The Paleo lifestyle, in which you try to eat like cave men, reveals some of the truths about common foods. Is it sugar or fat that's making people fat and unhealthy? Do eggs dangerously raise our cholesterol? Wait, doesn't saturated fat cause heart disease? Is alcohol a bad idea, or should you drink a glass of red wine every day?
Sugar and its associated insulin cycles are the demons of the food world. The right fats can actually make you leaner and healthier. In fact, eggs are an excellent source of protein, and you can eat them to your heart's (and health's) content. And, yes, an occasional glass of wine can be part of a Paleo lifestyle.
Slay the sugar demon with the Paleo diet
Thanks to processed foods and soft drinks, sugar consumption has reached dangerous proportions. Eating sugar releases insulin in the bloodstream to reduce your level of blood sugar. This increase in insulin can make your blood sugar fluctuate too low, so your brain triggers your body to eat more sugar. The diabolical being who rules this cycle is know as the sugar demon (and, yes, he really does exist!).
If you've been trapped in the sugar cycle, you know it can be pretty unpleasant. Physical hunger and mental temptation gnaw at you, compelling you to make poor food choices, which lead to more unhealthy food choices again later. You feel edgy and cranky before eating, energized for a short time while eating, then sluggish and sleepy after a meal.
The Paleo diet helps you break this cycle to vanquish the sugar demon. To be your leanest, healthiest self, you must break out of the sugar cycle. The most successful way to do that is by eating Paleo-approved foods that stabilize your insulin, reduce inflammation, and increase your food satisfaction.
Make the case for high-quality fats when living Paleo
Fat doesn't make you fat. The media has told you for decades that the key to a leaner body is a low-fat diet and that saturated fats are the cause of heart disease. Both of those assertions are wrong.
Fat, including saturated fat, is essential to your health and, as it turns out, to building a lean, strong body. To access the fat stored in your body for energy, you need to consume fat in your meals, so your body can then burn stored fat for energy.
Dietary fat is also crucial in helping your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, S, E, and K. A diet that's too low in fat can lead to food cravings that compel you to overeat or make poor food choices. Additionally, when your body doesn't regularly receive high-quality fat in meals, it can retaliate with dry skin, hair loss, bruising, intolerance to cold, and, in extreme cases, loss of menstruation.
Fit fruit into the Paleo plan
Fruit provides beneficial plant compounds, fiber, and antioxidant power; however, you must eat fruit in moderation. Fruits contain fructose, which is just another form of sugar, so consuming too much fruit can cause weight gain and may cause blood sugar swings.
When you're just beginning to fight the sugar demon and starting to live Paleo, remember to not let your fruit take over your plate. Reach for vegetables more often than fruits, and keep your fruit intake to about one or two servings per day.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about fruit:
Melons and tropical fruits, like bananas, mango, and pineapple, include higher amounts of natural sugar.
Fruits that are darker in color — blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and cranberries — have higher amounts of antioxidants and less sugar.
Eating fruit that's in season is your best bet for nutrition and an appropriate amount of sugar.
Eggs are okay (and cholesterol isn't so bad) in your Paleo diet
Eggs are just about the perfect food. They're filled with vitamins and minerals, including choline and biotin. Biotin helps your body turn the foods you eat into energy, and choline helps move cholesterol through your bloodstream. They're both an excellent source of fatty acids and sulfur-containing proteins, which make the walls around your cells healthy.
The yolk is the prize of the egg. It's loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients.
The cholesterol fuss is based on the assumption that if you eat cholesterol, you raise your blood levels of cholesterol. But that's simply not true. In fact, egg yolks contain the B vitamin choline, which is a concentrated source of lecithin (a natural fat transporter), and naturally keeps cholesterol from entering the bloodstream.
Cholesterol isn't all bad. Your body needs cholesterol to make bile, which breaks down fats. And your brain cells need cholesterol to deliver your body's messages where they need to go.
Make happy hour truly happy while living Paleo
There's an appropriate time to enjoy a moderate amount of alcohol to unwind or to celebrate. Aside from the positive aspects of socializing, some types of alcohol are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and they may also reduce the risk of infection with the bacteria that causes ulcers.
Here are a few key factors to help you decide whether you should pop a cork:
Alcohol is a toxin to the liver.
Alcohol is a drug, which means it's addictive.
If losing weight is your goal, remember that your liver can't help you with fat burning if it's busy detoxifying alcohol.
Before you pour yourself a glass of something intoxicating, consider your goals and your overall eating habits, and then make smart choices about which type of alcohol you drink.
To celebrate on special occasions, feel free to choose one of these:
To manage your body's insulin response to the sugars found in alcohol, mix spirits, like tequila or vodka, with soda water, ice, and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Avoid fruit juices that are liquid sugar, and avoid tonic water, which is also high in sugar.
When uncorking wine, choose the driest (least sweet) wines possible. The driest reds include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot; the driest whites are Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors occasionally let their hair down when they were exposed to alcohol by eating fermented grapes. But they didn't sit around the fire doing shots. You can't maintain a high level of health if you drink alcohol frequently or in large quantities.