Last weekend, the first Ancestral Health Symposium was held at the University of California, Los Angeles. Unfortunately, by the time I learned about it a few weeks earlier, the event had already sold out. Really a shame, considering it would have only taken me about 30 minutes to drive there. I am a fairly new low-carb devotee and am still learning about Paleo nutrition, a major focus at the symposium. Also known as the Caveman Diet or Primal Diet, this way of eating based on the diet of our ancestors is an extremely popular version of low-carbing. Plans are already under way for next year's AHS. It's my understanding that it will also be held at UCLA, so at this point I'm planning to go.
The event featured many speakers well known and respected in the Paleo community, including Robb Wolf, Andreas Eenfeldt, Chris Masterjohn, and several others. If you have the time, I encourage you to check out the presenters ' blogs and the videotaped presentations from the event. Very interesting and inspiring!
Briefly, my take on the Paleo movement is that we can clearly improve our health by eating minimally processed foods, avoiding grains and other high-carbohydrate foods introduced only in the past few hundred years, and consuming liberal amounts of fat from both animal and plant sources. However, I believe there is no “best” way to eat; a person's diet should be tailored to the individual depending on his or her unique physiological makeup, food preferences, and carbohydrate tolerance. We also cannot say with 100% certainty exactly what those living in the Paleolithic era ate. Rachel Flowers of Altern-e-fit had similar sentiments in her blog post today.
I believe I can learn a lot from the leaders of the Paleo community, many of whom have backgrounds in medicine, science, and anthropology. While I respect and applaud those who follow any form of the Paleo diet, at this point it's a bit too restrictive for me. Aside from butter and cream, dairy foods are not allowed on the plan. Personally, I love Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and many other types of cheese. These are great low-carb options that provide variety, as well as calcium, potassium, and other micronutrients. I see no need to give up dairy at this time. I also use sugar substitutes, primarily stevia, which are discouraged among true Paleo/Primal eaters. Today's sugar substitutes allow me to create low-carb desserts that taste remarkably like the real thing. So while I probably eat fairly close to the way our ancestors did in terms of macronutrient composition, I wouldn't call my way of eating a Paleo diet. A Primal diet? Perhaps, but that doesn't completely describe it either. I'd say I'm following a low-carb, higher-fat, moderate-protein diet that contains few processed foods and allows me to keep my blood sugar under control while feeling extremely satisfied. Kind of a mouthful, but accurate!
Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE