get naturally high absorbing the sun’s Vitamin D, along with your plants.  As a gardener for 30 years with my family, spring is when we commune with the earthworms that will nourish the soil for the foods we grow. A simple guide to use to decide if something belongs in you: ask if it wasn’t “fed” by a worm, how well will it pass through me?


Here’s to enjoying technology’s marvels and advances of modern science, while remembering to honor our Paleolithic roots! To learn about a modern marvel that is helping people bridge their Paleo-food gaps, click on my “Powered by Juice Plus” banner! 

Last modified on Friday, 20 January 2012 12:57
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