What to Know Before Starting a Paleo Diet
Put simply, the Paleolithic Diet (aka the Paleo Diet) consists of a diet of what our caveman ancestors survived on. As hunters and gatherers, these cavemen could only eat what they hunted, what was in season, and what was not eaten by other living creatures. Their meals were not cultivated through agriculture, were not farmed, and were definitely not processed. Cavemen thrived off of this way of living for many centuries, and have done it for more time than humans have been farming.
What Did Cavemen Eat?
As hunters and gatherers, cavemen ate only what was readily available to them. That means seasonal vegetables and fruits and prey that was catchable in the wild. Although times have changed, a lot of the foods available during the Paleolithic Era still exist today.
Meat – Your protein should be as natural as possible. Try to get your hands on free-range, hormone-free, or organic meats. Stay away from processed meats or pre-cooked meat since you don’t know its origin or how it was cooked. True Paleo followers obtain their meat from reputable sources and cook it in the comfort of their kitchen. Whether its lean meat, organ meat, or game, this part of the Paleo diet is very important.
Seafood – Similar to meat, seafood should be as minimally processed as possible. Fish and shell fish cooked in natural ways will help retain their nutritional content. A good rule of thumb: The fresher the better.
Vegetables – This source of vitamins and minerals was of abundance for gathering. As long as you’re eating vegetables that are raw or cooked appropriately, and not deep-fried, eat as many as you want. Try to stick to seasonal vegetables that you can get your hands on at your local farmer’s market. Aim for deep leafy greens and colorful vegetables as a rule of thumb.
Fruits –While all fruits are good for you, fruits that are fibrous and high in sugar should be avoided or eaten minimally to enhance weight loss. Fruits that end in the word berry (strawberry, blueberry, etc.) are sure fire fruits to consume.
Nuts – Packed with omegas and good fats, nuts are a staple source of energy. The best way to eat them is raw, but you can always minimally roast them for a more dynamic flavor. Lean towards almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, brazil nuts, and macadamias.
Eggs – Eggs contain natural cholesterol and saturated fats, and is one of the most organic ways to get those into your body. Whether raw or cooked, eggs are a good source of protein in a Paleo diet. Try to eat free-range organic eggs.
Foods Cavemen Did Not Eat
Part of the Paleo diet is adhering to the regime of only eating items that could be hunted or gathered. The following items are big red flags to avoid:
Dairy– Yogurt, butter, ice cream, cheese, dairy spreads, frozen yogurt, and milk.
Milk — No other living creature on this planet drinks milk after infancy, let alone another mammal’s milk. Alternatives to milk include almond milk, coconut milk, and hemp milk.
Cereal Grains – Wheat, rye, barley, millet, corn, rice, oats, and sorghum. In any shape or form since in order to eat them, they must be cooked and/or processed.
Legumes – Although found naturally in nature, legumes such as peanuts, lentils, beans, and some peas, need to be cooked in order to be consumed. Therefore, cavemen did not eat them when other foods were readily available.
Salty Foods and Fatty Meats – Either processed or doused packed with weird ingredients you cannot pronounce; these foods put dents in your ability to lose fat.
Sugars – Refined sugars are not natural. As much as we enjoy dessert after a meal, anything made with sugars don’t fall into the Paleo diet.
The Bottom Line: If it’s been modified or processed by man, it wasn’t meant for us to eat.
To Paleo or Not to Paleo: Is It Right For You?
Choosing a diet that fits your needs is important. If you consume foods that make you feel tired, sick to your stomach, or make you gain weight, then you need to reevaluate your goals in life. With heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and other illnesses as national epidemics, your health should be your number one goal. The Paleo diet can help you reach that goal.
There are always pros and cons to a diet. Everyone endorses different diets. Yet, there is always going to disagreements about what your body needs to survive. It makes sense to say that eating what nature intended is good for you. It’s better than junk food, so how can it get worse from here?
There are different levels of following a diet. You don’t need to create a drastic change in your eating habits if it doesn’t feel right. Perhaps you just want to choose one or two major things to adopt into your diet. Or maybe you feel very convinced that participating 110 percent is the only way to go. Either way, you’re ready for a change and it starts with your what’s on your plate.
The Bottom Line: The Paleo diet forces you to reexamine what you eat and how you eat it. Ultimately, it is up to you to determine if it is the right step towards better health.
Live Strong – Paleo Diet Index
Greatist – Paleo Infographic
Loren Cordain – Leading Expert in Paleo
US News – Paleo Diet