Is Paleo, in fact, the healthiest diet on the planet?
It very well may be. Such a diet rich in protein, healthy fats and vegetables provides an amazing platform for truly sound nutrition. It offers many more vitamins and nutrients in a whole food fashion than the Standard American Diet.
The concept for this mode of eating was inspired back in 1985 when the New England Journal of Medicine published a paper that claimed we may all find greater health by returning to a diet similar to what our Paleolithic ancestors enjoyed. Seventeen years later, this morphed into the Paleo diet, championed by Colorado State University professor, Loren Cordain. His book, The Paleo Diet, was one of the first discourses on how to implement this "more natural" style of nutritional maintenance.
At its heart, Paleo abandons grains, dairy, sugar and salt in favor of meat, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. All processed foods are excluded. Essentially, if our ancestors could hunt it or gather it, it is an acceptable food to consume. It can be very simple, or it can become quite complex depending upon how you approach it. There are a number of truly creative resources out there that help make the Paleo diet healthy and gourmet.
But while this may all sound absolutely perfect, there are a few things that you may want to consider before taking the plunge.
Unfortunately, Paleo and Vegetarian/ Vegan don't necessarily play well together. Many of the proteins that vegetarians rely on, such as beans and legumes, are not Paleo approved. And as tofu and all of its derivatives fall under the "processed food" category, it also is not allowed. Vegetarian/ Vegans will have a hard time managing the Paleo diet and finding enough protein to keep themselves functioning optimally without good supplementation.
Paleo takes time. It is a nutrition lifestyle. You will have to be prepared to shop and cook constantly. Yes, you can certainly go out to eat, and many, many restaurants are very accommodating. But in the Paleo life, the majority of your caloric intake will come from foods that you have made with your very own hands. You will cook breakfast and dinner and pack your lunch and snacks. Tthink about your daily schedule and what you can realistically manage.
Paleo is expensive. There is no way to soften that. By going Paleo, you commit to meat. And if you are going to consume meat 3 meals a day, you probably want to be certain that it is of the organic, grass fed variety. This means that you can expect to see your grocery bill go up. Sure, a certain balance can be achieved as you stop paying for packaged foods, but in the end, Paleo simply comes out more costly. It is important to know what your break-point is.
Finally....no beer. No wine. No booze. Be honest with yourself. That may be the deal breaker, and it is okay if it is.
In the end, any nutrition plan fails or succeeds on your ability to integrate it into your life. Paleo isn't a quick fix; it is a way of eating and living. Even if you aren't 100% ready to commit, integrating some of its core theories into your nutrition plan may be a great way to get started.
Every little step towards better nutrition counts.