As week five of my Paleo Diet experiment drew to a close, I was unsure what I should write about. Unlike previous weeks, I wasn’t having trouble creating a Paleo specific menu plan, nor was I going through some sort of food withdrawal. On the contrary, I have been feeling pretty great over the past week. Then it occurred to me, could my general feelings of well being and the extra energy I had be a result of my improved eating habits?
When I began my Paleo Diet experiment, I wanted to use it to tighten up some of my eating habits and experience the benefits of following Paleo principles. Never having been a dieter, I was unsure what to expect. All I know is that when I adopted a healthy lifestyle almost three years ago, I lost 70+ lbs. and began to feel better. Going into the experiment, I expected to lose weight. I didn’t expect to have more energy and feel great.
So what could it be in the Paleo Diet that is causing me to feel better? After all, I had already moved away from fatty meats and processed foods over the last two years and I ate very little dairy due to my lactose intolerance. The largest changes to my diet were the removal of bad carbohydrates. I stopped eating grains and processed sugar. Also, I began to eat more vegetables. Instead of having potatoes, I was having a salad or extra veggies.
According to Loren Cordain the founder of the Paleo Diet, bad carbohydrates are primarily starchy carbohydrates found in grains, cereal crops and potatoes.[i] These foods have a high glycemic load which elevates blood insulin levels in many people. High glycemic foods are tied to heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity. By eliminating cereal grains, I was also eliminating the antinutrients they contain which prevent nutrient absorption and can negatively affect the gastrointestinal tract and immune systems.[ii]
In the New York Times Magazine article Is Sugar Toxic Dr. Robert Lustig discusses his belief that refined sugar has unique characteristics, specifically in the way the human body metabolizes the fructose in it, makes it singularly harmful, and consuming sugar (fructose and glucose) means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch (glucose).
So apparently, there is a scientific basis to why I’ve been feeling so good over the last week. By not eating grains of any sort, my glycemic index has decreased and I’m not poisoning myself by eating refined sugars. I’m sure the additional nutrients and fibre from my increased intake of fruits and vegetables also played a role, but I think the elimination of bad carbohydrates is the primary reason for how I feel. So if you want to feel lousy, have some pasta. But you’ll have to excuse me, I just had an avocado for a snack and I’m going to the gym!
[i] Loren Cordain, The Paleo Diet, Wiley Press, 2002, p.48
[ii] Loren Cordain, The Paleo Diet, Wiley Press, 2002, p.46