For anyone floating around in the world of health these days, you may have run across the term “Paleo Diet”…also referred to as the “Primal Diet” or “Ancestral Health”. If it brings to mind images of cavemen chasing down a mammoth, it should. The big idea behind the eating strategy is that, in order to regain our health and vitality, we must reconnect to the whole, natural foods of our past.
Proponents of the Paleo Diet make the claim that the highly processed “frankenfoods” that make up the vast majority of most of our diets are to blame for the wide variety of health problems that we are currently experiencing in the modern world – and science backs them up.
Common sense does too, doesn’t it? We don’t really need all the science in the world to tell us that fresh whole foods are better than anything that comes from a box, bag, or package (but it’s nice to have that science…big proponent of science, don’t read me wrong…).
In this post, I want to spend a little time introducing you to the concepts of the Paleo Diet.
Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, the gurus behind Whole 9 and authors of the New York Times Bestseller “It Starts With Food” (which I highly recommend), have done a most excellent job of putting Paleo into a nutshell:
We eat real food – meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, healthy oils, nuts and seeds. We choose foods that were raised, fed and grown naturally, and foods that are nutrient-dense, with lots of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.
This is not a “diet” – we eat as much as we need to maintain strength, energy, activity levels and a healthy body weight. We aim for well-balanced nutrition, so we eat animals and a significant amount of plants.
Eating like this has helped us to look, feel, live and perform our best, and reduces our risk for a variety of lifestyle-related diseases and conditions.”
Said another way, the Paleo Diet seeks to improve health by increasing the intake of foods that bring health and nutrients to the body - foods that would have been common to ancient man - and by eliminating foods that cause inflammation, hormonal disregulation, excessive weight, and disease in the body - foods that have only become available to modern man through food processing and the growth of the commercial food system.
One of the biggest things I’d like to stress is that the Paleo Diet is not about losing weight – although that is often a pleasant outcome of following this lifestyle. Instead, it is a holistic approach to health that concerns itself with all aspects of wellness – consuming nutrient dense foods, getting enough sleep, managing stress levels. Paleo living is first and foremost about nourishing the body. If we nourish our bodies with the appropriate nutrients and calories, health will naturally result. We will have adequate energy, our body will shed excess weight, we will be vital into our later years, we will be less likely to contract disease, our minds will be clear and focused, our moods will be unencumbered by sugar crashes.
That’s the general idea of the Paleo Diet. Before I introduce you to the specifics of how to eat Paleo, let me caution you that you will likely have a LOT of questions. So did I. I had doubts, hesitations, even fears. But, within a few months of turning into a Paleo eater all of my doubts were answered. Either I had worked out the fears or I had found answers to my questions. But those first few months were pretty shaky! No great change is ever easy, nor does it happen overnight. Let me just encourage you to turn your brains on and don’t shy away just because this seems “different” or “extreme”. Let me assure you that these nutritional recommendations are well researched and have a sound scientific backing. This will take time, research, and an engaged mind. For now, just read and consider this a first step.
Now let’s get a little more specific.
Grass-Fed/Pastured Fatty Meats
Healthy Sources of Fats (Coconut, Avocado, Palm Oils, Nuts, Olives and Olive Oils)
Starchy Tubers (Sweet Potatoes, Yams, etc)
Food additives and processed foods
What is Questionable
Now, before anyone freaks out on me – yes, I did just tell you not to eat ANY grains. Like, at all. And, yes, there IS a reason for it.
Instead of rehashing what so many bloggers before me have already said a million times, I’m going to point you to some places to do some of your own reading and research. I’m only going to give you a few of what I consider to be the very best quality of resources, so as not to be overwhelming. There are a ton of excellent Paleo sources out there right now! These four are top notch in my book because they are well written and, more importantly, well researched sources that provide clear explanations.
Whole 9 Life - This link will take you right to the resources page over at Whole 9. I strongly suggest you read all their “Manifesto’s” for a concise introduction to the reasons why I just told you not to eat bread anymore…and alcohol…and milk.
The Paleo Mom - A great resource with tons of reading on the specifics of the Paleo Diet. This link will take you right to her Paleo Basics section, but look around for lots of great recipes.
Robb Wolf – A former biochemist and Author of several books on the Paleo lifestyle, here you will find tons of articles and Robb’s podcast which teaches you about all things Paleo.
Balanced Bites - Holistic Nutritionist and author of many books, including Practical Paleo, Diane Sanfilippo’s site is chock full of resources. From her 21-Day Sugar Detox, to recipes, to nutrition education this site has it all!
Have More Questions about starting the Paleo Diet?
How many times a day do I eat? How much protein? Can I seriously not have ANY bread? Keep your eyes out for our upcoming Nutrition Seminar that will introduce you to the Paleo Diet, the reasoning behind it, how to get started, and the benefits that can be expected. Let your trainer know if you are interested in learning more!