My biggest reason for loving the Paleo Diet

I recently came across a book in a dollar store that may end up making my all time top ten best list. The book is, Your Personal Paleo Code, by Chris Kresser. I had not heard of Chris before, but flipping through the pages, my first impression was, “Wow! Whoever this guy is, he worked his tail off on this book!” So, I thought, for a dollar, I’d give it a whirl.

It is funny how some of the most valuable things we find in life are stumbled upon. More than once I have, by accident or luck, found something that later became life changing. I suppose the lesson here is to always remain curious and on the lookout for hidden value.

I brought the book home and started reading it.

Long story short…it blew my mind!

I had heard of Paleo dieting before, but mainly as a ‘socio-political’ issue. This was the first I had heard of it as a force-multiplier for improving diet and general health. Chris is the expert and you should hear the scientific side of the story from him (visit his website here), but below – so far – is my biggest takeaway from reading the book.

The magic of nutrient dense food.

We hear endlessly about “junk food” and “empty calories,” but I never stopped to think what those words really mean.  In the current era of low sugar dieting and “counting carbs,” it seemed all that mattered about most food was the gross calorie count. “Junk food” meant high sugar and/or high fat which in turn meant high calories. Conventional wisdom said, for a better diet, avoid such foods or consume them in moderation.

It turns out there is more to the story.

It begins with the fact that our bodies and digestive systems are monumentally complex. The digestive system consists of a vast universe of ‘microbiota’ with an almost immeasurable number of these agents working in concert to sustain our lives. Humans evolved these systems over millions of years living as hunter gatherers and eating a diverse array of naturally occurring foods.

With the onset of the agricultural revolution, an unintended consequence was diets became substantially less diverse. This was due to the fact that only a relatively small number of plants and animals proved to be domesticable and cultivation friendly. Some of these foods worked out well for our diets, while others were not always the best in terms of nutrient quality or digestibility.

In the end, we arrive today dependent on diets with comparatively fewer food choices and with the widespread adoption of many foods that often conflict with our millions year old digestive systems.

So, what does it all mean?

Why nutrient dense food matters.

Feel hungry? This is your amazing, millions year old evolved body telling you it needs something. The question is what? I know people who get very focused cravings for particular food items. Maybe it’s just me, but I have never experienced hunger with this degree of focus. Instead, I seem to just get generally hungry without much tilt toward specific foods.

But, being “hungry” is, in essence, a generalized condition.

Your body could be looking for some specific nutrient or fuel that you may not even be aware of (i.e. like sailors suffering from scurvy and having no clue what’s going on). One way to think of it is to imagine the body as having a limited vocabulary. It may need calcium, vitamin B12, citric acid, or some other nutrient, but, because it can’t specifically ask for it, it just says, “I’m hungry!”

In the modern world, the cycle goes something like this,

Step 1. Needing some combination of calories and nutrients the body says, “I’m hungry!”

Step 2. In response, I feed it high-calorie, low-octane junk food.

Step 3. My stomach, now filled with calories but limited nutrients, provides me temporary relief. But, it is a false summit.

Step 4. Soon, my body still lacking the nutrients it wanted in the first place and in spite of the fact it recently got a load of extra calories, repeats, “I’m hungry!”

Step 5. Return to Step 2 and repeat.

In such a cycle, I end up with an excess of calories and a deficiency in nutrients (i.e. overweight and less healthy). In reality, the body’s vocabulary is much more expansive. Yearning for what it wants, it may “speak” by saying things like; headaches, body aches, depression, sleeplessness, digestive issues, cramping, pain, gas, various types of inflammation, and more.

Selecting a diet with more diverse and nutrient dense foods (i.e. like the Paleo diet) can alter the steps above to look more like this,

Step 1. Needing some combination of calories and nutrients the body says, “I’m hungry!”

Step 2. Instead of giving it junk, I feed it more nutrient dense foods (Visit Chris Kresser’s website to learn more about foods that qualify.)

Step 3. I get the calories I need and more of the nutrients my body wants. This gives me multiple benefits including improved nourishment, more energy, and relief from feeling hungry as often.

Step 4. In time, I “average” toward better nutrition, a more stable diet, more optimal body weight, and improved overall health.

Again, the body and digestive system are exceedingly complex. Depending on the conditions, knowing what micronutrient the body may or may not want can be extremely difficult to discern. However, by selecting in favor of more diverse and nutrient dense foods – as our ancient ancestors did – I increase the odds of giving my body the fuel it actually needs.

There is much to be learned about this topic and focused study is required to improve one’s knowledge. For my part, I am glad to be on the path. As with any diet, there is no one size fits all. Be sure to consult with your physician before beginning any new diet or exercise regime.

To learn more about Paleo dieting, tasty Paleo menus, research, special reports, and more, visit: