The Paleo Diet has taken the world by storm over the last decade. But to say the Paleo lifestyle is a new way of eating is to completely misunderstand the very meaning of the word. Paleo stands for Paleolithic which means ‘old stone age’. So, Paleo eating is simply imitating a diet similar to our oldest ancestors.
The Paleolithic era is recorded to have been around 2.5 million years ago. That means that the Paleo diet is actually the oldest diet there is!
Some two million years later, people are starting to reclaim the power they have over how they feel. Many now recognize that ‘you are what you eat’ is a cliché for a reason. They have come to the realization that the way to ensure optimum health is to look to the past to ensure a healthy future.
Why Eat Paleo?
Because finally, after thousands of years of disruption, corruption, and contamination, the paleo diet allows us to eat the way that our bodies were designed.
For some two million years, the human diet mainly consisted of the following...
- Nuts and Seeds
- Starchy Plants
Throughout those thousands of generations, humans were far more physically active than they are now. So, it’s probably no surprise to learn that every ancient hunter-gatherer people that have been studied come out immeasurably superior to modern human beings in terms of fitness, body mass index, insulin sensitivity, oxygen consumption and even vision and bone density. They were also free of chronic inflammatory disease.
Today, mankind is a pitiful shadow of our healthy, strong vibrant ancestors. We are, as a society, sick, fat and unhealthy.
So, what happened?
The answer can be summed up in a single word...
The modern diet and lifestyle are at odds with our genetic makeup and our biology. Today, the average person gets over 50% of their calories from flour, sugar and industrially processed seed oils. We are sedentary for 90 percent of our day. And yet we are sleep deprived. And, we are chronically stressed.
It only makes sense that the way to recover our innate, natural, vibrant health is to return to a diet and lifestyle that more closely matches what our bodies were designed for.
That is what Paleo is all about.
It emphasizes the nutrient-dense food that the human body thrives on while eliminating the highly processed refined foods that have become the mainstay of the modern Western diet.
What to Eat on a Paleo Diet?
Meat – Meat is your largest protein source, so go for quality. You want meat from an animal that has been grass fed and allowed to roam freely.
Fish – A great protein option that is also packed with Omega 3 fatty acids. Stick with fish and seafood that has been sustainably fished.
Eggs – Eggs are a near perfect source of protein, which you will be useing liberally. Stick with free range; the taste and quality are far superior to a caged egg product. If you can, buy your eggs from a local farmer’s market.
Vegetables – With the proviso that you stay away from starchy tubers like potatoes, you can eat as many vegetables as you desire. Ideally, you should grow your own. Failing that, head to your local farmers’ market.
Fruits – You can and should eat fruit in moderation. Be aware, however, of the fruit’s sugar content in the form of fructose. Stick with low sugar fruits such as blueberries.
Nuts and Seeds – Nuts and seeds will provide you with a very handy, portable protein snack and are fantastic to pop in your bag for a quick snack on the go.
What Can You Eat in Moderation on Paleo?
There are certain foods that our paleolithic ancestors most certainly didn’t consume but that have been recognized as having some value in limited consumption. Just don’t overdo it!
Chocolate – The product of the cacao tree has plenty of goodness in the cacao solids that are used in dark chocolate. Just be aware that many popular chocolates are loaded with added sugars and flavorings. Opt for a dark chocolate that is made from a high ratio of chocolate solids.
Dried Fruit – Dried fruit is handy on the go snack. However, it can get quite high in sugar. With all the water gone, the sugar concentration is much higher. As an example, a snack consisting of 150 raisins contains all of the sugar in every single one of the 150 grapes that those raisins came from.
Alcohol - The majority of people drink alcohol for the social aspect, and many fear giving up the drink may limit the amount of ‘friend time’ they have. Die-hard Paleo followers would say the booze has to go, though many feel an occasional glass with friends will not dramatically change the progress you make.
When it comes to whether to drink alcohol or not when following Paleo, it really is a personal choice. If you are a heavy drinker why not consider cutting down? And definitely, avoid those processed ‘lolly drinks’ that are full of sugar.
Sweeteners – You can use natural sweeteners such as raw honey, coconut milk, stevia and dark chocolate every now and then to sweeten up your treats.
What Not to Eat on Paleo?
Our bodies were never intended to handle processed, refined foods. Cutting them from your diet will seem hard initially but, after your body has detoxed from them, you will feel amazing.
Grains – Our bodies find it very hard to absorb a key protein in wheat called gluten. As a result, we develop intolerances and diseases that make us miserable. When you remove the gluten you feel great. You will also lose weight, especially the extremely dangerous visceral body fat that sits around your stomach area.
Sugar – Refined sugar is like a fat attraction magnet. Its main method of making you podgy is to play havoc with your insulin levels. Insulin not only drives fat cells to store more body fat, it also prevents us from using that stored fat as energy. Refined sugars are also addiction forming, as you may have already discovered.
Cut out all fruit juices, soft drinks, cakes, sweets and ice cream. And don’t be fooled by those ‘low fat’ products on the shelf; they are oozing with sugar!
Dairy – They don’t make cheese and milk the way they used to – not even close. As a result, they are now far more processed and far less nutritious than in previous generations. Taking dairy from your diet will improve your waistline as well as your digestive system.
Margarine – Margarine is a completely nutrient devoid product. It contains an ingredient list that simply does not belong in the human body. In fact, margarine is one ingredient off having the same profile as paint! Do yourself a favor and avoid this nasty spread at all costs.
Tea and Coffee - For many switching to the Paleo life, cutting out their early morning coffee is the hardest thing to overcome. Caffeine is a stimulant and can mask how your body is really feeling. People adhering to a Paleo life want to be as in-tune to their body as possible, so any form of stimulant is a no-no.
There is no need to give up meeting friends for ‘coffee’ though. Try switching to caffeine-free herbal teas. They are delicious, come in a multitude of flavors and are stocked at the majority of cafes and restaurants now.
Excess caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands to pump out cortisol and cortisol is a fat storing hormone. Caffeine also disturbs your sleep, which also encourages your body to store fat. And don’t think you can simply skip over to decaf – it is loaded with chemicals, so it would pay to skip it also. If you simply must get a daily coffee fix, opt for a cup of black, organic coffee – and have it before lunch.
The Caveman Cleanout
The best way to ensure that you won’t fall off the Paleo wagon is to not have anything in the home that would tempt you to do so. I call this the ‘Caveman Cleanout’.
The Caveman Cleanout may seem hard (and wasteful) but once you have made your decision to start why wait until you have eaten yourself out of house and home of the baddie foods? And in reality, there will always be a few bits and bobs lying around to tempt us back to the dark side, so it’s best to be proactive and open the pantry doors and get cleaning!
When doing our cleanout, have a trash bag and a cardboard box. Any unopened foods that are not Paleo friendly can go into the box to donate to a local charity or food bank – there is no greater motivator to do the cleanout than to know you will be helping someone in need.
Now comes the hard part – saying goodbye. Check the label, and if anything looks suspicious it’s time to part with it. The following are the definite no-no’s:
- Wheat flour products – breads, pastas, crackers, chips, cookies
- Cereals – granola, oatmeal
- Grains and wholegrains – wheat, barley, rye, corn
- Refined processed fats – margarine, vegetable shortening, vegetable oils
- Anything with artificial sweeteners in it
- Soy anything
- Sauces with sugars and preservatives in them
- Anything sugary except for pure honey, pure maple syrup, dark chocolate, cocoa powder
- Any kind of ‘heat and eat’ meal
- Tinned sauces and soups
- Canned foods with additives – especially canned fruit in syrup
- Jam and Jelly
Phew! That’s a big list. Well done for getting this far!
Once you have tackled the pantry reward yourself with a cup of herbal tea and a break.
Once you a ready it’s time to work on the refrigerator and freezer. Many find this the most difficult part of the cleanout, as you will be throwing away the majority of the refrigerator door occupants. But remember, if you want Paleo to work, you need to be rid of temptation – so take a deep breath in and go for – you’ll thank yourself later.
Now that you’ve opened the refrigerator it’s time to say to goodbye to:
- Commercial sauces and dressings (goodbye ketchup, see you never mayo!)
- Dairy products – yogurt, margarine, cream, ice cream, frozen yogurt
- Any soy ‘meat’ (though these are shaped to look like a meat product they are actually full of wheat).
- Juices and sodas
- Any meats that contain gluten binders – sausages, bacon, salami
- Frozen ‘ready meals’
- Frozen desserts – waffles, pancakes, puddings
- Ice blocks with sugar and preservatives
Yay! You’ve done it – it must have been hard work but you persevered and now you are ready to stock up on Paleo friendly goodies.
Beginner’s Grocery Shopping Guide
So, you’re going to give Paleo a go?
Congratulations, you’ve made an excellent choice.
But what am I supposed to buy you may ask?
Here is a shopping list with everything you will need to ensure your clean-living Paleo lifestyle gets the best start possible:
- Almond butter
- Almond meal
- Avocado oil
- Coconut cream
- Coconut flour
- Coconut milk
- Coconut oil
- Macadamia oil
- Nuts – almonds, cashews, walnut, hazel, brazil
- Spices – cayenne pepper, parsley, cumin, capsaicin
- Teas – chai, chamomile, green, peppermint
- Almond milk
- Berries – frozen organic
- Fruit – blueberries, green apples
- Vegetables – Whatever is in the season – the more color the better!
Now when we understand he basics of Paleo Diet, let us go through a couple of important questions that could be popping up in your mind.
SHOULDN’T PALEO MEAT BE EATEN RAW THE SAME AS CAVEMEN ATE IT?
While there are some people who follow a Raw Paleo regimen, it is not necessary to eat only raw meat. Once early man discovered fire, he cooked his meat, making it more easily digestible and absorbable. This compensates for the loss of nutrients inherent in the cooking process. To minimize these losses, however, you should cook your meat rare or medium-rare.
WHAT SHOULD MY MACRO RATIOS BE ON PALEO?
You do not have to count calories or macronutrients on the Paleo Diet. Your personal macronutrient needs are dependent on your goals and activity level. A bodybuilder, for instance, will have a higher protein ratio than a person who is focused on losing excess body fat.
As a general guideline, the Paleo Diet is based upon high fats, medium proteins, and low carbs.
CAN I TAKE SUPPLEMENTS WHILE ON A PALEO DIET?
You do not need to take supplements on the Paleo Diet. That’s because when you eat the paleo way you will already be getting a generous supply of vitamins and minerals. In addition, many supplements are synthetically produced and so do not align with the Paleo philosophy.
IS PALEO A FAD DIET?
No. As we have already discovered, Paleo is a return to the way that our ancestors have been eating for millions of years. As such, it is more than a conventional diet. It is a lifestyle choice that revolves around natural eating that should be followed for life.
HOW DOES PALEO DIFFER FROM THE ATKINS DIET?
On the surface, the Paleo Diet looks similar to the Atkins Diet. However, there are some significant differences. For one thing, the Atkins Diet allows for the consumption of processed meats and saturated fats. On Paleo, though, processed meats are off limits, with the emphasis being placed on animal proteins and good fats from grass-fed, free-range livestock.
On Paleo, you can also eat as much fruit as you want, while the Atkins Diet places major restrictions on your fruit intake.
CAN A VEGETARIAN FOLLOW THE PALEO DIET?
No. Grains and legumes, which are the mainstay of most vegetarian diets, are not permitted on the paleo diet. The proteins and nutrients derived from meats are also a key part of eating paleo.
Hungry for more?
Read Our Ultimate Guide to the Benefits of Nuts, or try our delicious paleo-friendly nut butters.