Paleo Diet is the abbreviated term for ‘Paleolithic diet’, also know as ‘stone age diet’, ‘caveman diet’ or ‘hunter-gatherer diet’. From this we can figure out that it is a new-age nutritional diet based on what are ancestors ate.
The diet of our ancestors who lived 2.5 million years ago during the Paleolithic Era consisted of wild animals and plants. Hence, the modern Paleo Diet is centered on similar foods like – fish, vegetables, fruits, meat of animals raised on pastures and fed grass, nuts, fungi and roots.
A typical Paleo Diet bans use of all dairy products, refined sugar, processed oils, refined salt and grains. This diet was first conceptualized by Walter L. Voegtlin, a gastroenterologist in the mid-1970s.
The aim of the Paleo Diet is to lose weight and prevent diseases like heart problems and type-2 diabetes. It claims to help its users lead a healthy, fit and disease-free life. The entire premise of this diet is that these days, people eat mainly high carbohydrate, processed foods that are the root cause of many diseases.
Our ancestors ate simple food that did not consist of any food full of saturated fats. The idea is that if the caveman survived without our modern foods, so can we. While there are some foods to eat and some to avoid, the quantum eaten depends on each one’s goals and the weight-loss program you are following.
So, are there benefits to the Paleo Diet? Some studies have shown a minimal weight loss in some users. This has to be combined with appropriate exercises and it also depends on the number of calories you consume.
Some studies state that this diet can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglyceride and blood pressure levels. There is no known proof if this diet prevents diabetes. There are some health risks in consuming a pure Paleo Diet since you are not eating grains and dairy products which have a high nutritional value.
Also, if you do not stick to eating only lean meats, then risk of contracting heart problems increases.
A typical Paleo Diet could provide you will sufficient fat and proteins, low levels of salt, not enough carbohydrates, sufficient fiber from fruits and vegetables, sufficient potassium, not enough calcium since you avoid dairy products, little or no vitamin D and sufficient vitamin B-12 from fish and meat.
Paleo Diet recommends a vitamin D or calcium supplement and fish oil capsule for those who do not eat seafood. This diet is not very easy to follow since avoiding dairy products and grains is difficult. There are websites with recipes you can try.
The Paleo Diet can be expensive due to its emphasis on eating meat and fish – which are costly. You get enough fiber and proteins, so you can use this diet to lose weight.
There are several Paleo Diet options for those who need to eat gluten-free food, low salt diets, vegan or vegetarian diets, halal or kosher foods.
Quinoa, a whole food grain is the seed of the quinoa plant, first cultivated in the regions surrounding the Andes – primarily the countries of Bolivia, Columbia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina. This grain formed the staple food of the Inca Empire and is popular to this day.
While these days, quinoa is grown in certain parts of the US, most of their supply of this grain is from South America. Peru is the single largest producer of commercial quinoa. Since, the news of the rich nutrient density of quinoa has spread, so has its popularity to other countries of the world like Japan, India, parts of Europe and Africa.
A serving of 42.5g quinoa provides us with 156 calories and other nutrients like manganese, tryptophan, folate, magnesium and phosphorous. Quinoa is rich in anti-oxidants even more than fruits like cranberry.
It also contains anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and small quantities of ALA – an omega-3 fatty acid. Quinoa also contains healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and other minerals.
Above all, quinoa is high in proteins and carbohydrates. It contains all the essential (8) amino acids that the body requires, especially lysine which is essential for tissue repair and maintenance. It is gluten-free and ideal food for patients with celiac disease. It helps patients with diabetes and aids in weight loss since it is rich in dietary fiber.
Can Quinoa be Included in a Paleo Diet?
So, can quinoa be part of the Paleo Diet? In the book ‘Paleo Diet’ by Loren Cordain, all food grains are not to be included, for they need to be processed before eating. The cavemen ate food in its natural state and therefore this does not include any grains. Hence grains like quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth, cereals like rice, wheat and barley are not part of this diet.
It is for users of the Paleo Diet to decide if completely eliminating complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber found in foods like quinoa and legumes is beneficial. These foods are linked to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes and a healthier digestion.
Emphasis on a low-carbohydrate, high-protein meal plan like the Paleo Diet may not be beneficial in the long run. Hence, those who feel this diet is limiting can incorporate quinoa leaves like a vegetable or quinoa grains. These will give them a rich source of lysine, other amino acids, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. It will also be low in unhealthy fats.
Grains are usually eliminated from the Paleo Diet to avoid gluten in which most are rich in. Gluten causes celiac disease and other autoimmune conditions like lupus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Most grains like wheat, rye, barley and millet are rich in gluten.
One advantage of quinoa is that it is free of gluten. Hence, if you try a Paleo Diet, follow it for at least 30 days and then you could slowly incorporate other nutrient-rich foods into your meals like quinoa depending on personal preference.