Tuesday, 17 July 2012

What is a healthy diet anyway, part 2 - finding paleo/primal

Having banished the worst of my IBS symptoms by cutting out all the fruit I was eating (especially high fructose fruits like apples, pears and grapes) I continued to read avidly about nutrition and was attracted to the paleo/primal way of eating that basically encompasses foods that we would have eaten back when were cavemen. The thinking behind this is that simply our bodies do much better if we eat foods that we were designed to eat, namely meat, fish, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds and some berries. It is not certain how long we have been eating grains but in the grand scheme of human evolution it is a short time and many people may not be well adapted to them. We are certainly not designed to eat all the processed foods now found in the modern supermarket and the prevalance of obesity and chronic disease today speaks for itself. I have a personal reason for wanting to stay as healthy as possible and live as long as I can as I had children relatively late in life (I was 40 when I had twins in 2002) so I want to be around as long as possible for them.

So, I began to adopt some of the paleo principles eating fresh foods whenever possible and very little processed foods. The major change for me was embracing fats which I had always avoided as I was brainwashed into the low fat high wholewheat carb diet that most people in the West eat today (and the one that is recommended by governments and health authorities). The big question was could I cut out grains? Fresh bread, breakfast cereals, sandwiches, scones - all foods I loved and enjoyed. Well so far so good, I haven't eaten grains for about 6 months now except for an occasional tiny piece of birthday cake now and again when it would look really churlish to refuse (more about the 80/20 rule in a future post).

So what drove me to finally cutting out all these foods I liked but decided not to eat? It was finding out that actually all these starchy carbs simply turn into sugar in the digestive system and the body treats them like any other sugar and raises insulin levels to deal with them. This constant assault on our pancreas to produce more and more insulin is what causes type 2 diabetes and leads to inflammation which in turn leads to disease. I was also motivated by looking lean and attractive into my fifties!

Since giving up grains and processed foods I have felt better, looked lean and my stomach is now flat (well as flat as it's ever going to be considering I carried twins to 37 weeks gestation!!). I wasn't really overweight before but did have cellulite on my thighs which has gone, and had the start of middle aged spread around my stomach which has also gone.  And the best thing is that I can maintain low body fat whilst never being hungry. So a win win situation!

Next post will discuss how to make a start on a paleo/primal way of eating if you want to have a go. Why not try it for 10 days and see how it goes?

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