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Gluten-free Paleo diet becomes trendy in Israel: 'Vegan diet for carnivores'

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Although we tend to think of the Paleo diet as a phenomenon popularized in the United States, the concept of the caveman diet has taken hold in another nation: Israel, reported Haaretz on Dec. 28. And as in the U.S., there are two distinct camps: Those who believe that the gluten-free, high fat, high protein Paleo diet is the ultimate food plan for health and weight loss and those who condemn it as a dangerous diet fad.

Proponents argue that the diet is designed to provide a back-to-nature attitude by eliminating processed foods, gluten and dairy. Because the food plan is modeled upon that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, they contend that the diet provides us with precisely what our bodies need.

And then there's Mor Duani, who teaches in the Alternative Medicine Department at Tel Aviv’s Kibbutzim College. She disagrees with the premise and promise.

“Hard-core believers in this diet eat a lot of fat, a lot of liver, red meat and protein,” she warns. “We needed it back in prehistoric times but we don’t need it to keep warm today."

But those who believe in its benefits say that it's helpful for everything from weight loss to reversing diabetes or difficult-to-manage conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome.

One person instrumental in leading the Paleo movement is nutrition consultant Liraz Blumenfeld. She became intrigued by the premise and promise when she developed gluten sensitivity six years ago.

"I was living in the U.S. then, “ she explains, “where information was more readily available at the time, and I made a gradual shift in my diet that simply made me feel better.”

Now Liraz practices her Paleo nutrition near Tel Aviv, where her clients include her two-year old son, Daniel.

"It’s cleaner and healthier than any other diet I have come across,” she asserts.

And indicative that the diet has taken hold in Israel, Lirz says that "today people are more open, more exposed to information and I think they are genuinely interested in what I have to say.”

And that information is coming from her own nation. There's a Paleo Web site in Tel Aviv that provides recipes and holiday guides, and a Paleo Israel Facebook group as well.

“Health has long been a hot topic in Israel and now we are at a critical mass,” says the Facebook creator. “There is a sense of great commitment rather than a wish for a quick way to lose weight.”

And although the Paleo Web site provides only basic information, the Facebook page has taken out a real world life beyond the Internet.

Members have joined forces to get discounts on grass-fed meat and organic foods. They even created two pilot farms for cattle and sheep, one in the Golan Heights and one in Emek Hefer.

“It’s still in the early stages,” Damry explains, “but the idea is that we will be able to buy meat that is raised humanely, not grain-fed and affordable.”

Learn more about the Paleo diet by clicking here for views from experts.

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