THE PALEO DIET – STONE AGE NUTRITION OR FAD?

THE PALEO DIET – STONE
AGE NUTRITION OR FAD?
March 8, 2012
by ASP Admin

Sounding like something straight out of the Flintstones, the Paleolithic (“Paleo”) diet is the original diet designed keep us lean, strong and healthy. As its name suggest, this diet is essentially derived from the types of foods our ancestors consumed during the Paleolithic Age, spanning from about 2,600,000 years ago to about 10,000 years ago. While the availability of certain foods depended largely on factors such as geographic location, climate conditions and seasonal changes, each Paleolithic diet shared several similarities in common:

Firstly, the vegetable components did not include grain and grain products, but mainly consisted of non-starchy wild fruits and vegetables, dairy, and consisted mainly of meat from wild animals, which bore a completely different amount of fatty acid composition to our modern day domestic animals.

Secondly, the non-vegetable components excluded any dairy, and consisted mainly of meat from wild animals, which bore a completely different amount of fatty acid composition to our modern day domestic animals.

Third and perhaps most obviously, the Paleolithic diet excluded processed foods and refined sugar (apart from honey). As a result, the diet could be characterised as high in protein and fibre, and low in carbohydrates.

Now this begs the questions: what makes a 2 million year old diet still relevant in today’s society?

According to science, our genetic structure determines our optimal nutritional needs, and this has evolved according to the environmental conditions in which our ancient ancestors lived, including the foods they ate. The latest research has shown that our genes have only evolved between 0.01-0.02% since our ancestors in the Paleolitic age, leaving us (yup, you guessed it) between 99.8%-99.9% similar to how humans were 2 million years ago! Yet even though our genetic profile has remained largely unchanged, our human diet has drastically drifted away from that of our ancestors. Mass agriculture and industrialisation have introduced numerous grain, refined sugar and salt, dairy products, as well a plethora of processed and artificial foods as a regular part of the human diet.

In other words, many of us are not eating the foods we are genetically and physiologically adapted to eat. The food which we are fuelling our bodies with is therefore not in sync with the fuel our bodies need – much like fuelling an unleaded car with diesel. This resulting discordance has been accused as being a fundamental cause for many of our modern “first world” diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancers, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, heart disease, auto-immune diseases, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and a host of other conditions that originally were unknown to our Paleolithic ancestors.

Ironically, some of the unhealthiest foods in today’s diet is being promoted and recommended to us by health organisations and nutritionists, and some of the foods which we were made to consume are rejected as unhealthy. Things like saturated fat, cholesterol and red meat – types of foods that humans are actually genetically designed to consume – often come attached with a “eat only in moderation” label. Yet what we should really be eliminating in our diet are grain products, excess sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils, legumes and homogenised and pasteurised dairy, some of which are at the very base of the universal food pyramid (an out-of-date diet concept still widely accepted in Australia).

If your goal is to stay lean, healthy and natural, here are my 6 Top Tips to maintaining a successful Paleo Diet:

Be generous in having ANIMAL PROTEIN through the day
Organic if possible, as this will contain less toxins, preservatives and hormones. This includes:

  • Red meat and game (Beef, pork, lamb, veal, rabbit, goat, sheep, kangaroo, deer), including their organs (liver, kidney, bone marrow). Don’t be scared to eat the fatty cuts if they come from a well-treated animal and all meals with proteins should contain fat as well. Preferably choose pasture-raised and grass-fed meat coming from a local, environmentally conscious farm.
  • Poultry and eggs (chicken, wild turkey, pheasant, duck, quail, goose)
  • Wild caught fish (Salmon, tuna, trout, bass, halibut, sole, haddock, turbot, walleye, tilapia, cod, flatfish, grouper, mackerel, anchovy, herring)
  • Shellfish (Crab, lobster, shrimps, scallops, clams, oysters, mussels)

Have lots of fresh NON STARCHY VEGETABLES.
These include:

  • Non leafy vegetables (Celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, chilies, onions, garlic, leeks, kohlrabi, green onions, eggplants, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, cucumber, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, okra, avocados, zucchini, mushrooms)
  • Leafy vegetables (Lettuce, spinach, collard greens, kale, beet top, mustard greens, dandelion, swiss chard, watercress, turnip greens, seaweeds, endive, arugula (rocket), bok choy, rapini, chicory, radicchio)
  • Root vegetables (Carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, radish, jerusalem artichokes, yams, cassava, pumpkin, ginger)
  • Herbs (Parsley, thyme, lavender, mint, basil, rosemary, chives, tarragon, oregano, sage, dill, bay leaves, coriander)

Moderate your intake of FRUITS AND NUTS.
Bear in mind that while fruits are high in antioxidants and vitamins, the way a lot of store bought fruits are being cultivated and stored nowadays cause them to be extremely high in sugars and almost devoid of nutrients. Therefore aim to eat mostly fruits low in sugar and high in antioxidants like berries as well as nuts high in omega-3 or low in omega-6 like macadamia nuts and almonds. Here are some examples:

  • Fruits (berries, strawberry, cranberry, cranberry, blueberry, blackberry, grapefruit, peaches, nectarines, plums, pomegranates, pineapple, papaya, grapes, cherries, apricot, honeydew melon, kiwi, lemon, lime, mango, tangerine, coconut, figs, dates, passion fruit).
  • Raw nuts and Seeds (pistachios, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, chestnuts, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts).

Minimise (or eliminate) CEREALS, GRAINS AND LEGUMES.
While there are certain cultures that have adapted better to consuming these foods, humans as a species have only been eating grains (refined or whole), since the beginning of mass and industrialised agriculture some 10,000 years ago. Since our genes and the make-up of our digestive system was formed long before the advent of industrialisation, grains remained structurally and chemically different to the foods which the human body had already grown accustomed to eating. Unlike birds, which have a digestive system adapted to dealing with grains and seeds, our bodies are simply not made to effectively break down these forms of carbohydrates. These include:

  • Grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, soy)
  • Legumes (peanuts, kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans and black eyed peas).

Eliminate PROCESSED SUGAR
In nature, sugar almost always coexists with fats, protein, minerals and vitamins. By segregating sugar, like white sugar, we are in fact feeding our bodies a foreign substance, something that it cannot breakdown completely and will eventually interpret this as a poison. This includes:

Sugar products (sweets, soft drinks, all packaged products and juices including reconstituted fruit juices). As a rule of thumb, if it comes pre-packaged in a can, bag or box, don’t eat it!

Eliminate HOMOGENISED AND PASTEURISED DAIRY PRODUCTS
With the exceptions of organic butter and maybe heavy cream. Some cultures have successfully adapted well to dairy and its products, but this represents only 30% of the population, and more often than not, they have access to raw diary from organically grown grass-fed cows (not genetically modified cows selected for increased milk production, nor grain-fed cows). For those of us that may not get such high quality raw diary, then be aware that homogenisation and pasteurisation kills the good cultures and enzymes in milk that many of us need when consuming diary.

CELEBRITY DIETS – WHICH WORK BEST FOR YOU?

CELEBRITY DIETS – WHICH
WORK BEST FOR YOU?
February 14, 2012
by ASP Admin

“Diets, Diets, Diets.” That seems to be the hot topic on everyone’s lips leading up to summer. Alas, the annual quest for a toner, leaner, more defined physique begins, but with the vast amount of information on dieting, nutrition and looking good, which ones actually work? Let’s take a look at three popular diets and find out what exactly makes a diet work for you.

ATKINS DIET

The Atkins Diet has been widely popularised because of the rapid changes dieters see in their weight. The diet works by switching your body into a state of ketosis, using fat as the main source of energy instead of carbohydrate, thus inducing drastic weight loss. Dieters follow a regimented 4-stage eating plan. The first stage is a two-week induction phase where only fats, meats and certain cheeses are allowed, and starchy carbohydrates, fruits, nuts and legumes are kept to an absolute minimum. Following which, selected carbohydrate portions are gradually increased with each subsequent phase, and done so until the desired weight is achieved.

Celebrities who have been on the Atkins Diets include Halle Berry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

The Pros:

  • Good for people who are pre-diabetic and those with type II diabetes.Works well for people who are overweight and need to lose fat fast. Great for meat lovers, given that it is a high fat, high protein diet.

The Cons:

  • Weight loss in the first week or so is mostly due to water loss from the body.
  • It is non- sustainable in the long term.
  • Depravation from carbohydrates can cause one to ‘rebound’, and over indulge in sweets when getting off the diet. (So don’t be surprised when you are heavier than when you first got on the diet!).
  • While it allows for unlimited saturated fat, it does not specify the need for organic saturated fats. The increasing incidence of heart disease and high cholesterol nowadays is due to the accumulation of trans-fats, plastics, chemicals and stress hormones in non-organic animal fats.
  • High amounts of protein at any one time can also increase insulin (the storage hormone) secretion substantially, causing fat to be stored instead of lost.

SOUTH BEACH DIET

Founded by Arthur Agatston, MD, the South Beach Diet has had a following of big names such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Jessica Alba, and our very own Nicole Kidman. This diet is based on the theory that cutting out ‘bad’ fats and carbohydrates will help your body lose weight and be less susceptible to heart disease, thus helping you become healthier and slimmer.
Unlike the Atkins, the South Beach Diet does not restrict carbohydrate portions per se, but emphasizes the use of ‘good’ low glycemic (GI) carbohydrates ( carbohydrates that do not cause a sudden spike in our blood sugar levels) over ‘bad ’ high GI ones, such as highly processed foods, sweets and soft drinks. It also distinguishes between ‘good’ unsaturated fats and ‘bad fats’ like saturated fats and trans fat, both of which is believed to increase in the likelihood of cardiovascular disease. The diet is divided into three different phases all of which include specific allowable foods, meal plans and recipes.

The Pros:

  • Ideal for people who want a rough outline on nutrition rather than a structured program.
  • The focus on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbohydrates has been found to decrease the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and help with type 2 diabetes.
  • Carbohydrates are not cut out completely, but are substituted by ‘good’ low GI carbohydrates.
  • There is no need to count calories or weigh foods on this diet.

The Cons:

  • The diet can be a slippery slope for carbohydrate addicts, as no clear guidelines about portion sizes or grams are given. This is left open to the dieter’s interpretation and may lead to overeating.
  • Focusing on the Glycemic index (GI) can be rather misleading and cannot be taken as an absolute indication for healthy living. For example, French fries have a lower GI than baked potatoes, but that does not mean it is a healthier option.


ZONE DIET

Created by Dr Barry Sears, the Zone Diet was not originally intended for weight loss diet but in fact, had an initial focus of decreasing heart disease. The diet focuses on the consumption of a correct ratio of food groups, in particular each meal should comprise of 40% carbohydrates: 30% protein: 30% fat. By keeping to this optimal ratio, our body’s sugar and fat storage hormone – insulin, will not be over secreted at any one time. This means reduced inflammation, more sustained energy, a better metabolism and the best part of all, the weight falls off. Celebrities including Madonna, Demi Moore, Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston have all claimed success with the Zone diet.

The Pros:

  • Places a focus on lean protein and ‘good cholesterol’ which is healthy for your heart.
  • No specific foods are forbidden, thus giving the dieter a wider variety to choose from.

The Cons:

  • While an ideal ratio is specified, the total amount of food to be consumed within each meal is not. Eating large quantities, despite keeping a ratio does not make it healthy to the waistline!
  • The Zone can be time consuming as food has to be prepared in a fixed proportion. Inconvenience can often deter dieters from reaching their goals.

While all 3 celebrity diets are helpful in losing weight in their own right, dieters often cannot sustain the results of the diet, leading them to put on more weight than when they first started. Oprah, for instance, has been on almost every diet known to man, only to see her weight ‘yo-yo’ up and down. This is known as the ‘rebound effect’. The stricter the diet and the more emotional suppression the dieter goes though, the larger the rebound effect. Frequent yo-yoing also impairs the proper functioning of the thyroid gland (this is the centre that regulates our metabolism), and leads to drastic weight gain.

Diets may work better for one individual over another. This highlights one fundamental truth – that we are all different in body chemistry and physical structure, and therefore have different nutritional requirements. Unless we are eating what our body really needs, it is not going to be helpful to our weight nor health in the long run. Severely low calorie diets have also been shown to increase cortisol (a stress hormone), causing abdominal fat and muscle breakdown.

So if you really what to shed those nasty kilos and keep it off for good, make sure to give these tips a go:

1. Make eating healthy a lifestyle, not a temporary band-aid.
A Diet (Pronounced ‘die-it’) as its name suggest, is a means to an end. By making a lifestyle choice to nourish your body with healthy produce, you will keep that weight off for good.

2. Stop counting calories!
While calories do have a part to play in the dietary equation, they also discount the importance of other elements in foods such as vitamins, mineral and phytochemicals. These are essential for maintaining the optimal health of our bodies as well as facilitating the absorption of nutrients, without which our bodies breakdown and are more susceptible to disease.

3. Do not just focus on weight loss.
Often initial dietary weight loss can be due to the loss of water (not fat, as you would be led to believe!). Learn to rely on other signs such as how your clothes fit, muscle tone and overall fitness levels.

4. Specific foods stimulate specific hormonal responses.
For instance, while pound for pound carbohydrates have the same calorie count as protein; it stimulates insulin more than any other food! Insulin is a storage hormone that is responsible for reducing blood sugar and storing fat.

5. Aim to have protein in every meal.
Protein sources such as meat, fish and eggs not only increases the satiety of the meal, keeping you fuller for longer, but also increases your metabolic rate. In fact, having protein in the morning has been found to stimulate neuro-peptide Y, a neurotransmitter manufactured in the gut which is responsible for feelings of motivation. Thus a good hearty breakfast sets you up for the day and can help you make better decisions.

6. Stick to nature.
Because our bodies are organic, it is best suited to handle foods that are natural. Unprocessed, organic foods contain a higher amount of vital nutrients and are not adulterated with artificial chemicals and pesticides. By opting for fresh organic produce as often as you can, you will ensure that your body has the nutrition it needs for optimal living.

7. Stay off packaged, canned and preserved foods.
Such foods are known to contain large amounts of xeno-estrogens and ‘plastic- like’ molecules which our bodies are unable to breakdown. According to Renowned Strength Charles Poliquin, our inability to detoxify such estrogens effectively often results in fat storage specifically around the thigh and hamstring region.

8. Eat fat to burn fat.
Due to our diets of modern foods, our bodies severely lack omega-3, an essential unsaturated fatty acid. Omega-3s contribute to the optimal functioning and integrity of all our cells. A high quality fish-oil such as Poliquin or Nordic Naturals is regulated by the highest standards in the industry and can provide a much needed supplementation our diets. The benefits of increasing our Omega-3 intake include weight loss, improvement of cognitive ability, and overall cell health.

9. Eat and enjoy your foods slowly.
Taking time to chew and taste the flavours, will not only promote better digestion, it will also ensure that you do not overeat.

10. Exercise with weights.
Research has found that you would reach your maximum weight loss potential after only 6 weeks of continuous aerobic cardio (that’s right, all those extra miles on the treadmill won’t do you any good), and in fact, can make you fat around the belly region. By using weights, you are building lean muscle tissue. Every extra pound of muscle actively tones your figure and burns an extra 70 calories a day!