What is the Paleo Diet? With so much buzz in the past few years, you might have been asking yourself this very question quite often. Paleo, also known as the Caveman diet, or the Stone Age diet, is based around what we believe people in the Paleolithic era would have eaten.
They did not have access to farms, processed foods, grains, or any complex meals. Instead, they were hunters and gatherers (mostly both), who would go out and kill something to eat, or find foods such as berries and nuts along their travels.
Is the Paleo Diet more of a “Diet” or is it a “Lifestyle”?
For many people it is just another diet. It’s more a lifestyle than a diet though. In the past, there was no fast food, there were no other options other than hunting and gathering. Once agriculture became the norm, we started developing and eating all these complex, processed foods.
Unfortunately, our bodies never really adapted to this change and many of us are dependent on grains and sugars. We have been on track for higher percentages of obesity each and every year. It’s time to go back to our roots and eat the healthiest way we can.
What are the benefits of the Paleo Diet?
The primary purpose for many people starting on their Paleo journey is to lose weight, or to maintain their weight. By eating healthy, it helps to reset your body to its normal functions, by eliminating processed foods, carbs, sugars, and other things stuffed into food to make it cheaper.
Aside from weight loss, there are many success stories that include being able to finally control their appetite, enhanced mood, higher energy levels, being sick less often, lowered risk for certain diseases and conditions.
Will I lose weight on the Paleo diet?
It takes the right combination of mindset, environment, foods, and planning. It really sounds more difficult than it is. All of the acceptable foods on any Paleo diet are filled with nutrients and will make you feel more satisfied, but typically contain less calories. The processed foods we are eliminating are calorie dense, however, they are less satisfying so we tend to over indulge with these foods. By eating the right foods, you will feel full so in return you will be losing weight.
What can I eat on Paleo?
- Meats – beef, pork, bison, chicken, duck, turkey, animal organs (livers, kidneys, hearts, etc.)
- Fish – Salmon, tuna, cod etc.
- Eggs – omega-3 enriched and cage free are the best choices
- Vegetables – Carrots, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, etc.
- Fruits – Bananas, apples, strawberries, etc.
- Nuts – almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, etc.
- Herbs and spices
- Healthy oils – Coconut oil, Avocado oil, Olive Oil – generally as minimally processed, the better
As a note, the best choice for food are grass fed meats, organic, cage free etc. Choose your food wisely without breaking the bank. It is better to follow Paleo and not have grass-fed or organic food than it is to be off Paleo.
But I don’t think I can afford this, what do I do?
Living a Paleo lifestyle is possible and doable on just about any size budget. If grass-fed and organic food is out of the question, don’t purchase that type of food. There’s nothing wrong with adapting the food choices to meet your budget. You can look for local meat markets, farm stands, or farmer’s markets to see their selections. They are usually better priced than the local stores and will have a more options. Your health is worth it, and I’d advise you to look into cutting back in other areas to ensure your diet is in check. Prevention is always better than Intervention.
Sounds like I’m going to be eating a higher fat content, won’t that make me gain weight?
Nope! That was short and to the point. The longer answer is a little bit of science. In the Paleolithic era, our bodies didn’t have sugar to burn for energy. So you might be asking yourself, “What did our bodies burn for energy then?”.
Ketones. Key what? Ketones are a byproduct of fat breakdown. In short you are burning fat for energy.
So what does that tell you about Paleo?
You can eat higher fat content foods, making yourself feel more satisfied. It will be overall less calories making you lose weight. The fat you consumed will be burnt for energy, not allowing it to be stored.
As you eat, your body will burn what it needs. Previously, this would have been sugar and other carbs (which turn to sugar). As you over eat those foods, you build a reserve that the body uses as needed. Once the primary source of energy is gone (aka sugar left), you turn to fat (your secondary source) to burn for energy.
In the case of Paleo, since we are basically eliminating grains, carbs, and sugars, we will burn the small amounts of carbs in our foods, then turn straight to ketones (fat) for energy. It doesn’t get stored as much because we aren’t eating as much like we did with pastas, breads, etc. Your body turns into a fat burning machine.
What can I drink on Paleo?
Water, black coffee, or green tea. Alcohol is generally restricted, as are sodas, sports drinks, etc.
What types of foods are restricted?
Anything that didn’t exist in the era of cavemen. Foods such as:
- Legumes – beans, lentils, peanuts, peas, etc.
- Grains – breads, pastas, rice, oats, barley, anything with wheat
If its highly processed, it’s probably a no go. Most alcoholic beverages, are also on the restricted list.
On Paleo, sugar is eliminated. Only the sugar that naturally exists in fruit is acceptable. No fake sugars, candy, soda, etc. If it didn’t exist in the stone age, we don’t consume it. We don’t need any sugar highs, or sugar crashes in our lives.
Still, it just seems like too much meat and fat in the diet…
We are adding plenty of vegetables to our diet, and while we are eating plenty of fat, it is burned off for energy and we are selecting very healthy fats.
But I LOVE cheese. I won’t give that up. No way, no how.
Purists remove dairy altogether, it’s up to you to find what works best for your body. Some people eat cheese and other dairy products, but it’s your choice. Just remember, the Paleo purist removes it. If you are having trouble losing weight, cheese is just extra calories added on the plate.
I see everyone talking about the Carb Flu. What’s that all about?
Basically as your body is transitioning from burning sugars and carbs for energy, and all of a sudden the body experiences the shock of not having those to burn. As your body adapts it goes into ketosis (your body is switching to fat to burn for energy). For some people it feels like the flu or like your body is withdrawing – aches, pains, headaches, irritability, weakness, cramping, nausea, etc. Some cases are shorter than others, and for some it may be longer.
How do I avoid the Carb Flu?
While we don’t really have a choice on what our body does, there are mitigation techniques to help us out a bit.
- Stay hydrated
- Avoid exercise for the time being
- Reduce Caffeine
- Get more sleep
- Eat more fat
Is Paleo safe?
I bet your saying “This sounds brutal! Why would I do this?!”. It only takes a short time to get over the hump so to speak. If you have concerns about pursuing a Paleo lifestyle, I would suggest you speak to your doctor, especially if you have any health issues, or conditions.
What are the concerns of following Paleo?
With the absence of grains, legumes and dairy products, you will miss out some sources of fiber and vitamins. Including a solid vitamin regiment in your daily diet is a great idea if you find yourself lacking specific vitamins, or even adding a multivitamin. Paleo can also be more expensive than most carbohydrate heavy diets, proper meal planning and choosing the right recipes are essential to your success.
Many people who follow very strict iterations of Paleo, don’t eat anything that is processed. Some people are a bit more relaxed, and don’t have reactions to these foods. Some people modify their diet to include cheeses or things like sweet potatoes, white potatoes, or even having some alcoholic drinks from time to time. It all depends on the results you’d like to see, and what your goals are.
Do I avoid carbs altogether?
Most vegetables have carbs in them, but they are considered complex carbs. Complex carbs are what we need since it packed with more nutrients, are higher in fiber, more filling, and are helpful to manage sugar spikes after a meal. Your body determines what you can and can’t do.
Some people modify their Paleo diet to include gluten free (no gluten from wheat) foods such as potatoes and rice. It’s ultimately up to you to find what works for you and your family. Simple carbs should be avoided since they are basically sugars and are added to many foods such as sugars, corn syrup, glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.
I have children, can children follow this diet?
Absolutely! I find that most children enjoy the diet, as long as the food tastes good. It will really depend on the recipes you choose and presentation of the food. Even though most children despise the look, smell, and taste of any and all vegetables, most recipes are kid friendly. This makes it very simple for a family to follow the diet as best as possible.
Where are the “cheat” meals?
Do what ya gotta do. If you can forgo them, I would advise you to stick with the lifestyle. Most times people have what I call “instant regret”. The food looks and smells so amazing, until you taste it. It didn’t taste as great as you remember, and you go back to feeling bloated, slow and sluggish in just a few minutes. Depending on the cheat meal, you may just fall right asleep. Was it worth it?
How do I eat outside my home while being “Paleo”?
In my experience, it’s doable. It is sometimes difficult while going to restaurants where nearly everything is breaded, or its a carbohydrate rich haven of food. If the restaurant has food on the acceptable list, more often than not, they are willing to prepare it in a way that suits you. Some of my staples are steaks, fish, sausage, chicken, egg omelettes, salads etc. It certainly becomes easier to pick apart a list once you “get” it. Don’t be afraid to be “that person” while ordering.
So is Paleo the #1 best diet?
That all depends on who you ask. Some people have a very difficult time giving up carbs, cheese, and alcohol.