Cooking With Fire: Can Ancient Ayurveda Tame the Paleo Diet?

Diet and Doshas Paleo.001At first glance, it seems difficult to reconcile the diet favored by India’s 5,000-year-old health system with the fairly new recommendations of the Paleo diet, which draws inspiration from the diet of the Paleolithic people, who lived millions of years ago up till about 11,700 years ago.
The Paleo diet bans three major food groups entirely: grains, legumes, and dairy; and encourages the consumption of all kinds of meat, provided they are lean and grass-fed, or wild-caught.
The Paleo diet also excludes salt and sugar, and even restricts the consumption of certain fruits and vegetables that it deems too high in carbohydrates, such as potatoes and yams.
Ayurveda, on the other hand, recommends grains, legumes, and dairy, and doesn’t consider meat a main staple necessary for man’s survival. What’s more, one of the favorite dishes of Ayurveda combines two of the banned foods: basmati rice (grain) and mung bean (legume) into kitchari, a simple, light, yet nourishing dish often eaten by people during a detoxification process.
Milk, yogurt, and ghee (clarified butter) are also consumed daily and are considered essential for a healthy diet.
So apparently, there is a lot of contradiction between the two diets. But here is where they converge:
1. They both want you to avoid all processed foods and only eat fresh, whole foods.
2. They both love lots of fruits and vegetables.
3. The both like nuts and seeds.
4. They both recommend healthy fats and oils, such as olive oil and avocados, and discourage the use of vegetable oils and trans fats.
5. They both shun refined sugar and salt.
Can these diets be combined? If you take out all the foods that either the Paleo diet or Ayurveda disapproves of, there isn’t much left to satisfy your nutritional needs and your tastebuds.
There have been several admirable attempts to tone down the Paleo diet into a more ayurvedic or vegetarian-friendly version. There is, for example, the Paleovedic diet, that allows the consumption of full-fat dairy, some grains and legumes based on an individual’s body type. And there is the Paleo-Vegan (Pegan) diet, which allows gluten-free grains and small amounts of lentils, but bans dairy, and recommends small amounts of fresh meat.
Since most ayurvedic experts recommend a vegetarian diet, these reconciliatory approaches leave people in both camps dissatisfied.
Is such a compromise worth considering? If your health is more important to you than the ideology of the Paleo diet, then using certain principles of Ayurveda can make a difference. One of these principles is the customization of the diet to ones individual body type. This alone can make a huge difference.
Many people have experienced significant health benefits from the Paleo diet, especially weight loss. A few short-term studies also showed improvements in diabetes and cholesterol, which is encouraging.
Dr. Terry Wahls, who successfully reversed her MS with the help of functional medicine and the Paleo diet, has been using the Paleo diet in her practice for years to treat patients with MS and other chronic autoimmune conditions.
But what about long-term effects? Is the Paleo diet good for everyone in the long run? Maybe not. According to Ayurveda, there is no one diet that’s good for everyone, because we have different mind/body types. Some people can easily digest the meat and fat-laden Paleo fair. Others with lower digestive capabilities could end up feeling worse, if all the meat ends up partially undigested, causing the accumulation of toxins.
In the short term, the Paleo diet seems to help some people recover from certain health conditions. People who are compatible with the diet and experience benefits from it will continue using it, while those who don’t find it helpful will likely abandon it. Even if you don’t know your Ayurvedic body type, monitoring your diet and tracking its impact on your physical and mental health can allow you to make the adjustments you need to move toward ideal health.
In the meantime, here is the list of top 10 Ayurveda-approved Paleo foods that can make your diet more balancing.

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