The Paleo Diet: Good For your Mental Health?
Hi, friends, I hope you’re having a fantastic summer. Between vacation, traveling and now transitioning into a new role at work, time has been getting away from me. I can’t believe school starts here in a little over a week!
Okay, let’s jump back into our discussion about the best diet (i.e., “way of eating”) for optimal mental health. If you remember last blog post, we talked about the Standard American Diet, which is no bueno for mental health. This week we discuss the Paleo Diet.
What is the Paleo Diet?
Paleo is short for the Paleolithic, which was a time period where cavemen and women lived on Earth. Modern day the people who have a Paleo-style way of eating consume fruits, vegetables, beef, chicken, eggs and seafood. Nuts and seeds are also on the approved list. Maple syrup or honey are used as the main natural sweeteners. There is also an emphasis on healthy fats such as olive, avocado and coconut oils and avoiding inflammatory oils such as vegetable and canola oils. Quality of the food eaten on a Paleo diet is important so there is a focus on organic and sustainable, local farmer-focused grass-fed meat and free range chicken that do not include antiobiotics or hormones. Paleo eaters avoid gluten, legumes (e.g., peanuts, corn. lentils, etc.), dairy, processed foods, most alcohol and white sugar. Some Paleo practioners eat grass-fed dairy products. The Paleo diet does not put an emphasis on any special ratio of macronutrients (i.e., fats, protein, and carbohydrates) and including a wide variety of micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and nutrients0 is viewed as optimal.
Some opponents to the Paleo diet state that it is too expensive to buy all organic fruits and veg and grass-fed, free-range meat, eggs and chicken. However, there are ways to keep your food budget down while eating Paleo, such as shopping your local farmers’ market, purchasing meat, chicken and eggs from your local farmer, and only buying organic fruits and veg that appear on the “dirty dozen” list. Other opponents believe that to eat truly Paleo is impossible because the food thousands of years ago was very different than the food we have available today. This is true and thank goodness! The fruits back then were much smaller, harder, and less naturally sweet. As people have grown in their farming techniques over the centuries, our food has also changed to be more palatable. Additionally, research shows that people in the Paleolithic era ate vastly different depending on the region where they lived. While most did eat only fruits, veg, meats, roots, nuts and seeds, some even ate dairy, wild grains and cornmeal. (Reference: “The Paleo Problem: Examining the Pros and Cons of the Paleo Diet” by Brian St. Pierre)
Paleo Diet’s Affect on Mental Health
This article from US News & World Report shares an interesting thought about the Paleo diet and its positive affect on the brain as outlined in Dr. David Perlmutter’s book, “Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar.” Dr. Perlmutter is a neurologist and fellow of the American College of Nutrition who states “grains cause degenerative brain disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and play a role in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy, anxiety, migraines and depression. Gluten, which is a ‘glue’ that holds flour together, is the main culprit of obesity and why people suffer from brain diseases.” He summarizes why so many people are now on the “Paleo bus” as most have a gluten sensitivity because we were never biologically wired to eat pizza, donuts, and cupcakes. Added sugar is thought to also have a negative effect on the brain and mood, as we’ve discussed before. Healthy fats, which the Paleo diet promotes, also have been shown to improve brain function.
The Verdict: I’m a firm believer that gluten and processed foods have a negative affect on mental health. I’ve been eating 98% Paleo diet for three years or so, and I notice a difference if I eat processed sugar and/or gluten. My anxiety increases pretty dramatically and my insomnia comes back with avengence. For me, eating Paleo makes me feel the best, physically and mentally. So, I give the Paleo diet a big THUMBS UP.
What I’m Loving Now!
I’ve been wanting to try the @BalancedBites seasonings for awhile and finally ordered some a few weeks ago. I recently ordered the Ranch, Super Garlic, Trifecta, and Everything But the Bagel seasoning mixes, and now I’m obsessed. The containers are bigger than what you’d buy from the grocery store, and I’ve been using them on everything I eat. So good! You can order them from www.kasandrinos.com. Oh and if you’ve never had Kasandrino Olive Oil, you are missing out! Did you know a lot of olive oils you buy at the grocery store add cheaper “filler” oils like canola just to keep the cost down? Yuk. Kasandrinos olive oils are 100% pure olive oil and the best quality. They are also a family-owned business; the olive oil comes straight from the Kasandrino olive farm in Greece.
P.S. Remember, I’m not a medical professional. Any information on my blog is based on research I’ve done and my own opinion based on personal experiences.