The paleo lifestyle isn't about replicating the exact life of our ancestors. Instead, it’s about using the principles of their lifestyle in today's modern world: eating nutrient dense, toxin-free, whole foods, moving our bodies regularly, prioritising sleep, managing stress, and having fun. Can't argue with that.
A paleo-friendly diet focuses on eating real, natural, foods with little or no processing. Simply put: you eat plants and animals. We’re talking fresh meats, fish, eggs, veggies, fruits, and nuts.
As Robb Wolf, paleo legend, said: "research in biology, biochemistry, ophthalmology, dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility".
Think about it: us humans have been around for over two million years. But our current diet – full of processed foods, grains, and sugar – is relatively recent, and we've only been eating this way for the last 10,000 years.
Clearly it's not working. And the paleo diet aims to fix that, by going back to eating how we used to.
Lean meats: think steak, meatballs, lamb, chicken, and dare we say it, organ meats are great (try to eat grass-fed meat, find out why here)
Fish and seafood: salmon, tilapia, bass (wild fish is SO much better nutritionally than farmed, if possible)
Eggs: eat them all (likewise, free range eggs like Clarence Court are the best. The more orange the yolk, the more nutritious)
Vegetables: eat tonnes of them, way more than the food pyramid would tell you
Some fruit: berries and the less sugary fruits are best
Nuts: just not peanuts, because they’re legumes (keep scrolling…)
Natural oils: olive, coconut and avocado oils
Processed foods: get used to cooking from scratch
Many ‘paleo’ labelled foods: sorry guys, but they’re usually full of crap
Refined sugar: your health will thank you for it
Refined carbs: don’t worry, sweet potato is still on the cards
Legumes: think beans, chickpeas etc. Silver lining…maybe you’ll have less gas
Dairy: more on this below…but have you tried banana ‘nice cream’?
Grains: white rice is a grey area…more on this below
Vegetable oils: aka liquid death. Easy to avoid at home, hard eating out
Nope. Firstly, they're very simple carbohydrates (meaning they break down into sugar quickly, which spikes your insulin levels, and chronically elevated levels is a very bad thing). But largely, they're not paleo due to the anti-nutrients in them: lectins, phytates and gluten.
Lectins are sticky proteins which grains use as a defence mechanism (because they don't want to be eaten, and unlike humans and animals, they can't run away). A high consumption of lectins can cause intestinal damage, compromised intestinal bacteria, and leptin resistance.
Phytates bind to minerals (magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron) in our bodies, so we don't absorb the goodness from our food. Got to hand it to grains, it's a pretty cunning defence mechanism.
And then there's gluten, which is another story (for another blog post). It's a protein that causes a lot of distress for many people.
Technically, it's not paleo...but it's a grey area. Some strict paleo peeps rule out dairy completely (after all, we didn't have domestic cows hanging around outside our caves...). But others, like Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple, include fermented dairy and whole milk in their diet.
If you're going to drink milk, whole milk is best because it's less processed. Yoghurt is also hotly contested – the probiotics in it can be beneficial to your gut, but usually it comes with an outrageous sugar content.
The great news it that grass-fed butter is widely considered paleo (all hail bulletproof coffee!). It's a good source of vitamin K and butyrate amongst other minerals, and has a solid omega 3 to 6 radio. Likewise, ghee is a form of clarified butter that's had the milk solids and lactose removed, leaving the pure butter fat, making it suitable for most people that have problems with dairy.
If dairy gives you problems, avoid it. Simple.
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