There are so many names for the Paleo diet… like Paleolithic diet, Caveman diet, Stone Age diet… it sounds like a pretty old diet… because it is!
Paleo can be summed up as the diet of hunter-gatherers before us. They ate whole foods from the Earth.
But before getting a little deeper into the actual diet, let’s make something crystal clear… this isn’t one of those nonsense diets where you lose weight, get in shape, and then revert back to your before picture (At least not for most of us).
Many people have gotten some pretty amazing results doing a paleo diet and they didn’t feel like a sack of crap as is the case with many unsustainable fad diets. But do we really have to call it a diet?
Not necessarily. You see, our cavemen ancestors, or hunter-gatherers, didn’t have access to all the processed foods available to us currently. So, it was just a normal way of life. But, now that we have so many food choices, diets are necessary to keep people on track.
We just want results and so do you (We’re guessing that’s why you’re here).
So, we’ve taken the time to construct a comprehensive guide just for you and by the end, you’ll be feasting like the cavemen thousands of years ago.
Whether you want to lose weight, build good quality muscle, or just be healthy, the Paleo diet can help you… but don’t worry; we’ll answer all of the common questions associated with the diet.
What is Paleo?
Well, since it’s pretty obvious that pizza, donuts, and hotdogs are unhealthy for us to consume as much as we do nowadays; someone decided that we needed intervention and introduced the Paleo diet.
We are poisoning ourselves at an alarming rate with this processed junk food in boxes and cans, causing illness rates to skyrocket. As a result, mental health has taken a nosedive and it just becomes this vicious cycle.
In fact, about half of Americans have preventable chronic disease symptoms and conditions. (1)
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Heart disease
And to make matters worse, a third of American children and youth are obese. This is a big problem for the health of our younger generations and the costs exceed $100 billion. In 2012, the costs for diabetes treatments reach $245 billion annually. (1)
Over the past 25+ years, the prevalence of obesity has remained steady and this is alarming.
So, we need some kind of dietary structure in our society… but the right kind!
So, anyway back to Paleo…
The Paleo diet really consists of any foods that were obtained through hunting thousands to maybe even millions of years ago… there was no mass farming or Walmarts back then!
Paleo-friendly foods include:
Grass-fed Meat (Beef, lamb, pork etc) – Grass-fed meat, specifically beef, is generally better for us to consume because grass and other natural forage is a healthier feed option for cattle. Now, usually, the beef you find in a grocery is corn-fed which is not natural and is necessary for mass production due to the added nutrients. (2)
Grass-fed may have significant benefits including (2)
- More Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Less fat content
- More vitamins and antioxidants
- Better for heart health
Eggs – Eggs are an excellent source of protein, B12, and healthy fats but they are as natural as food gets. A bird lays an egg, you crack it and eat it… it’s tasty and nutritious so it’s a preferred protein source for anyone.
Seafood (Fresh caught wild seafood) – Fresh fish and seafood which are not farmed are usually the better options. Why? Well, for example, farmed fish have higher levels of mercury, more potential for disease and they’re fed fortified foods plus many antibiotics which is much different than their natural environments (Lakes, oceans, rivers etc). (3, 4, 5)
Wild caught fish tend to be higher in saturated fats but one big benefit about consuming fish is they contain healthy amounts of Omega 3 Fatty Acids which are necessary for heart health and growth and development. (3, 4)
Wild Salmon is a great source of Omega 3’s since they tend to eat smaller fish which contain sufficient amounts of EPA and DHA Fatty Acids. EPA and DHA have all the potent compounds for heart health benefits (4)
Here are some good kinds of seafood for Paleo dieting:
Vegetables (Greens, Carrots, Broccoli etc)
Vegetation is not optional! We must consume enough greens and veggies daily to have energy, to function, and to keep disease and inflammation away. Vegetables are rich in nutrients like Vitamins A and C, folate (Folic Acid), Potassium, fiber, and antioxidants. (6, 7)
The cleansing properties of vegetables are also important for healthy bowel functions, and overall bodily functions.
Vitamin A promotes healthy skin and eyes. Vitamin C is great for immune system support, and iron absorption. Folate (Folic Acid) helps the body to form red blood cells and is important for fetal development. Potassium is necessary for maintaining healthy blood pressure. Fiber promotes healthy blood cholesterol and prevents heart disease while helping to combat constipation. Antioxidants prevent cell damage. (6)
Fruits (Any natural fruits from a plant or tree)
Fruits are a great source of energy, fiber and they are loaded with many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants just like vegetables.
Nuts (Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts, Macadamia nuts etc)
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the healthy kinds of fats which nuts and nut oils provide. Trans fats are bad (Man-made) and saturated fats fall somewhere in the middle. (7)
These good fats help to promote the good (HDL) cholesterol and decrease the LDL, or bad cholesterol. (7)
Seeds (Pumpkin seeds, flower seeds etc)
Seeds are a great source of fiber and they contain many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants while even helping to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and even blood sugar levels. (9)
Roots (Sweet potatoes, beetroot, turnips, radishes, parsnips etc)
Certain roots (Low/ no starch) are very good sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients. Plus, they provide a good carb source, although, with Paleo, you want to limit any starchy carbs. (10)
There are a lot of great options regarding Paleo food choices but we’ll get more into that shortly.
Now, foods like grains and dairy products were not consumed by these hunter-gatherers because modernization resulted in foods sources which go through a technical process to become edible. Therefore dairy, grains, and legumes are not part of a paleo diet.
- Dairy (Milk, cheese etc.)
- Grains (Wheat, oats, cornmeal, barley etc.)
- Legumes (Beans, peas, peanuts etc.)
- Salt (Processed)
- Refined sugar
- Anything processed
We’ve veered away from the “Paleo-type” lifestyle due to mass farming and manufacturing processes, and although it’s not necessarily a bad thing, the consensus is still up in the air regarding health concerns.
But, we’ve been somewhat OK for this long. However, the sheer number of processed and genetically-modified (GMO) foods we have access to nowadays do not compare to even 50 years ago.
Now, there’s a theory called the Discordance Hypothesis, which supports the idea that our bodies were not able to adapt to the modern grain and dairy-heavy diets. Hence the reason we’re probably so sick with diabetes, heart disease, obesity etc. (11)
But it all makes sense since man-made foods shouldn’t be the main part of our diets.
Can I Use Herbs and Spices?
Heck yes, you can! Herbs and spices have been around for a long as the Earth has… which means, cavemen had access to them.
Why do you think we use them today?
Herbs are dried leaves from temperate plants and spices come flowers, seeds, bark, roots, and fruits. Now, both are completely natural and work really well for medicinal purposes, as well as adding some amazing flavors to foods. (12)
A little spice history:
Spices were a thing even in 1500 B.C. but it wasn’t until about 950 B.C. when spices became a really big thing! In fact, the Arabs started to deliver spices to Greeks, having to travel through India and China to provide these valuable spices.
What’s even crazier is that spices were used as ransom, and were often traded for Silver and Gold to spare Roman lives sometime before Christ. In the 1800s the United States became involved in the spice trade and the rest is history.
So, as you can see, spices have been around for a long time. So long in fact, that they’re mentioned in Genesis (First book of the Bible). (12)
A little herb history:
Herbs go back to the middle ages, and while they were used for cooking, cosmetics, and medicinal purposes; they were also very symbolic. (12)
Rosemary was given for remembrance and borage for those who needed some courage (Like the Lion in the Wizard of OZ). (12)
So… be generous with herbs and spices in your meals.
What Are the Benefits of a Paleo Diet?
So, you’re aware by now that the typical diet consists of too many refined carbs, processed meats, and artificial ingredients in the foods we have access to in your local grocery store.
Now yes, of course, it’s our choice if we want to eat poison or not!
But the problem is that health concerns have taken a backseat to convenience and mass production. Well, this is bad news for mankind and something needs to be done.
That’s where Paleo comes in…
Weight loss – Processed foods are more calorically dense than ever before, and we know that weight loss occurs when we consume fewer calories then we expend through daily activities or proper nutrition to lose weight/body fat. (13)
Fewer calories = more fat loss
Two pizza slices will set you back 500+ calories vs. a loaded healthy homemade chicken salad; which is probably no more than 200 calories (Without the bad dressings, croutons, and bacon bits).
So right there you cut half the calories by making a good, healthy meal choice.
Improved Health – Inflammation is the culprit for all chronic disease and illness. But, eating a whole food diet solves this problem and many people seem to ignore this fact.
This could be for many reasons…
- Lack of knowledge
- Poor financial situation
You be surprised at how brainwashed we’ve become at the hands of food and health companies.
Here are the potential health benefits of going Paleo: (16)
- Improved blood pressure
- Weight loss
- Improved eating habits/appetite control
- Better glucose tolerance
- Lower triglycerides
A processed-free diet with exercise and lifestyle changes can allow you to ditch the medications and say hello to the world of freedom from pills and shots.
In fact, Harvard researchers have come up with their own healthy eating plate to make up for the U.S. Government’s “MyPlate” shortcomings. (17)
Although it’s not Paleo-based, we still have to respect the fact that Harvard recognizes the importance of nutrition for preventing chronic disease.
Walter Willett, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition at HSPH, explained just how inaccurate the pyramids we all followed in elementary school are… “Unfortunately, like the earlier U.S. Department of Agriculture Pyramids, MyPlate mixes science with the influence of powerful agricultural interests, which is not the recipe for healthy eating”.
“The Healthy Eating Plate is based on the best available scientific evidence and provides consumers with the information they need to make choices that can profoundly affect our health and well-being.” (17)
Another great benefit of going Paleo is that raw, whole foods provide muscles with the best, quality nutrients necessary to grow. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t get huge eating non-Paleo foods but quality always beats out quantity.
Additional benefits include:
- You’ll most likely feel better with a Paleo diet (Longer, better training sessions)
- You’ll likely gain less body fat with a Paleo diet (Muscles will be more visible)
You should never aim to put on mass with processed, junk foods (Although the calories do help… a lot). However, your long term health and even current health may suffer greatly.
We’re not designed to consume processed foods!!
But, unfortunately, many people have succumbed to eating man-made stuff, so… it’ll be very hard to convince people to switch to Paleo (Or at least partial Paleo) for their health and well-being. And yes, pizza and hamburgers are probably the next best thing after Heaven itself as far as pure pleasure goes!
Paleo Diet Cons
There are cons to everything and the Paleo diet is no different. But what could be bad about eating from the Earth?
Since Paleo requires raw, whole foods it can be a hassle and even an inconvenience… (We all love convenience what do you expect)?
But with our busy lifestyles, it’s very hard to always have the time to prep foods that don’t come in a box. However, preparation is key for sticking to a Paleo diet.
This means choosing one or two days out of the week to prepare your foods, and put them in containers for the week ahead… this is the only way to do it unless you never leave the house, then you have all the time in the world!
Yeah, it’s a lot cheaper to drive through McDonald’s and get a cheeseburger with a side of fries when you’re on the go. And who could blame anyone for thinking this way?
We value money over health nowadays!
But you know the real issue here? We spend money on junk food because food companies promote pleasure over health. Now, if we really take a step back and look at how much money we’re spending on processed food vs. natural, whole foods… well, let’s just say we’re delusional.
If we cut out the snacks, sodas, fast foods… we’d have enough money to spend on kale, fruits, fish, grass-fed meats etc.
It’s all about priority… but influence has more to do with it.
Nutritional Deficiencies (18)
Ok, so the truth is that we do get a lot of nutrients from dairy products, and even some legumes. Calcium and Vitamin D come to mind because milk and cheese products do supply a good source of these nutrients.
Grains supply healthy fibers and B12.
However, you can get these through supplementation but the problem is vitamins weren’t around during Stone Age.
And you can get calcium through Salmon, Sardines, Collards, and Turnip greens but you’d literally have to eat five or more servings per day to equal what dairy products could supply in just one serving. (18)
Grains are another food which supplies many essential nutrients including B-vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), fiber, and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium). (18)
Reading Food Labels
It sounds like lots of fun!… just kidding.
Reading food labels is a part of dieting if we’re being honest but it doesn’t have to be a hassle. Sometimes we make it more difficult than it really is but that goes back to a lack of preparation.
All you have to do is create your grocery list before you go shopping… and anyways, Paleo diets mostly consist of natural and whole foods, so label reading should be kept to a minimum.
What About Carbs Though?
The right carbs are good for you but you can get most of your energy from fat sources, and this is called… Ketosis.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic process which happens when you cut down on your carbohydrate intake and increase your fats. Now, this works because your body uses your fat stores for energy instead of carbs and you burn more body fat this way as well. (19)
Ketones are created and this allows the whole process of fat-burning to happen.
But the point is Fat makes a good source of energy!
What Kind of Carbs May I Have?
Cavemen had carbs and so can you.
Vegetables and fruits are carbs, along with certain roots like sweet potatoes, Cassava, Beet Root, and plantains. Now, these are starchy carbs but they’re not real high on the Glycemic Index scale either.
For example, a white baguette bread is 95 on the GI scale whereas an Apple is only 40. The Glycemic index scale goes from 0-100 and each food item is rated by their effects on raising blood glucose levels. (21)
- Low glycemic index(GI of 55 or less) – Beans, milk, fruit
- Moderate glycemic index(GI 56 to 69) – Basmati rice, orange juice, honey
- High glycemic index(GI of 70 or higher) – White bread, potatoes, cakes
Here’s a helpful list of a few Paleo-friendly carb options:
- Sweet potatoes
- Leafy greens
- Winter Pumpkin
How Should I Structure a Paleo diet?
It’s pretty simple! Just eat whenever you get hungry as you normally do anyway.
It’s not rocket science, but just make sure you’re adequately prepared with the proper “Paleo-friendly” foods and you’ll be just fine.
So, with Paleo you can eat one, two, three, four, or even five times per day. Doesn’t matter!
But How Can I Best Prepare For a Paleo Diet?
You can do this in four simple, stress-free steps…
But first, you must have gradually cut out all non-Paleo foods from your diet. And second, you must be absolutely committed…
If you’ve decided you’re ready then here are four meals prepping steps:
- Build your menu/recipes
- Prioritize one day for food shopping and buy in bulk for the entire week.
- Choose one day and prepare/cook your foods for the week.
- Place food portions into containers or bags for the week.
Convenience is your best friend when it comes to dieting so make it easy on yourself.
Remember… Lack of preparation = lack of results!
What If I Feel Bad Transitioning to a Paleo Diet?
Nobody said you had to go Paleo Cold Turkey!
Like everything else, gradually easing yourself into lifestyle changes is highly recommended. For most people, making instant changes isn’t necessarily sustainable.
Well, if you’re not ready for an immediate change, you’re likely to revert back to your old lifestyle. You must understand why you’ve decided to adopt a Paleo lifestyle and you’ll take it more seriously, while not needing to give in to your desires so quickly.
Now, if you transition really slowly and cut out your favorite foods in smaller portions, you won’t feel awful plus you’ll become accustomed to not having that delicious baked apple pie…
Slow and steady wins the race!
Is Paleo the Best Diet in Existence?
Absolutely not! You see, we can’t all possibly stick to a caveman diet.
And to be honest, we haven’t yet found a “best diet” as humans and it may not even exist!
Does this mean we shouldn’t try? Nope, not at all. In fact, everyone can benefit from following a similar diet but because of the world we live in, it’s not realistic or desirable for many people.
For most people… commitment + cost of food = No chance in hell!
So with that being said, you have to want to do the Paleo diet for personal reasons that make sense to you. It’s that simple!
Should You Do Paleo?
It’s subjective but Paleo is definitely not for everyone. And neither are other diets which require permanent change.
Some people cannot commit themselves to a certain lifestyle and that’s ok. You have to be mentally tough and know why you’re doing a diet in order to stay on track long enough to see results.
How to know if Paleo is for you
- You can commit yourself to lifestyle changes
- You don’t make excuses
- You want to be healthier
How to know if Paleo is not for you
- You’re not one to want to make lifestyle changes
- You’re addicted to junk food
- Diets are too hard for you to stick to
It’s simple… if you want to try it out you must be willing to make the commitment. You cannot simply try Paleo for a week (You could but you won’t see the most results possible) and then decide you want to go back to chips and drinking soda.
So, you must make a decision!
Try the Paleo Diet for Yourself
You’ll never know how a diet works for you until you try it. We can tell you Paleo is great but it means nothing unless you follow the diet, since everyone is different.
So, Paleo is not for everyone!
But, going Paleo doesn’t have to be a complex decision. If you have the resources and commitment, it could work for you. If it’s too much for you to give up the typical grain and dairy-heavy diet with junk foods thrown in, followed by the drive-through at McDonald’s for a burger, fries and ice cream…
Then forget Paleo! It ain’t happening.
Do it for yourself and for the results you expect to get with a whole, natural, and raw food diet.
You don’t have to be a caveman or hunter-gather to start making healthy choices!
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