Though many view a Primal or Paleo diet as the latest fad, it's actually quite the opposite. The names, "Primal", "Paleo" and "Ancestral" hint to the history and longevity of this dietary pattern. These nutritional philosophies are the REEMERGENCE of a way of life that sustained and nourished people for centuries upon centuries, the basis of which is rooted in REAL FOOD (and please note, our ancestors did not all eat from the same food groups, as I discuss below).
While many of our ancestors died young of acute illness, threats of prey and other factors uncommon to our day, many lived long healthy lives that did not include the CHRONIC DISEASE that 1 in 2 Americans now suffer from and which causes 7 out of 10 deaths EVERY YEAR! The reason? Well, the writing is on the wall (pun intended), and FOOD, MOVEMENT & LIFESTYLE are three big reasons for our declining health as a nation.
THe epidemic of chronic disease
As mentioned above, 1 in 2 Americans now suffers from chronic disease, and 1 in 4 has MULTIPLE chronic conditions. Even more shocking, the rate of chronic disease in KIDS has more than doubled between 1994 and 2006! In the prime of their lives, kids are now facing what used to be called the "diseases of old age". In the U.S. alone, we spend $3.8 trillion a year on healthcare, 84% of which is spent to "treat" chronic disease. And sadly, it's only getting worse, NOT BETTER!
Recent studies tell us that two-thirds of Americans are overweight and 1 in 3 is obese. Think about that - ONE IN THREE! At this rate, HALF of us will be obese by the year 2030!! WHY?? We are a society OBSESSED with health and weight loss (a term known as “orthorexia”), yet we're only getting fatter and sicker. The answers are before us if we take the time to look. Ancestral health experts are asking these questions through the lens of our predecessors who were not plagued by this epidemic, and we need to be asking WHY?
Environment & genes
Recent statistics suggest that more than 85% of chronic disease is caused by environmental factors like diet, behavior, environmental toxins and lifestyle. More and more we are learning that our health is not determined by our genes. In fact, genes only account for about 10% of chronic disease. So, what does this mean? It means that something else entirely is at the root of 90% of chronic disease. Enter the EXPOSOME....
The exposome is "the cumulative measure of environmental influences and associated biological responses" that influences our health. Remember the old adage of "nature versus nurture"? Well, recent research has shown that NURTURE plays "an even greater role than genetics in determining lifelong success, health, and well-being". Nurture would include all external exposures from the environment, diet, behavior, societal influences & a myriad of infections - which means, these are the factors to which we must place our greatest attention.
Forget the restrictions
An Ancestral or Paleo approach considers lifestyle, sleep patterns, dietary patterns, mental health (cognition, brain fog, mindset), physical environment, community and activity. It is also not a diet based on specific restrictions (though there is a place for this at times), but is based on eating reasonably and avoiding industrialized, processed & modern Frankenfoods.
Research by Weston A. Price and others have found that no one primitive diet was the same. The Eskimos ate mostly animal fat and very little vegetation for most of the year. Many African tribes thrived on raw milk, nuts & seeds, and fibrous vegetables. Other cultures primarily ate proteins high in saturated fats (both animal & vegetable), tubers and some grains. Regardless of their dietary pattern, chronic disease did not reign supreme.
I prescribe to a PLANT-FOCUSED ANCESTRAL DIET, which includes the real & incredibly nutritious foods that were created for our bodies. These traditional foods in today's world resemble organic, non-GMO fruits & vegetables, grass-fed & wild animals, wild seafood, pastured chickens & eggs, full-fat & raw dairy, fermented vegetables, possibly some sprouted grains & legumes, and healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter & (dare I say it?) lard.
This type of approach is about eating local, sustainable and seasonal foods. It's eating the best you can in a modern-day world, while avoiding fad diets, quick fixes and processed foods. And here at Health Talk, I hope to help you start & continue this process of reclaiming and/or maintaining your health with FOOD.