Health and Wellness in a Paleo Lifestyle
The Paleo Diet® is not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle of health and wellness. Wellness in body, mind, and spirit begins in the mind—the wellspring of all the energy coursing through us that provides the connection between body and spirit.
We know that our body needs healthy fuel, but so does our mind. All of our daily input—everything we read, everything we look at, and everything we think—has an impact on our emotions, motivations, and desires. Healthy fuel for our mind is positive, transformative, and rejuvenating—it makes us feel good about ourselves and others. When we take care of the three pillars of wellness—meditation, diet, and fitness—we begin living the life our spirit craves.
Why meditate? It improves focus. Meditation teaches us how to pay attention when our mind wanders. It provides cognitive and health benefits such as improved attention, better memory, stress relief, increased creativity and even compassion; in short, meditation contributes to brain health.
In this age of the social media-saturated eight-second attention span, meditation rewires our brain to improve our attention. Neuroscience studies in 2012 demonstrated that people who meditated had greatly increased folding of their cerebral cortex, potentially making their brains better at decision making and information processing.
The practice of mindfulness teaches us to live in the moment; it teaches us gratitude, contentment, and kindness. Spirituality and meditation like that practiced in yoga leave us more compassionate, kind, self-reflective, and self-aware [1,3].
The Paleo Diet promotes healthy digestion, a healthy gut microbiota, and a stronger immune system by eliminating toxins and foods that contribute to inflammation and chronic disease, and by eating foods that we are genetically equipped to digest.
- Proteins and Carbohydrates. Balancing carbohydrates with protein in portions appropriate to level of activity provides us maximum sustenance and energy. Although legumes and grains are off The Paleo Diet, there are plenty of starchy vegetables to contribute carbohydrates, such as winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, and parsnips. The healthiest animal proteins are fish or grass-fed lean meats.
- Fats. Humans require good fats for healthy cell membranes, which is where all our chemical reactions take place. While saturated fats and trans fats (found in fried foods, margarine, lard, fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb, for example) are detrimental, monounsaturated fats are good sources of fat found in nuts, avocados, fish, and vegetable oils. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats found in fish are especially good for our hearts .
- Vitamins and Minerals. Vegetables are the best source for vitamins, minerals, and fiber, while citrus fruit is great not just for vitamin C but also contributing to our pH balancing act—balanced cellular pH keeps opportunistic yeast and bacteria at bay and strengthens our immune system. For fruit, berries are rich in antioxidants. Bananas and melons are high in vitamins and minerals such as potassium and magnesium, which contribute to muscle and nerve function, blood pressure control, bone development and more.
A fitness regime completes our wellness triad. Not only does activity build muscle, which supports our skeleton and prevents or reduces chronic pain, but physical activity rewards us with serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine—making our minds and bodies feel good.
We don’t have to get extreme to get fit (unless we want to!). We just need to move our bodies—dancing, walking, cycling, swimming, CrossFit—any level of physical activity that suits our lifestyle aids in blood and lymph circulation throughout the body, which in turn oxygenate our cells and remove toxins.
We can join a yoga class for gentle rehabilitation or increased flexibility, mobility, stress relief, and physical fitness. It has been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease .
However you choose to be active, know that you are supporting a strong, holistic lifestyle aligned with the same principles as The Paleo Diet.