Daily I hear someone talk about the Paleo Diet or read something about it. It’s the newest rage in the quest for healthy eating and weight management. One reason for its growing popularity is that it has been adopted as the nutritional method of choice by the CrossFit movement. What makes this diet easy is that there is no calorie counting or portion control. What makes it hard, is that for most Americans, it looks completely different than what is common to eat; no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no sugar and no processed food.
The Paleo Diet is purported to be similar to the diet humans evolved eating. The term Paleo is short for Paleolithic and eating like our Stone Age ancestors has become increasingly popular since the 1970’s. There are a lot of opinions in the dietician world on the health benefits or lack thereof of this diet.
The basis of the paleo diet is to eat natural food that has been around since the caveman days. The problem is, most modern adaptations are simply diets trying to fit modern foods into the body with “paleo approved” ingredients. Most paleo cookbooks and recipe sites are loaded with recipes for muffins, breads and desserts made with almond and coconut flour – you need to watch out for that, as that isn’t the point of going Paleo.
How to do Paleo right
- Forget the grains and beans
- Grains including unaltered or products made with wheat (enriched and whole wheat), rice (brown and white), rye, oats, teff, millet, amaranth, corn, quinoa and barley are avoided
- All legumes (beans) are also avoided including dried peas (fresh are ok), soy and peanuts.
- The reason grains and legumes are avoided is that they contain anti-nutrients such as phytic acid, lectin and enzyme inhibitors. These components are not neutralized by high temperature milling, extrusion and current modern preparation techniques so all grains are avoided.
- Eat high quality fats
- Vegetable oils like corn, cotton, soybean, and canola are avoided altogether.
- Monounsaturated fats like nuts or olive oil, omega-3 fatty acids and natural saturated fats from pasture raised animals or coconuts are consumed without hesitation.
- Mallow, butter, avocados, bacon fat from pasture raised pork which has had minimal processing are all considered healthy.
- Eat grass fed meat and fish
- Natural saturated fats and healthy protein are found in fish and pasture raised, grass fed organic meats, eggs and raw dairy. Conventional dairy, butter, eggs and meat are not recommended as they are higher in omega-6 fats due to their mainly corn fed processed diet.
- Bone broths from said pasture raised animals and organ meat are also consumed regularly.
- Avoid sugar, limit fruits
- No sucrose, maltose, dextrose, maltodextrin, agave, barley malt, beet sugar, can juice or cane sugar, caramel, corn syrup date sugar, fructose, honey, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, turbinado or other artificial sugars
- Fruit is only to be eaten sparingly as it is high in fructose which is metabolized by the body the same way alcohol is. Yes, fruits contain vitamins and minerals, but you should be getting plenty of the same nutrients from the vegetables you are eating.
- Low glycemic fruits such as berries are considered fine.
- Vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables
- We live in a modern world with heat and not in ice caves so what we think of as paleo now is more like the one from regions near the equator as opposed to the Inuit diet. It’s recommended to eat 60% of your diet as vegetables leaving 20% for meat, fish and eggs and 20% from additional healthy fats
- Sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, squash and other starchy vegetables are used for nutrient density instead of traditional pasta, bread, or other cereal and grain dishes.
Example paleo day:
- Breakfast: 2 cups kale sautéed in grass fed butter with two eggs over easy
- Snack: small spinach salad with bacon, fermented sauerkraut and avocados
- Lunch: sweet potatoes, steak or chicken and grilled veggies like peppers, asparagus or zucchini
- Dinner: sautéed vegetables over cauliflower “rice” or spiralized zucchini
- Snack: apple dipped in almond butter
Again, the jury is still deciding if this diet is the panacea it claims to be, but a diet high in vegetables, grass fed meats, wild fish and natural fats is indisputably better than a diet of sugar-free deserts and highly processed foods.