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Part 2: What do these diets mean?

Folks, in Part 2 of 3 in this series (see Part 1 here), we’re checking out the trendy Paleolithic Diet and Flexitarian Diet.

If nothing else, these series should help to confirm that irrespective of what diet you follow, the common guideline in all of them is to build up on organic fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid processed, packaged foods and refined sugars. The rest is really about what feels intuitively right for your body.

The Paleolithic (Paleo) Diet

It might seem too restrictive, but this diet does make sense. It is based on what our healthy hunter-gatherer ancestors ate 10,000 years ago, before the agricultural cultivation of grains, legumes and other plant-based foods.

The Paleo Diet claims that by removing foods like refined carbohydrates, salt, sugar and some oils (see below) and eating more plant based varieties, you will optimize your health, minimize your risk of chronic disease and lose weight.

Photo by Allyson Sanborn

Paleo dish photo by Allyson Sanborn

Whole grains and legumes are also off the menu, contrary to mainstream advice, because they are considered hard to digest and cause inflammation.

Eat:

  • Grass-fed meat
  • Fish/seafood
  • Fresh fruits and veggies
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthful oils (olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut)

Don’t eat:

Pros:

  • Stable blood sugar
  • Reduced allergies
  • Burn off stored fat
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Balanced energy throughout the day
  • Improved sleep patterns

Cons: In her article The Real Paleo Diet, well-known vegan cookbook author and BC dietician Vesanto Melina says that despite the benefits of eliminating refined foods, today’s paleo diet is a wannabe version. Our ancestors ate wild game, which has five times less fat content than today’s grass-fed beef. They also consumed offal (liver, kidney, brain, intestines, tongue, testicles),  a very high diet of plant-based foods and absolutely no oil.

Other criticisms suggest that the Paleo Diet ignores the environmental crisis that should be motivating us to eat lower on the food chain and it shows little concern for the plight of grass-fed beef or “free range” chickens when they reach the slaughterhouse.

Since few people have access to much wild game, Vesanto believes that from a health perspective it makes sense to replace game with legumes (beans, peas and lentils), which are high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol free.

Research Sources: The Paleo Diet

What is the Paleo Diet?

The Flexitarian Diet

Flexitarians (flexible and vegetarian) are primarily, but not strictly, vegetarian.

Most support sustainable food consumption by limiting their meat intake to two or three times a week and favour organic animal products.

falafel

Lebanese Garden Falafel at Nuba (Nuba)

Nuba, Aphrodite’s and Ethical Kitchen are a few great restaurants in Vancouver that offer clean animal products and a variety of vegetarian foods. Local farmers markets also provide top quality meats and produce.

For those who want to scale back on their meat consumption and transition into a plant-based diet, Dawn Jackson Blatner’s book The Flexitarian Diet shows you how to prepare and add more vegetarian foods and meals to your existing diet.

Pros:  This is a gentle, easy and healthy approach to eating with lots of creative food resources to draw from. Vegetarians and flexitarians weigh, on average, about 15% less than heavy meat eaters. They have a lower rate of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer; and live an average of 3.6 years longer.

Cons: Organic animal products are expensive and the emphasis is on cooking fresh foods, which can be challenging for busy families. The diet seems to promote whole grains, legumes and dairy but from what I’ve learned, these can be inflammatory foods and need to be consumed in moderation.

Research sources: The Flexitarian Diet

Flexitarian Diet: What You Need to Know

What’s up for next week?

In my last post of the three-part series I will get into Dr. Andrew Weil’s recognized Anti-Inflammatory Diet, which is nutritionally sound and easy to follow.

So far, which diets do you like or wish to follow more closely? Do share.

Feature image: Apple greens and candied nuts at Aphrodite’s (Sarah Hedley)

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