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Paleo Diet for Kids

 

Popular weaning practices include feeding babies first foods of white rice cereal flakes, introducing soft foods or pureed jars of baby fruits and vegetables, and holding off on feeding meat for the first nine months of baby’s life.  Paleo parents, however, often find that style of weaning to be less than ideal.  Believing that babies should eat what their parents are eating, Paleo dieters often raise their babies to eat meat, fats, and vegetables from day one of weaning, while avoiding grains, most dairy, legumes, and beans altogether.

A paleo baby generally relies on breast milk for the main source of nutrition from birth through the second year.  Others may start eating whole foods at around six months of age, the age at which the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest introducing solid foods.  When baby begins grabbing at food or generally shows interest in eating solid foods, such as opening her mouth in anticipation of eating, she may be ready to start eating solids.  Other sources, such as the AAP, suggest waiting until baby can sit up on her own and has solid neck control that will enable her to turn her head and refuse food when she is full.

Any whole, organic food is ideal for a paleo baby that is ready to begin eating solids, according to Rebecca Rovay-Hazelton, a fitness and nutrition expert and author of Choosing Health.  Being sure to avoid honey before the age of one, you may begin feeding your child whatever you are eating, whether it is broccoli, meat or organ meats, zucchini, avocado, egg yolk, peas and carrots, yogurt, or buttered spinach. Some paleo devotees give their babies bones to chew on for teething.

While most foods are safe for baby to eat right away, a healthy preparation is important to reduce the risk of choking.  Slightly mash softer foods like cooked meat or sweet potatoes.  Other foods you may chop in small, easy-to-swallow sizes.  Try not to cook any foods longer than necessary to retain the most nutrients possible.  To minimize toxins entering your baby’s body, buy organic and free-range foods. Antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and herbicides are used often in the mega-farming industry and those toxics can enter your baby’s body through the food he eats.  Buying or growing organic and free-range limits the amount of toxins your baby’s food and your baby are exposed to, keeping him safer and healthier.

Many paleo enthusiasts follow a baby-led weaning technique, in which babies choose what, when, and how much they eat.  To follow this technique, simply offer baby a variety of foods at each meal.  Offer meat or other protein, vegetables, and a limited amount of fruit and allow baby to feed herself.  If she doesn’t eat much, don’t worry, but simply offer her breast milk as normal.  Breast milk should make up the majority of baby’s calories and nutrients until she is between one and two years old.  Some babies will completely reject breast milk after introducing foods and some will not eat many solid foods and will continue breastfeeding for longer than one year.  Every baby is different, so allow your child the freedom to lead her own weaning.

Allowing a baby to choose the foods he eats and how much he eats will instill in him a love of nutritious food and the intuition to choose those foods his body wants and needs.  Your baby will develop a taste and appreciation for various foods without adult interaction, and he will grow up physically powerful and healthy as a result.

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Paleo Diet for the Older Generation

 

One of the major critiques of the Paleolithic diet, founded on the hunter-gatherer diet of our ancient Stone Age ancestors, is that cavemen lived short, brutal lives.  People often believe that a short lifespan in the Paleolithic period was due to poor diet and poor health.  Loren Cordain, one of the top researchers of the paleo diet, argues against this.  In fact, Cordain contends that most Paleolithic deaths were due to trauma and accidents rather than diet.  Indeed, hunter-gatherer societies still exist in the world.  And in such societies, people over the age of 60 are in abundance and are much healthier than their Western peers.  In these societies, people are relatively free of chronic disease such as high blood pressure and obesity.  Cordain and other paleo advocates believe that the paleo diet can actually increase health in older people and increase longevity.

According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation (ARPF), the perfect diet to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, a degenerative disorder in which the brain’s neurons are attacked, causing memory loss, behavioral changes, and changes in cognition, is strikingly similar to the Paleolithic diet.  Fighting this disease calls for a diet that is rich in healthy fats, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates.  The foundation also suggests eating plenty of lean meats, olive oil, avocados, and flax seeds, as well as carbohydrates that come from fresh fruits and vegetables.  Because the Paleolithic diet falls in line with this anti-Alzheimer’s diet proposed by the ARPF, a paleo diet can help prevent Alzheimer’s and defend against memory loss.

Similarly, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune, inflammatory disease that occurs most often in people middle-aged or older.  The disease primarily affects the joints, but can also affect the skin, lungs, and kidneys, according to an article published on Paleo Village.  Dietary modifications can be made to decrease the negative effects of the disease.  Increasing dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids while decreasing intake of omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils in snack foods and other processed foods can decrease swelling in joints.  Indeed, the paleo diet is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to fight against autoimmune diseases.

The paleo diet can also combat another health risk that those in the population age 65 and older might face: cardiovascular disease.  One of the main triggers of cardiovascular disease and its effects, such as heart attack and stroke, is poor diet.  Other factors involved in the hardening of arteries include being overweight or obese and lack of exercise.  Living a Paleolithic lifestyle or at least adopting a paleo diet, which enables weight loss and encourages an active lifestyle, can decrease all of these risk factors.  Bad cholesterol is minimized on the paleo diet, while good cholesterol is increased, combating the hardening of arteries.

It is easy to see, then, that whether young or old, the paleo diet can be a significant contributor to one’s long term health and well-being.  From balancing your ratio of good fats to bad fats, to realigning your paradigm on simple carbohydrates to that of our Paleolithic ancestors, this diet has stood the test of time.  But, for those living with, or even dying from, some of the health issues that are specific to those older than 65 years, the paleo diet may be just what the doctor ordered.

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Supplements and the Paleo Diet

Because many Paleo dieters are in it for its health benefits, discourse on supplementation comes up often.  And it can be somewhat divisive. Most dieters believe that following a paleo diet without supplements gives you the nutrients your body needs.  But some argue that supplementing can augment the healthfulness of your lifestyle dramatically.

The main argument for the necessity of supplementation is one with agricultural roots.  It is argued that modern farming practices, even on organic farms, strip the soil of essential minerals and vitamins.  Additionally, pollutants in the air and water supply are thought to decrease the quality of the soil used to grow most crops.  It follows, then, that the produce we eat is not nearly as nutrient-dense as the foods our Stone Age ancestors ate.  Proponents of the paleo diet believe that our bodies are designed for Paleolithic foods, not the nutrient-void farmed foods that we have begun eating since the agricultural revolution.

Those who believe in supplementation especially suggest supplementing vitamin D, particularly if you have dark skin or live near the equator.  Vitamin D is absolutely essential for bone health and to prevent rickets in children.  The vitamin is not found in many foods, which makes it a popular supplement for those wishing to increase their health.  Some proponents of vitamin D supplementation believe that the vitamin can ward off or even cure the common cold.  And, the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements argues definitively that vitamin D has a significant positive effect on cell growth and the immune system.

However, a quick trip out into the sunlight at midday usually provides plenty of vitamin D for your body.  According to Ned Kock of the Health Correlator, simply soaking up some rays for as little as 10 minutes each day provides much more than the amount of vitamin D needed daily.  Some even argue that supplementing with vitamin D can cause premature aging and other adverse health effects.

Another argument against supplementation is that often, the nutrients offered in multivitamins or other supplements are poorly absorbed by the body.  According to paleo expert Sebastien Noel, supplements may even be a cause of bowel irritation. Supplementation is even believed to interfere with the body’s absorption of other nutrients and minerals derived from food sources.  Noel articulates this point well:

“Taking supplemental calcium, for example, will reduce your absorption of magnesium. Even more so, if you take calcium while you lack some fat soluble vitamins like vitamin D, A and K2, the calcium probably won’t go to remineralize your bones and teeth and might end up aggravating the calcification of your arteries. This is why so many people have arthritis and osteoporosis despite consuming large amounts of high-calcium dairy.”

To achieve optimal nutrition, opponents of supplementation argue, simply eat the best foods from nature.  Staying away from grains will increase your body’s absorption of vitamin C and other nutrients and most paleo advocates believe saturated fats are healthy for the body.  High quality, nutrient-dense foods like pastured meats, whole, organic vegetables and nuts and seeds provide large amounts of nutrition and often provide adequate nutrients without the need of supplementation.

Whether you decide to use supplements or not, choosing the course of action that works best for your body is important.  Each person’s lifestyle and situation is unique, and while one may need to supplement with Cod Liver Oil or vitamin D, her neighbor may get adequate vitamins from sunshine and diet.  Blood tests can give you an idea of your blood level contents of various nutrients and vitamins and may clue you in to whether or not your body needs supplements.

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Intermittent Fasting and the Paleo Diet

 

Fasting has recently been in the spotlight due to diet crazes and longevity-seekers engaging in severe calorie restriction for long periods of time.  Citing longer lives in fasting lab rats, these dieters argue that any healthy lifestyle will include some fasting.  While intermittent fasting is encouraged by paleo front-runners, it does require some special considerations.

In the Stone Age, our Paleolithic ancestors periodically found themselves unable to find food.  These cavemen and women fasted, but it was out of necessity and poor luck rather than personal choice.  Making the choice to fast intermittently is often associated with a desire to make your lifestyle more like those of cavemen, a desire for mental toughness, discipline, detoxification, religion, or even a longing to know the suffering of those living in constant hunger.

Intermittent fasting that goes along with a paleo lifestyle can look different for different people.  Some simply miss a meal here or there, usually choosing a meal to skip that is already difficult to fit into the day, such as missing lunch in order to make it to a work meeting on time or skipping breakfast for that extra hour of precious sleep.  This type of fasting is a modern version of a true Paleolithic fasting, as it is less a choice and more a necessity.

Others fast by blocking off their eating hours during the day.  One may, for example, only eat between 8 am and 5 pm, allowing for a 15 hour fasting window between dinner and breakfast.  In the same vein, some dieters choose to alternate fasting days.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they might fast during lunch.  Still others find that choosing a set day or week to fast helpful and refrain from eating for 24 or 48 hours.

No matter what your fasting schedule looks like, you may notice significant mental and physical health benefits.  According to Mark Sisson, a paleo expert and intermittent faster, fasting can have significant benefits in overall weight loss and longevity.  Krista A. Varady and Marc K. Hellerstein published a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that reveals a link between intermittent fasting and chronic disease prevention.  They found that alternating fasting days could prevent type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even some cancers.  Indeed, other research shows that intermittent fasting may even allow for insulin sensitivity in the body and initiate the repair of cells in the body.

Fasting can provide a type of mental discipline that can get you through even the toughest of circumstances.  When you prove to yourself that your body can function without food, you simultaneously prove to yourself that you can make it through other types of pain – both physical and emotional.  For some, this type of fasting can be motivated by spirituality; by a desire to be fed spiritually while relying on a higher power, rather than food, to sustain life.

Many paleo enthusiasts believe that intermittent fasting is important in adopting a truly Paleolithic lifestyle, since Stone Age dwellers would have fasted often.  In a world that runs off of factory farms and fast food, it can be difficult to incorporate what would otherwise be a natural part of life into our dieting.  But, the research shows that some intermittent fasting can be an excellent tool for those in pursuit of optimal health.

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Fat on the Paleo Diet

 

In today’s America, it is commonly thought that fat, especially saturated fats, are bad for health and can increase risk for serious and sometimes fatal diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, food companies that began marketing foods as low fat and low cholesterol to attract a new, low-fat consumer perpetuated the idea that all fat is bad. This new marketing technique led to a standard American diet of increased grains and simple carbohydrates and decreased healthy fats. Enthusiasts of the Paleolithic diet, however, believe that saturated fat, a type of fat often demonized in popular opinion, is actually good for the body and a source of healthy fuel.

Robb Wolf, a leading paleo expert, believes that saturated fat is not as bad as it is made out to be. While legitimate sources, including the Harvard School of Public Health, argue that consuming saturated fat increases risk for cardiovascular disease, Wolf and other paleo diet backers argue that cardiovascular disease is really caused by many other factors. Smoking, consuming trans-fats, nutrient deficiency, consuming too much omega 6 fatty acids, etc. are known factors that increase risk for developing cardiovascular disease, and proponents of the paleo diet claim those factors outweigh saturated fat intake.

Dr. Loren Cordain, considered to be the father of the modern paleo movement, contends that ancient and modern hunter-gatherers ate significantly more saturated fat than that recommended by today’s nutrition authorities and cases of cardiovascular disease and death by stroke were nonexistent in the Stone Age. To mimic the cardiovascular and other health benefits of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, paleo dieters decrease intake of grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugars, and vegetable oils, foods considered to increase chances of long-term and chronic illness.

While saturated fat is not considered bad for health while on a paleo diet, paleo experts encourage dieters to choose free-range and wild meats whenever possible. These meats are considered much healthier and nutrient-dense than factory farmed meats. Saturated fat content in the bodies of free-range and wild animals is much lower than that of factory farmed animals. Free-range animals also provide higher levels of DHA and EPA, fatty acids that most Americans are deficient in. DHA and EPA are essential omega 3 fatty acids, fats that are necessary for survival and adequate brain functioning. Fish oils and walnuts are excellent sources of these types of fatty acids.

Proponents of the paleo diet believe that fat is absolutely essential to proper body function and consider healthy fats necessary fuel for the body. Sources of healthy dietary fats include coconut oil, which is used frequently in paleo circles. Clarified butter and ghee are also generally considered appropriate paleo fats, especially when garnered from organic, grass-fed animals. Animal fats, avocado oil, and olive oil can be used on the paleo diet.

If you are participating in a paleo diet challenge or are making the switch for the long-haul, including healthy fats and some saturated fat in your diet is important for adequate energy upkeep and a healthy, strong body. Forget the amount of fat you are taking in and begin to consider the quality of fat. Choose nutrient-dense oils and lean, wild meats over fatty meats.