Over the last decade, the Paleolithic, or Paleo, diet has gone mainstream. What started as an obscure treatment for Crohn’s disease has mushroomed into one of the most popular eating lifestyles on the planet. Still, a lot of people are unsure about just what eating Paleo means. In this article, we’ll shine the spotlight on all thing Paleo. In the process, we’ll help you to identify whether this is the right eating pattern for you.
The Origins of Paleo
In the early 1970’s, gastroenterologist Dr. Walter L. Voegtlin began seeking a dietary means by which to help alleviate the symptoms of Chron’s Disease. He believed that the modern Western diet was a large part of the problem and advocated a return to the way our paleolithic ancestors ate. He published his ideas in a 1975 book called The Stone Age Diet. He then trialed the stripped back diet on his patients, with some outstanding results.
Voegtlin’s ideas were revived in 2002 when Loren Cordain wrote a book called The Paleo Diet. Cordain further developed the concept of a return to the hunter-gatherer type diet of our paleolithic forebears. That diet, according to Cordain, was high in proteins and fats and low in carbohydrates.
It was Cordain’s book which caught the public’s attention and was the spark for the surge in popularity of the Paleo Diet in the 2000’s. The Paleo Diet is variously referred to as the Caveman Diet, the New Evolution Diet, and the Stone Age Diet – they all mean the same thing.
When we talk about the Paleolithic period of mankind’s history, we are referring to a period that began two and a half million years ago and lasted until the start of the agricultural period, which started about ten thousand years ago. This period is known as the hunter-gatherer period. Humans ate what they could kill or gather from plants. Their diet consisted of such foods as animal meat, fish, berries, nuts, fruit, green leafy vegetables, and root vegetables.
From this basis, the Paleo Diet’s principles have evolved. There are four of them as follows:
- Human genetic makeup remains unaltered from the Paleolithic period. Yet, the nature of the foods that we put into our bodies has changed dramatically. Modern-day non-foods are packed with toxic poisons that are causing all manner of health problems. A return to Paleo will eliminate them from your system.
- Because the plants that were consumed in Paleolithic times grew wild, they contained less sugar. As a result, the impact on insulin levels was far less marked than it is on a modern diet. The more balanced blood sugar levels will help to offset body fat gains and avoid energy crashes.
- The meats that our Paleolithic ancestors ate were much cleaner than those in the modern diet. The reason is that modern meats are derived from animals that are fed on grain. Paleo eaters, however, should source their meats from animals who are grass rather than grain fed. Wild game is the best meat option.
- The obesity and health epidemic that the western world is facing is a direct consequence of their agriculturally based diet and the processed foods that are consumed.
From these fundamental underpinnings come the following guidelines:
- Before you put it in your mouth, ask if a cave dweller would have eaten it. If s/he would chow down. If not, throw it in the garbage.
- Find out where your food came from before it arrived at the supermarket. Ideally, the meat will be from wild animal sources or grass-fed animals.
- Eat as many fruits and root, water and leafy vegetables as you want. Avoid dried and canned fruits (canned foods didn’t own any can openers!)
- Avoid processed foods. You want foods in their simplest, most basic form. Preservatives, flavoring, and colorings were unknown in Paleolithic times, so don’t go near them.
- No table salt – it’s a post caveman food additive!
- You can cook. Yes, cavemen had fire – but they didn’t have convection ovens or microwaves. So, while raw is best, you can cook to a limited degree.
What Foods Can You eat on Paleo?
1 No Restriction
- 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 using 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 fruits 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 convenient, portable protein snack and are fantastic to pop in your bag for a quick snack on the go.
2 In Moderation
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!
- Coffee – The third most popular drink on the planet derives its goodness from the coffee bean, which is the seed of the coffee plant. However, studies reveal mixed blessings from this product. It is best consumed sporadically. If you feel that you can’t start your day without your coffee fix, you have already become addicted and need to go cold turkey!
- 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 dark chocolate 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 – In moderation, alcohol is a great relaxant. Its use has also been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. It has also been shown that occasional consumption of alcohol can improve insulin sensitivity.
- Sweeteners – You can use natural sweeteners such as raw honey, coconut milk, stevia, and dark chocolate now and then to sweeten up your treats.
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 primary method of making you podgy is to play havoc with your insulin levels. Insulin not only drives fat cells to store more body fat, but 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. Margarine is one ingredient of having the same profile as paint! Do yourself a favor and avoid this nasty spread at all costs.
Paleo Diet Pros
- Fat loss, without water loss, occurs slowly and steadily
- Cuts out the reliance on white refined carbs
- High in dietary fiber and root vegetables
- Lean proteins emphasized (promotes muscle gain)
- Cuts out empty calories
- Low in sugar
- High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Paleo Diet Cons
- Restrictive due to the elimination of all processed foods
- Cuts out whole grains and legumes – a rich source of fiber and nutrients
- No option for vegetarians
- Heavy reliance on meat, which has been linked to cardiovascular disease ( it’s impossible to get it as lean as in caveman days)
- Hard to get enough calcium and Vitamin D (remember cave dwellers didn’t use supplements)
So, Is Paleo Right for You?
If everything above sounds like something you’d like to try, I highly recommend checking out a done for you meal delivery service. It’s a super easy way to make sure that you aren’t making any beginners mistakes with Paleo and takes away the hassle of having to cook for yourself. There’s a great breakdown of the best services over at GarageGymBuilder.com, which I highly recommend checking out before ordering anything.
Only you know your circumstances, goals, abilities, and preferences. It’s up to you to take the information presented here and filter through your own situation. Here’s what you should consider:
- Your experience with past diets: What, if anything, tripped you up? Can you handle a restrictive diet? How moody were you on reduced carbs?
- Your individual preferences: Have you got the discipline and organization to check the back-story on the foods you buy? Will you be strict about cutting out all processed foods?
- Your budget: Can you afford the diet for long-term?
- Your lifestyle: Can you adopt this diet for the rest of your life?
- The flexibility, enjoyability, and realism of the diet: If you’re going to be bored to tears on this diet, you won’t be able to hang in there.
Whether you choose Paleo or some other eating pattern, it’s important that your focus is on your body composition, rather than your scale weight. The paleo diet is high in protein which will help you to put on some muscle (don’t worry ladies, muscle is what gives your body its shape). So, set your body goals regarding reducing your body fat percentage.
Once you’ve made your diet selection, move ahead with laser-like focus. Throw yourself into it your new weight management program without reservation. Get primed to unleash yourself on the weight management plan that will catapult you toward your goals. Your destiny awaits – go get it!