Are you one of the many people who are asking “What is a Paleo Diet?”
It seem these days you can get more and more confused as you read and hear varying answers from several experts. I mean, when has Google ever really given you a straight answer? Some claim that Paleo should include grains and dairy while others say that there is no way such foods should be present in the Paleo diet (I fall on the latter side of the spectrum).
Often people immediately jump to the conclusions that this is too hard. They start thinking about what our ancestors really ate and then start becoming frustrated thinking about obtaining foods our Paleo ancestors ate. Don’t give yourself a mental block! You don’t have to learn to go hunt all of your food.
By strict definition a Paleo (short for Paleolithic) diet means only consuming equivalent foods to those our hunter-gatherer ancestors did.
If you can imagine that there were suddenly no stores and your survival depended on what you could catch (animals) or pick (fruits and vegetables) and you will be close to understanding the basics of the diet.
Of course today we go to our big box stores, or our health food stores or our local farmers market to buy most of our groceries. And believe it or not, you can find foods in all of those places that meet this criteria. This diet mainly consists of grass-fed meat, eggs, poultry, wild-caught fish, seafood, vegetables, tubers, herbs, fruits and a small amounts of seeds and nuts.
Food that is not allowed includes anything that would require a processing or manufacturing process to produce, such as any canned and packaged food. Most legumes (beans and peanut butter), cane sugar (white or brown) , artificial and refined sweeteners (stevia, sucrose, etc) are excluded.
Also on the disallowed list are dairy foods and any grain-based products including bread, pasta and rice. None of these items were available to the hunter-gatherer and only became available after humans started farming land and domesticating animals and processing the produce more. Don’t you ever wonder why you just can’t get a carrot that was grown in the field? ALL of the chemicals added to our food is crazy!
What Paleo Is All About
The principle behind Paleo is simple – eat only those foods that are not difficult for your body to digest, foods that nourish and foods that enable your entire systems to self-regulate. So, basically you want to make a shift from a highly processed diet to one that is nutrient dense. Making a shift to Paleo is definitely not about pretending to be a caveman for real but it is all about following certain guidelines that allow you to stick to better nutritional choices for your body.
Paleo is not explicitly low-carb. It also does not require a person to count their calorie consumption. It is also not about starving yourself just to lose excess poundage. Actually, when you start the paleo diet, be prepared to feel fuller longer. You won’t feel the need to snack as much because of the high fat content.
Paleo is all about eating real, whole and unprocessed foods. It encourages you to quit eating the junk! You know what I’m talking about? Go look in your pantry, I bet it is filled with foods that have preservatives and harmful ingredients. And you know what? A huge benefit of a Paleo diet is that it is much harder to overeat. Can you believe it?
Let me break it down for you. Paleo foods are much lower G.I. per unit consumed than an equivalent amount of simple sugar carbs, while at the same time providing more of the essential nutrients the body requires for correct function. Therefore, eating Paleo meals means the brain receives signals that the stomach is full far sooner. Bonus: you won’t be chowing down on meaningless foods (read: Cheese Crackers). Have you ever noticed that when you eat those things you never seem to feel full? Big name food producers spend billions each year to figure out how to make their foods addictive, so that you eat more and more.
Paleo food, which is predominantly protein found in meats, veggies and nuts and complex carbohydrates found in veggies and fruits, is used by the body and brain for correct functioning and an overall more awesome you. On the other hand, so much of the modern Western diet is based on high-G.I. simple carbs (things you can buy in a box at the grocery store) and much of this food is readily stored as fat in our bodies.
For those who are conditioned to feeding their taste buds rather than their body’s true dietary needs, the Paleo diet may seem initially dull and boring. This is a crazy because good food tastes good. You may have to recondition your tastebuds, but they will thank you for it! Paleo food prepared well is not only extremely delicious, it is also the food our body really craves. Remember, our taste buds can be fooled otherwise with artificial additives. Once we detox those out of our system, I promise you that you will be amazed that real food tastes awesome.