PALEO is showing no signs of halting in popularity this year. My Kitchen Rules chef "paleo" Pete Evans has led a social media and recipe book revolution with the diet at the forefront of his claims of good health. Weekend takes a look at the arguments for and against paleo, plus another diet set to star in 2017.
Stone Age eating
Cavemen and women didn't eat processed food or microwaveable meals; they ate what was available in their environment. The term paleo is used to guide our diet to consume food as a caveman would. Our paleolithic ancestors would eat only what they could hunt, forage and gather, meaning food was fresh, seasonal and healthy.
Paleo is an ancient style of nutrition that has become more recognised in society. It is by no means a trend that will pass by. It is a historical way of eating that we have adapted for our modern-day habits. Supporters of the lifestyle choice say it will improve your gut health, balance blood sugar levels, increase brainpower and concentration, and boost your immune system.
The paleo diet eliminates certain food groups such as dairy, grains, refined sugar and processed food. So what are the paleo trend offerings of now?
THE COCONUT: This Caribbean genius nut is an all-round hero product. High in natural fat, coconut oil, water, flour, cream, butter and sugar can be produced. Even coconut jam has made it to the shelves. It is the new health food staple.
FERMENTED FOODS: Bacterial essentials for gut and brain health. Fermented foods have probiotic qualities that help our digestion and fight illness. Alternative food pantries will stock kerfier and kamboucha in abundance, which are fermented drinks. One is of a yogurt consistency and the latter made of tea. Even sauerkraut, an ancient European cabbage recipe, is being loaded into wraps and salads.
SUPER FOODS: Labelled as super-plant based products, these foods are laden with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed to balance the body. Goji berries, once used in Chinese medicine, are now promoted as having immune-boosting qualities. Super powders are also being blended in morning smoothies. Maca and boabab are good for energy release and healing nutrition.
Paleo is not a fad or a starvation diet, it's a lifetime of edible dedication to improve your health and well-being and feed your body with the most nutrition-dense food possible. It's not as prehistoric as it might seem.
Diet for your mind
FORGIVE my cynicism when it comes to paleo, or any diet that cuts out whole food groups for an extended period of time. Yes, a minority of people are lactose or gluten intolerant. Yes, people don't eat animals or animal products for their own spiritual, religious or ethical reasons. No, I do not buy that we would all benefit from cutting certain food groups from our diets, nor should meat-eaters have to justify their choices.
In his book, The Mindspan Diet, Preston W Estep argues against paleo's premise that humans cannot properly digest some foods.
"Genetic evidence shows that over time humans have been evolving an increasing ability to digest starches and sugars," the book says. The director of gerontology at the Harvard Personal Genome Project instead focused on diets that may help stave off dementia and Alzheimer's. Estep introduces the reader to what he terms the Mindspan Elite, which are select populations and individuals who have enjoyed the greatest life and mindspans in human history.
These groups include the Japanese and Mediterraneans. The book is full of tips and tricks these groups use in their daily lives, including:
MANAGING CARBS: The type and the pace of consumption of carbs are important. Dr Estep writes certain groups slow their carb consumption by eating "unhurried" meals or eating carbs later in the meal.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS: Dr Estep writes that these are essential building blocks for our bodies and we cannot function without them. Generally, there are two types: omega-6 and omega-3, which are found in fish, shellfish and plants.
THE BAD FATS: The old offenders, oxidised polyunsaturated fats and trans fats, are no good for brain health. Dr Estep writes they need to be eliminated from diets.
The Mindspan Diet by Preston W Estep, published by Nero, RRP $29.99, is out now.