Jennifer Derham Picks the Paleo Diet As Her Favourite Nutrition Practice for 2014

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WEB-Jennifer-DerhamWhat will be the biggest trends in wellbeing and nutrition for 2014? We asked our practitioner, Nutritional Therapist and Medical Herbalist Jennifer Derhman BSc (Hons) MSc MNIMH MBANT CNHC Dip. Coun. to share her predictions. Jennifer has been involved in the health industry for almost 20 years. As a highly qualified Medical Herbalist and Nutritional Therapist she has extensive experience working as part of a multi-disciplinary and integrated healthcare teams. You heard it here!

JENNIFER DERHAM’S WELLBEING PRACTICE OF 2014: “It brought me great delight to hear that Sweden has recently become the first western country to develop new national dietary guidelines in favour of a low carbohydrate, high fat diet while rejecting the popular low fat diet dogma.  This switch followed the publication of a two year study by the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment in which 16,000 studies were reviewed showing that overall health markers improve on a low carbohydrate diet.

A low carbohydrate and high fat diet is largely in keeping with the diet of our ancestors, and may be referred to as the palaeolithic, hunter-gatherer, cave man or stone-age diet. It is known as the Paleo diet.  Importantly this diet is not strictly about eating a huge amount of meat, and definitely not just any old meat, but like any healthy way of eating, should still be largely based on a wide range of vegetables.  The Paleo diet consists mainly of fish, grass or pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, tubers or roots, nuts and high amounts of healthy fats, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy, processed oils and refined food including salt and sugar.  For those of you who may wonder about your carbohydrate food sources, vegetables, especially roots and tubers such a sweet potatoes, and fruit, provide ample amounts of healthy, low sugar carbohydrates for our energy needs.

The bottom line is this: we are physiologically adapted to the paleo diet, and not to eating grains.  The body produces insulin in response to carbohydrates or sugars.  Grains are composed of carbohydrates, and those carbohydrates are turned into glucose in our bodies to be used for energy and other important functions.  The glucose that is not used as energy is basically stored as fat. Therefore the more grains we ingest, the more glucose in our system and hence the more fat we store.  On top of that, sugar causes an energy spike followed by a crash in your system, and wreaks havoc in our bodies. Essentially we have become a nation dependent on grains such as wheat, rice and corn which is increasingly causing health concerns.  Never before have we had access to such a wide variety of food and healthcare and yet here we are overweight, out of shape, unhappy, stressed, sleep deprived and suffering from a myriad of preventable diseases.  So something obviously has to change.

Yes, the paleo diet is a controversial topic.  Many will argue that we have physiologically adapted over time, but there is a thin line between adapting and maladapting and presently with the massive increase in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease I would suggest we are maladapting!  Others argue that cavemen had short lifespans, however, one must remember those were dangerous times, and if given access to modern medicine and technology, their lifespans would probably be greater than ours.  There are others who will suggest that we cannot possibly follow this diet in this current age and time.  However, with a sensible approach I believe we can certainly embrace many of the principles and aspire somewhat towards the paleo diet. Importantly, this way of eating is now increasingly supported by clinical trials which have shown improved health outcomes relative to other widely-recommended diets, and studies such as those conducted by the Swedish are highlighting that modern human populations subsisting on traditional diets, similar to the diet of Palaeolithic hunter gatherers, are largely free of modern day diseases.

The paleo diet may sound difficult, however a couple of weeks eating this way and you feel like a new person or at least a newer person! In my own clinical experience, I continually see significant improvements in my patients’ overall health when grains are removed, or at least limited from the diet. A wide range of symptoms can disappear as if by magic and the bonus is: they experience greater energy and many lose weight they have had trouble shifting under other diets!

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