Recently a reader asked me if I would post something along the lines of an intro to paleo. A sort of Paleo 101 post. I thought that was a great idea. Depending of which circles you run in you may be hearing the word “Paleo” a lot. My sense is that there are a lot of different descriptions of what “Paleo” is – you can go ahead and add mine to the rest of the pile.
My personal feeling about Paleo is, it’s not a diet. It’s a guide, to help you make the best food choices for the nutritional well being of your body. As I mentioned in my “Biochemical Individuality” post we are all different which means the best food choices for me might not be the best food choices for my neighbor or even my husband. That’s o.k., actually it’s great. We all need to figure out what our individual nutritional needs are. Paleo 101 is a great starting place.
Out of the box Paleo is an incredible healthy way to eat. Here is the basic approach:
- Eat Whole Food That means, take your food out of the ground or pasture and process it by hand to make it eatable. Getting your animal protein pre-processed is fine, but make sure it looks like animal protein not chicken nuggets when you purchase it.
- Avoid “Neolithic Agents of Disease”(I believe that phrase was coined by Dr. Kurt Harris). This means, avoid eating:
- Grain Products, especially grains that contain gluten.
- Do not consume Industrial Seed Oils: corn oil, cottonseed oil, rapeseed oil (a.k.a canola oil), soy bean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil
- Reduce Sugar Consumption and Eliminate Refined & Artificial Sweeteners
- Eat to Maintain Proper Digestive Function If you aren’t properly digesting your food you are creating tremendous strain on your body. Undigested food particles will eventually poke holes in the gut lining (leaky gut) and make their way into the blood stream. These food proteins trigger your immune system. The body is busy fighting undigested food instead of focusing on the viruses, disease-causing bacteria, toxic molecules, and fungi that may be in the body.
- Eat to Maintain Proper Blood Sugar Regulation Added sugar tends to cause surges in blood sugar. Surges in blood sugar force excess insulin production. If blood sugar remains high on a regular basis there is too much insulin and the body becomes insulin resistant. This leads to diabetes and high cholesterol.
- Focus on the Long Term Adopting a Paleo eating style isn’t just “trying” a new diet. It’s not a quick fix. You have to buy into the lifestyle for the long term. You will create balance in your body but it takes time. This is about eating food that your body recognizes and knows how to process properly. A 30 day challenge is good start but don’t expect to be transformed in 30 days. More than likely 30 days will get you to a place where you feel good and allow you to really recognize how awful your body feels when you put “food like substances” in it instead of real whole food.
You may have noticed that beans weren’t mentions and grains were on the “do not eat” list.
Beans are full of antinutrients and sugars that are hard to digest. Beans are less nutrient dense than animal protein and their amino acid profile is not processed well by the body. Rob Wolf refers to beans as “third world protein”. If it’s all you have to eat then eat them but if you have other, better choices forget about the beans. If you love beans and there is no way you can live without them you should, at the very least prepare them properly to reduce the level of antinutrients. Please read my post on beans to learn more about the best way to prepare them.
In order to eat grains, they have to be heavily processed. Even after the processing the grain seed does not want to be digested. The seed is the reproductive part of a plant. The grain seeds we eat want to pass through our bodies intact so they can get back into the ground the reproduce. There is no nutritional advantage to eating grains. Grains are full of “protective” antinutrients. They fight with the body and cause all kinds of digestive trouble. There are much better nutritional choices that work synergistically with the body. Lose the grains and feel better.
So, that was an over view of what to eat and what to avoid. The next step is how to get started. Pick an animal protein add a couple of vegetables cook with healthy fats and enjoy! It’s that simple.
O.k., now that I’ve said “it’s that simple” I will admit that I am typically a person who likes a manual. Yes, I love to read directions. I know, it’s crazy, but I just can’t help it.
Here is a list of some proteins, vegetables and “good” fats you might trying mixing into meals:
- Animal Protein: organ meats (excellent source of fat soluble vitamins), beef, chicken, pork, wild game, duck, goose, lamb, spare ribs, veal, turkey, chicken, eggs*
- Seafood: salmon, tuna, clams, oysters, shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops, squid, snails, flounder, halibut, scrod, catfish, cod, trout, perch, sole, haddock, turbot
- Nuts: almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts etc… (no peanuts)
- **Dairy, Whole Fat: eggs*, cheese, cream, kefir, yogurt, cottage cheese, milk
* I have eggs listed twice, once under animal proteins and once under dairy.
** “Out of the box Paleo” writes off all dairy. Although there are a LOT of people who can not tolerate dairy it’s usually modern, low-fat, processed dairy products that cause the problems. There is good, nutritional dairy to be had. Buy grass-fed butter or ghee. Try to buy raw dairy. It’s hard to find but you may have a local farmer near you that sells it. If you can’t get raw dairy and you really need milk and you have to buy pasteurized don’t settle for less than grass-fed milk that is not homogenized. Whole foods does sell grass-fed milk.
- Non-Starchy: asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms, celery, green beans
- Low-Starch: beet greens, leafy greens, onion, peppers, sprouts, broccoli, cucumber, kale, tomato, scallions, chard, garlic, cabbage, watercress, collard
- Medium-Starch: zucchini, yellow squash, summer squash, beets, okra, eggplant, turnips, spaghetti squash, radishes, jicama
- High-Starch: artichoke, peas, winter squash, carrots, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, yams
- avocado, ghee, grass-fed butter, full fat cream, coconut oil, coconut butter, olive oil, palm oil, avocado oil, walnut oil
Staples that I use often
- almond meal, coconut meal (use instead of wheat or white flour)
- coconut milk
- coconut flakes
- coconut butter
- ghee & grass-fed butter
- nut butters
Eat In Moderation
- High Starch vegetables
- Fruit, berries are a good choice when craving fruit
High starch vegetables and fruit will have an effect on your blood sugar. You need to be the judge of how much you can tolerate. If you exercise a lot you will probably need to eat some starchy vegetables.
Basically, that’s it. Remove all processed and refined food from you life. You will be so happy. The food you make at home will be so delicious you won’t feel the need to eat at a restaurant. Well, sometimes that’s nice but remember, most of the food you eat at a restaurant is made with vegetable oil. Bummer. You’ll notice that vegetable oil and sugar are listed as ingredients in most, if not all refined foods. Nasty.
Here is a great quote from Whole9Life.com. This is how they describe a paleo eating style in 60 seconds. This is helpful if friends ask you what you’re doing. People can be judgy (not a real word) so it’s always good to know what to say.
I eat real food – fresh, natural food like meat, vegetables and fruit. I choose foods that are nutrient-dense, with lots of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, over foods that have more calories but less nutrition. And food quality is important – I’m careful about where my meat, seafood and eggs come from, and buy organic local produce as often as possible.
This is not a “diet” – I eat as much as I need to maintain strength, energy, activity levels and a healthy body weight. I aim for well-balanced nutrition, so I eat both animals and a significant amount of plants. I’m not lacking carbohydrates – I just get them from vegetables and fruits instead of bread, cereal or pasta. And my meals are probably higher in fat than you’d imagine, but fat is a healthy source of energy when it comes from high-quality foods like avocado, coconut and grass-fed beef.
Eating like this is ideal for maintaining a healthy metabolism and reducing inflammation within the body. It’s good for body composition, energy levels, sleep quality, mental attitude and quality of life. It helps eliminate sugar cravings and reestablishes a healthy relationship with food. It also works to minimize your risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions, like diabetes, heart attack, stroke and autoimmune.
You may be wondering about calories and macronutrient ratios. You really don’t have to worry about either of those things. If you are concerned you can log your food into an on-line food diary like thedailyburn.com (there is also an excellent iphone app). Once you start eating nutrient dense whole food you will find that you eat less and are full longer. I eat a lot less than I used to. I rarely snack and any cravings I have are usually in my head, not in my belly. If you are concerned about keeping your carbs low, you can watch your carb intake but really, if vegetables and the occasional piece of fruit make up your carb intake you don’t have to worry. You have to eat a lot of vegetables and more than one serving of fruit to eat more than 100 grams of carbs a day.
Remember, if you are burping or belching and have excess gas that is a sign that your body isn’t processing/digesting properly. Something you are eating isn’t working for you. Try and figure out what it is and eliminate it.
Here are some great sites for recipes:
You can also find some of my favorite recipes right here on this blog. Just click the “recipes” category.
If you would like to dig in a little deeper here is a list of some great books on Paleo/Primal nutrition:
- The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf
- The Primal Blue Print by Mark Sisson
- Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes
- Deep Nutrition by Catherine & Luke Shanahan
- The Perfect Health Diet by Paul & Shou-Ching Jaminet
- Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora T. Gedgaudas
- Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso
Remember a Paleo or Primal eating style is a guide. Learn the basics and then tweak the plan to meet your nutritional needs. First things first, drop the grains and the sugar. You won’t regret it!
Eat Well, Feel Good, Have Fun!
Amy White MS HNC
I am a holistic nutrition counselor and believe real food is the true path to wellness. If you are interested in learning more about me and how I can help you, please see my story.
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