Right, first of all let’s get two things straight:
First: The Paleo diet is NOT about recreating the diet of cavemen.
Second: The Paleo diet is NOT a diet; it is a way of life. The food you eat affects so much more than your digestive system as you will find out…
Now we’ve got that clear, let’s go into a little bit more detail about this way of eating and its many, many benefits!
The ethos of those who follow this way of eating is JERF (Just Eat Real Food), which is pretty simple. Eat food that has been grown or raised naturally and not food which has been made in a factory and filled with god knows what. Everything should be as natural as possible: meat from cows, pigs, sheep etc that have been allowed to roam and eat grass, chickens that have been allowed to roam free and eat their natural diet rather than plumped up too quickly in a shed, and of course fruit and vegetables which have been grown naturally – the more local the better!
Forget about the stuff you buy in the supermarket and shove in the microwave for a quick fix; if you have read my previous post on clean eating you will know that these are full of nasties which really do not need to be in our food, they are put there as preservatives or to add taste as the food is so bland after being put through god knows how many machines etc to ensure the thousands of packets all taste the same – which usually means they taste nothing like what they’re supposed to.
These are the things you should be eating;
Meat (ideally this should be grass fed to ensure the animal is treated well and not pumped with antibiotics etc), and although organic would be preferable this will often depend on budget.
- Fresh fruit and vegetables (no corn – it is a grain!)
- Healthy oils (coconut, olive, walnut, macadamia, avocado)
As with any “diet” there are some restrictions, but the reasoning behind these restrictions is not to help you lose weight (although this is very often a benefit of paleo) but to improve gut health, which in turn will improve and often cure a number of ailments that some may not even realise they have.
These are the foods you should be avoiding;
- Grains (corn – this includes sweetcorn, barley, rye, wheat etc)
- Legumes (beans, peas, lentils and peanuts)
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods/sweets
- Refined vegetable oils
It has been ingrained in us for far too long that we should be eating low fat foods, but if you’ve ever actually read those packets of food that have all the stickers saying how fabulously low in fat they are you will notice they are FULL of sugar! Good fat is good for us (fatty cuts of meat and organs from grass fed animals, avocado, olive oil etc).
The hardest thing for most people to cut out seems to be bread, which is also full of sugar by the way, but after just a week with no grains or sugar most people will tell you just how much energy they have which they didn’t before. They will also often say how clear their skin is and just how much better they feel in their bodies.
Can I add things back in?
You will always find people who vary their diet, as this is a way of life and not a quick fix or a fad.
Many who exercise regularly will include rice on occasion, and those who can tolerate it will include dairy – mostly raw dairy products. Those who include dairy in their diet are classed as primal rather than paleo.
However you should always at the very least go with the basics first for a month or two before any kind of reintroduction. A good way to start and throw yourself in wholeheartedly is by doing a Whole30 (details here http://whole30.com/), this is a 30-day challenge in which you stick to a very strict paleo template which includes absolutely no sugars (not even honey which is seen to be ok in moderation in paleo) and no preservatives, so those 97% meat sausages you want to scoff will just have to wait for now. I have done this a couple of times myself, and it has actually brought out food intolerances I was not even aware of, so it is a great thing to try and a very good, although some might say harsh, introduction to this way of eating and the benefits it can have.
What are the benefits?
Having been a member of paleo groups for some time, I have seen several stories of people overcoming illnesses and doing things they never thought possible all just by changing their diet. Just in these groups alone I have seen stories of how paleo has helped people with ailments from minor skin conditions to serious digestive disorders and even asthma. Many don’t realise that feeling sluggish and tired on a daily basis is not normal, going to the toilet once a week is not normal, and those pains and the gas you get every time you eat are not normal.
And yes of course weight loss is also very common but as I have mentioned before the focus should always be on health first, scales are not to be trusted… You may lose inches rather than pounds for example but you should focus on how you feel in your clothes and how you look, not what a number on a machine says to you!