What Is Paleo?
The Paleo diet is about getting away from processed, pre-packaged foods, and back to cooking with the basic, natural, unprocessed ingredients, our bodies evolved with. Also sometimes called the Caveman diet, the focus is on the foods we would have had available before these processed goods became so common and eating on only what was available in nature. That means lots of meat, seafood, fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and nuts/seeds --- and none of the processed and refined starches and grains so heavily consumed today.
The idea is that humans ate a specific diet for thousands of years, and our bodies have evolved to utilize this sort of diet. Processed and refined starches and sweets are a more recent invention, and not what our bodies developed to process for energy. It’s about getting back to the diet our bodies were conditioned to utilize.
Part of why people love the paleo diet is that it is not focused on counting calories or portion control but on the contents of what you eat and how your body responds. Removing highly processed foods from your diet lets you focus on more natural ingredients (such as fruits and veggies), which means more fibre, vitamins and minerals. People have said to feel more mental alertness and clarity, and more energetic overall!
Processed food can contain a lot of refined sugar, cholesterol, and trans fats; replacing these with lean meats, fruit/veggies, and healthy fats, means more omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, lower cholesterol and overall better heart health. More fruits and veggies also mean more fibre; which is important for good digestive health. Some want to improve their “leaky gut”, or try to improve another unpleasant digestive issue or inflammation. Refined grains have cut out the fibre you usually find in fruits, but keep the sugar content (sometimes even higher!) Fibre also helps you feel fuller (preventing accidental over-eating), and improves blood sugar control. It lets you digest and process your food more slowly; the fibre in your fruit helps slow down how fast your blood sugar raises after the sugary treat.
Instead of focusing on portions or calories, the Paleo diet aims to let you get back to your roots with eating, and experience the benefits of clean, natural, unprocessed eating!
What to eat on a Paleo diet?
In short, if your ancestors could hunt or gather it, it is allowed. Here is a list of the foods that can be enjoyed on a Paleo diet:
- Meat (Check for any off-limits preservatives!)
- Fruits and veggies
- Treenuts and seeds
- Natural fats/oils (unrefined and unprocessed, such as olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut)
- Herbs, spices, and seasonings
- Coffee and tea (minus the cream and sugar)
- Natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, date syrup, Stevia, erythritol, monk fruit extract, etc.
- Grains; wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains. Any additives made from these (brans, starches, germs) are also off-limits.
- Legumes; all beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts (sorry, no peanut butter or hummus!) and all forms of soy.
- Dairy and all dairy products (cow, goat, and sheep’s milk products)
- Refined vegetable oils, or oils made from any Off Limits ingredients (such as peanut oil)
- Artificial and refined sugars and sweeteners; including but not limited to white and brown sugars, agave, corn syrup, and most artificial sweeteners.
- Alcohol in any form (even as a cooking ingredient).
- Common food additives such as carrageenan, MSG, or sulphites (other than those naturally occurring in garlic, onions etc.)
Paleo Helpful Tips / Tricks
- Do NOT weigh yourself! Weight loss is desired by many when seeking out a diet, but that is not the main focus here. Instead, focus on clean, whole, nutritious eating, and how it makes you feel!
- Certain sweeteners are not off-limits, but don’t forget that the intake of these would be limited back in our evolutionary days! Try to keep the focus on healthy fats, unprocessed proteins, and lots of veggies!
- Cook as much as you can! Reading through every ingredient in pre-made foods is tricky. The easiest approach is to begin with basic, clean, natural ingredients, and cook something exciting and delicious!
- Season, season, season! Most spices and herbs are not off-limits, so don’t be afraid to spice up your life and experiment!
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