As more and more research is published around the glycemic index and how our bodies process foods, many popular diets are being reviewed in a fresh light. Many diets like the Paleo approach to eating, as well as Nutrisystem, South Beach, and the Zone (to mention a few) are being tried by people who have researched and believe the findings related to watching blood sugar and insulin response more closely than traditional calorie counting.
One problem that has always been present with looking solely at calories is that a Twinkie can have the same calorie count as a lean piece of beef – yet what your body does with these are dramatically different. The Twinkie has a high glycemic index, which means shortly after eating it your body will see a dramatic increase in blood sugar, and then need to release insulin to help bring down that blood sugar. In the meantime, that extra glucose circulating through your body will get deposited in cells as “stored energy” which adds fat, and your body will also not be getting too many (if any) vital nutrients that it needs.
Now look at the lean cut of beef – your body will see almost no rise in blood sugar, no dramatic increase in blood sugar, but will be circulating protein and a myriad of other nutrients to your cells that they need. Depending on your level of activity, you will also be burning some of the stored energy (fat) in your cells to maintain your natural metabolism. Big difference huh?
You can read more about what the glycemic index is, and what it means, by clicking here.
Furthermore, diets like the Paleo diet have been show to not only prevent these wild swings of glucose and insulin, but by removing foods like grain products, sugar, and artificially sweetened foods, and increasing fruit, vegetable, nut, and protein intake – your body actually begins operating like the fine tuned machine it evolved to be. Many people report natural fat loss while being able to eat as much of the approved foods as they like (so no starving or calorie counting here). Furthermore, many people on this dietary approach have also reporting “curing” their diabetes, and improving their risk profile for heart attack, stroke, and cancer. You can read a more in-depth review of the caveman diet and my experiences on it by reading this article.
While there haven’t been enough controlled, double blind long term studies to know if this primitive diet approach actually can cure or prevent our modern diseases like the above, the results and ongoing research look promising, and from a hypotehticl perspective it makes sense to many people that returning to eating what we evolved on would be optimal for our health. After all, our current recommended Western diet – which is very high in grains (bread,pasta, etc) and dairy is a relatively recent change (< 10,000 years) compared to the millions of years where our bodies evolved on an almost unchanging diet.
Although some authors of the caveman approach to diet advocate all organic, free ranging, pasture raised foods, you can start with conventionally raised foods and over time research which foods should be organic from a pesticide residue risk. More benefit is gained from switching over the paleo sets of foods (and restricting/eliminating the grains, dairy, and other modern foods) than worrying too much about the antibiotic and pesticides in modern foods.
Then, as you begin to see and feel results from your new foods and meal selections, you can intelligently begin migrating to selected organic foods (i.e. eating organic oranges doesn’t necessarily justify the higher cost given you aren’t eating the skin – which is where the bulk of pesticide residues are often found, whereas apples and strawberries are on the “dirty dozen” list of pesticides and should be purchased organic once you figure out your budget!)