First, what do I mean by a paleo diet? I'm referring to an increasingly popular way of eating that rejects most of today's processed and packaged foods. Following this diet means that you eat like our hunter-gatherer ancestors did thousands of years ago. You still eat meats, seafood and vegetables, etc. but you select those that have not been overly processed or doctored by the food industry. Instead, you opt for natural, healthy foods.
Did you know that today, the average American eats 31 percent more processed and packaged foods than fresh, natural foods. Can you believe that? Sadly, it's true.
How Did We Get To This Sad State?
We're all so busy and strapped for time, that we've been choosing to eat pre-packaged, foods that are quick and easy, just heat and eat. Trouble is, we've been ignoring all the (mostly artificial) additives, flavorings, preservatives and colorings that are routinely added to those "convenience" foods.
What do you think the price has been for choosing convenience over eating fresh healthy foods? Actually, many nutritionists tell us the price is our health.
Are they just trying to scare us into a different diet by exaggerating the dangers? Or do they know something that we don't?
The evidence, increasing every day from ongoing research, suggests that maybe we should pay more attention to them... and to our diet.
One Major Culprit Is Sugar
Let's take a look at one of the major ingredients in our processed/packaged "convenience" foods as an example - refined sugar. This substance was completely unknown to your prehistoric ancestors. Today, sugar has become a major ingredient in the American diet. Think I'm exaggerating? Consider the following statistic.
The average American now consumes (are you ready for this) about two and one half pounds of sugar every week. Most of us don't even know that we're eating that much sugar. For heavens sake, why not? Because sugar is hidden in the ingredients listed on the FDA labels of most of the processed and packaged foods that we eat.
Understanding The Ingredients Label
The ingredients on the FDA food labels are listed in descending order by weight. That means the closer to the top of the list an ingredient is, the more of it there is in the food. So the relative position of sugar in a package's ingredients list gives you an idea how much sugar the food contains... a lot, or just a little.
Also, you need to know that in food ingredients lists, sugar goes by many different names. The bulleted list below is one that you might want to carry with you to the supermarket. Every item in the list is a form of refined sugar. And you'll often see more than one of them in the same ingredients list. Just remember, they are all sugar!Agave nectarBrown sugarCane crystalsCane sugarCorn sweetenerCorn syrupCrystalline fructoseDextroseEvaporated cane juiceFructoseFruit juice concentratesGlucoseHigh-fructose corn syrupHoneyInvert sugarLactoseMaltoseMalt syrupMolassesRaw sugarSucroseSugarSyrup
In the last decade alone (a short 10 years) the consumption of refined sugar by Americans has increased from approximately 26 pounds per-person-per-year to a whopping 135 pounds per person!
Sugar Is Not The Only Culprit
And sugar is only one of the ingredients that is routinely added to processed and packaged foods these days. No wonder that our current diet is so unhealthy, and that switching to the paleo diet is so appealing.
When you consider all the other additives, flavorings, preservatives and colorings, it's no surprise that our nation is populated with people suffering from obesity, autoimmune diseases, heart problems, diabetes, arthritis, cancers and more! When you create an acronym for the "Standard American Diet" it spells the word SAD. What an accurate description of how we are eating these days.
Changing Your Diet, Two Good Rules of Thumb
To begin cutting down the amount of refined sugar you consume, a good rule of thumb is to avoid all products that list any of the sugars above at or near the top of the ingredients list. In addition, don't buy products that have several different sugars sprinkled throughout the list.
And, if you're serious about switching to a healthier diet, another good rule of thumb is that if there are more than two or three ingredients listed in the ingredients label, it's probably not healthy and you shouldn't eat it.
Following a paleo diet is one way to improve your eating habits for the better, and it's easy to do. Just begin thinking paleo when your in the market or in a restaurant. And get yourself a good paleo recipes cookbook and use it. Recipes from paleo cookbooks take the burden off you... the unhealthy ingredients have already been removed.
Common sense food choices and some simple actions that you can take will help you break old habits and the addiction to "convenience" foods. To protect and improve your health, you really should start on a paleo diet... now! Visit my website to learn more about how you can identify healthy paleo foods and begin eating healthier.
Floyd Taylor is a writer who has recently converted to the paleo diet. Visit his new website http://goodpaleorecipes.com/ to find out more about paleo foods and paleo recipes. You'll also find recipes from paleo cookbooks to try before you invest in the book; popular recipes like dessert and snack recipes.