What is a Paleo Diet?
I remember the first time I heard the name “paleo”; I was sitting in my naturapath’s office and he mentioned it as an option for me when I was first diagnosed with a gluten intolerance. He said that he was having a lot of success treating other patients with celiac, gluten sensitivities and various other auto-immune disorders including auto-immune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s). So, as I did after each of our sessions, I went online and tried to find as much information as I could on this new-found diet I was meant to embrace. Not that this was a LONG time ago, but it was 2008 and there just wasn’t much online about celiac, gluten sensitivity or paleo diets, so to be fair, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to be facing. What I did know (thanks to Wiki) was that I was being encouraged to eat the way our ancestors ate many millions of years ago (and the way I was told our bodies were meant to eat, rather than being forced to digest unnatural foods which our bodies haven’t evolved to being able to properly digest).
A Paleo diet, also known as paleolithic diet or caveman diet, is all about natural foods to help achieve optimal health and wellness. The human body evolved for more than 2 million years with the food found in nature; game meat, fish, vegetables, wild fruits, eggs and nuts. The human race was thriving on this diet high in animal fat and proteins and low in carbohydrates, but things changed when we introduced unnatural foods to our bodies.
Modern man’s health crisis includes diabetes, cancer, obesity, auto-immune conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis, hashimotos, chron’s disease, addisons and more), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. The list goes on and on. And sadly, research exists that successfully ties these conditions to our nutrition. Remember, food can be incredibly powerful – it can either heal or kill us. You’re here now because you are ready for a change, so welcome! And please read on for the basics of a Paleo life.
Here are some basic rules for following a Paleo diet (compiled from various sources):
1. The Paleo diet should be high in fat,moderate in animal protein and low to moderate in carbohydrates. Calorie counting is not encouraged, neither is portion control.
2. Eat unlimited amounts of saturated fats such as coconut oil and butter or clarified butter. Beef tallow, lard and duck fat are also good, but only if they come from healthy and well-treated animals (Beef or lamb tallow are better choices than lamb or duck fat). Olive, avocado and macadamia oil are also good fats to use in salads and to drizzle over food, but not for high heat cooking.
3. Eat generous amounts of animal protein. This includes red meat, poultry, pork, eggs, organs (liver, kidney, heart, etc), wild caught fish and shellfish. Don’t be scared to eat the fatty cuts and all meals with proteins should contain fat as well.
4. Eat good amounts of fresh (or frozen) vegetables either cooked or raw and served with fat. Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and yams are also great as a source of non-toxic carbohydrates, just be sure they aren’t a trigger as a cross-reactive food or those with gluten intolerances.
5. Eat low to moderate amounts of fruits and nuts. Try to eat mostly fruits low in sugar and high in antioxidants like berries as well as nuts high in omega-3, low in omega-6 and low in total polyunsaturated fat like macadamia nuts. Consider cutting off fruits and nuts altogether if you have an auto-immune disease, digestive problem or are trying to lose weight faster.
6. Go organic. Whenever possible, choose pasture-raised and grass-fed meat coming from a local, environmentally conscious farms. If not possible, choose lean cuts of meat and supplement your fat with coconut oil, butter or clarified butter. Also preferably choose organic, local and/or seasonal fruits and vegetables.
7. Cut out all cereal grains and legumes from your diet. This includes, but is not limited to, wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, brown rice, soy, peanuts, kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans and black-eyed peas.
8. Remove all vegetable, hydrogenated and partly hydrogenated oils including, but not limited to, margarines, soybean oil, corn oil, Crisco, peanut oil, canola oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil. Olive oil and avocado oil are fine, but don’t cook with them, use them in salad dressings and to drizzle over prepared food.
9. Eliminate sugar, soft drinks, all packaged products and juices (including fruit juices). As a rule of thumb, if it’s in a box, don’t eat it. At the grocery store, visit only the meat, fish and produce sections (SHOP THE PERIMETERS)
10. Eliminate dairy products other than butter and maybe heavy cream.
11. Eat when you’re hungry and don’t stress if you skip a meal or even two. You don’t have to eat three square meals a day, do what feels most natural.
12. Eliminate sources of external stress in your life as much as possible, and sleep as much as you can. Try to wake up without an alarm and to go to bed when it’s dark.
13. Don’t over-exercise. Keep your training sessions short, intense and do them only a few times per week, taking some extra time off if you feel tired. Consider short and intense sprinting sessions instead of long cardio sessions.
14. Consider supplementing with vitamin D and probiotics. Levels of magnesium, iodine and vitamin K2 should also be optimized.
15. Play in the sun, have fun, laugh, smile, relax, discover, travel, learn and enjoy life as a daring adventure!
Sounds great, right?? I know it’s not an easy transition, from both a dietary and lifestyle perspective. The Paleo lifestyle promotes lower stress levels, increased play time and overall improved health and well-being.