BY STEFANI RUPER
When we think “Paleo diet” we understandably think “cavemen.” The diet emphasizes traditionally male concepts such as hearty meals and animal protein, and most of the leaders in the paleo movement have been men. Nevertheless, evolution is an equally good tool for discerning the proper human diet for both genders. In fact, the paleo diet may be the best diet for women. Here’s why:
1. The Paleo diet eliminates soy.
Soy is a hotly contested food. Should you love it or should you hate it? Paleo dieters say ditch the soy. Soy is a phytoestrogen, which means that it is shaped similarly to natural estrogen. When consumed, phytoestrogens increase estrogen load in the bloodstream. Excess estrogen can cause weight gain, PMS, menstrual cramps, ovarian cysts, and mood disorders.
2. The paleo diet eliminates sugar.
Sugar is highly addictive and the easiest food to overeat, meaning that it’s one of the primary culprits behind weight gain. Weight gain is bad for women’s health because fat cells produce estrogen, causing symptoms of excess estrogen such as cramps, PMS, cysts, and mood swings. Worse is that sugar stimulates testosterone production in the ovaries. Excess testosterone decreases fertility, decreases libido, causes acne, and may result in male pattern hair growth and hair loss.
3. The paleo diet eliminates grains.
Grain products such as bread, pasta, and cereal may be the hardest but most rewarding food for paleo dieters to give up. Grains play a role in causing leaky gut, which is the underlying condition that gives rise to autoimmune diseases frequently found in women such as rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Grains also leach minerals such as calcium and magnesium from the intestines, which can contribute to the development of osteoporosis. Finally, grains are broken down by your body into sugar, which, as we have seen, reduces fertility, causes acne, and can kill your sex drive.
4. The paleo diet encourages a healthy omega 3 to omega 6 fat ratio.
Omega 6 fats such as vegetable oil, corn soil, soybean oil, and all other seed oils are inflammatory. Inflammation causes many problems for both genders, though one specific problem for women is menstrual cramping. Another more serious problem is the impaired development of an infant’s brain during the last trimester of pregnancy. High levels of omega 6 fat in the diet decrease frontal lobe formation and intelligence in offspring. These problems can be mitigated by decreasing omega 6 consumption and by balancing omega 6 fats with consumption of the anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats EPA and DHA, which are abundant in fatty fish such as salmon, trout, and sardines.
5. The paleo diet is nutrient-dense.
In addition to eliminating problematic foods, the Paleo diet also focuses on including high quantities of nutritional powerhouses: fruits such as blueberries are high in antioxidants, vegetables such as kale are rich in vitamins and minerals, and high quality animal products such as pasture-raised eggs deliver complete protein and nutrients different from those found in plants like choline, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin K2. A nutrient-rich diet is critical for reducing inflammation, balancing hormones and having optimal reproductive health.
6. The paleo diet encourages you eat when hungry and stop when full.
One of the best things a woman can do for normal hormone production is to be in sync with her natural hunger signals. Overeating can increase hormone production above healthy levels. Undereating can decrease hormone production below healthy levels. Both over-production and under-production of hormones can cause infertility, impaired mental health, mood disturbances, fatigue, and insomnia.
Paleo does not demand that you count calories. It does not encourage you to be restrictive. It does not want you to be in rigid control of your food intake. In fact, it demands that you do the opposite. It encourages you to eat when hungry and stop when full, one of the most important factors for balancing hormones and being a healthy woman at a healthy weight.
So the paleo diet increases fertility. It boosts sex drive. It clears skin, strengthens bones, promotes healthy and sustainable weight loss, and supports robust mental health. The paleo diet might be known as a diet for guys, but women reap a list of benefits as complex and rich as the female body itself.