Loren Cordain -- researcher and professor at Colorado State University -- serves as the founding proponent of eating a diet that mimics what early humans of the paleolithic era possibly ate. He outlines recommendations for following this type of diet in his book The Paleo Diet. If you follow a paleolithic diet, the ratio of macronutrients -- protein, fat and carbohydrates -- you eat differs slightly from the typical American diet. You stick to an eating pattern that closely resembles what humans reportedly ate before industrialization.
Fundamentals of a Paleo Diet
Cordain offers what he considers simple ground rules for following a paleolithic diet. Eat lots of fruits and non-starchy vegetables, along with lean meat, fish, nuts and seeds. At the same time, avoid legumes, dairy, grains and processed foods -- all of which were unavailable during the paleolithic period. Cordain describes the paleo diet as being high in protein, low in salt, high in fiber, low in refined sugar, moderate in carbohydrates and moderate in fat.
The typical American diet is high in carbohydrates, as the Dietary Reference Intake for carbs is 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories. However, Cordain maintains that your paleolithic ancestors ate a moderate amount of carbohydrates. If you follow a paleo diet, youll get about 22 to 40 percent of your calories from carbohydrates. Cordain emphasizes eating lots of fresh, organic fruit and vegetables to obtain a lot of fiber and phytonutrients.
The DRI for protein is 10 to 35 percent. However, you get about 19 to 35 percent of your calories from protein when you follow a paleolithic diet. Cordain stresses the need to eat lean meats and fish, including skinless chicken and turkey breast, all fish, lean cuts of pork such as loin and lean cuts of beef, such as sirloin. Youll also get protein from nuts and seeds. Focus on grass-fed, cage-free meats.
The standard recommendation for fat intake for Americans is 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories. Cordain claims that paleolithic ancestors had a higher fat intake than whats currently recommended. When following a paleo diet, you get about 28 to 47 percent of your calories from fat. Cordain stresses eating unsaturated fats. The paleo diet is high in omega-3 fats, contains moderate polyunsaturated fats and a high amount monounsaturated fats, according to Cordain. It also contains a moderate amount of saturated fat mostly from meat. Compared to the typical diet though, a paleo diet improves lipids and blood pressure, decreases insulin secretion and improves insulin sensitivity in healthy adults, according to a study published in the August 2009 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
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