The paleolithic diet is not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle of health and wellness. Wellness in body, mind, and spirit begins in the mind – the wellspring of all the energy coursing through us that provides the connection between body and spirit. We know that our body needs healthy fuel, but so does our mind. All of our daily input – everything we read, everything we look at, and everything we think – has an impact on our emotions, our motivations, our desires. Healthy fuel for our mind is positive, transformative, and rejuvenating – it makes us feel good about ourselves and others. It motivates us to take care of ourselves and find the balance we need to live the life our spirit craves. Three pillars of wellness are meditation, diet, and fitness.
Why meditate? It improves focus. Meditation teaches us how to pay attention when our mind wanders. It provides cognitive and health benefits such as improved attention, better memory, stress relief, increased creativity and even compassion; meditation literally contributes to brain health. In this age of the social media-saturated eight-second attention span, meditation rewires our brain to improve our attention. Neuroscience studies in 2012 demonstrated that people who meditated had greatly increased folding of their cerebral cortex, potentially making their brains better at decision making and information processing. The practice of mindfulness teaches us to live in the moment; it teaches us gratitude, contentment, and kindness. Spirituality and meditation like that practiced in yoga leave us more compassionate, kind, self-reflective, and self-aware [1,3].
The paleolithic diet promotes healthy digestion, a healthy gut microbiota, and a stronger immune system by eliminating toxins and foods that contribute to inflammation and chronic disease, and by eating foods that we are genetically equipped to digest.
Proteins and Carbohydrates. Balancing carbohydrates with protein in portions appropriate to level of activity provides us maximum sustenance and energy. Although legumes and grains are off the Paleo Diet@, there are plenty of starchy vegetables to contribute carbohydrates, such as winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, parsnips etc. Protein should be grass-fed lean meats or fish.
Fats. Humans require good fats for healthy cell membranes, which is where all our chemical reactions take place – across membranes. While saturated fats and trans fats – found in fried foods, margarine, lard, fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb, for example, – are detrimental, monounsaturated fats are good sources of fat found in nuts, avocados, fish, and vegetable oils. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats found in fish are especially good for our hearts .
Vitamins and Minerals. Vegetables are the best source for vitamins, minerals, and fiber while citrus fruit is great not just for vitamin C but contributes to our pH balancing act – a balanced pH in our cells keeps opportunistic yeast and bacteria at bay and strengthens our immune system. Bananas and melons are high in potassium and magnesium which contribute to muscle and nerve function, blood pressure control, bone development and more, and they’re also high in lots of other vitamins and minerals. Berries are rich in antioxidants. As in all things, though, moderation is key. Fruit has a high fructose content and has a high glycemic index, meaning we need to budget our consumption.
A fitness regime completes our wellness triad. Not only does activity build muscle which supports our skeleton and prevents or reduces chronic pain, physical activity rewards us with serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine – it makes our minds and bodies feel good. We don’t have to get extreme to get fit – unless we want to! We can join a yoga class and make some new friends; yoga is excellent for gentle rehabilitation of disability, or for increased flexibility, mobility, stress relief, and physical fitness. It has been shown to lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease . We just need to move our bodies – dancing, walking, bike-riding, swimming, cross-fit – any level of physical activity that suits our lifestyle; physical activity aids in blood and lymph circulation throughout the body, which in turn oxygenate our cells and remove toxins.
The Paleo Diet is more than just a diet, it’s a formidable and holistic lifestyle.