The paleo diet gained it's popularity by replicating what cavemen ate as hunter gatherers. Since they had no technology to cook with apart from fire, they had to rely on what nature provided. The idea behind this is to get people eating only natural, non -processed foods.
I used to be sceptical about the whole idea of eating like people that had a life expectancy of 30, but if those caveman had access to the technology and health care we have, I'm sure that life span would be a lot more.
All in all I like this eating strategy a lot. What I like most about is all the possible alternatives to the foods that aren't allow in it. For example, you can't eat wheat, which takes out bread and pasta (two of my favourite foods) BUT you can make your own pasta and bread with paleo ingredients and the results are often delicious. Sometimes you forget your bread in the oven and totally over cook it but that happens right?
What you can eat
Paleo nutrition is a strict following of the question "can you dig it, pick it or hunt it?".
When looking at what's on your plate, can you dig the food out of the ground? This refers mainly to vegetables. Can you pick it from a tree or a plant? This would be fruits. Can you hunt it aka is it an animal?
If the answer is yes to any of these, congratulation, you have yourself an all natural meal. If the answer is no to all of these questions, your food has been processed at least once and doesn't fit in this nutritional approach.
Essentially, you are eating:
- yams and sweet potatoes (white potatoes didn't show until the neolithic age and hence aren't paleo)
- nuts and seeds
Before you say this is very restrictive, note that veggies can be cooked in a TON of different ways and offer a lot of variety. There are also more fruits than just apples and bananas. So you do have a lot of options.
When baking you can also use flours derived from the list of allowed foods. Coconut flour is very popular in this diet. Like I said in the intro, you have A LOT of options when figuring out what to eat, all it takes is a little bit of thinking and research.
You can also eat tons of condiments, all herbs and spices are ok, and again, you have a huge selection to choose from.
What you can't eat
Apart from the self explanatory processed foods, you also avoid the following.
The typical caveman wasn't a farmer just yet, and did not have access to any animal milk.
Beans and legumes
No soy, black beans, chickpeas, lentils and other sorts of beans.
These types of oils are usually made from other ingredients that the vegetables and are high in omega 6 (not ideal).
What are the benefits?
The biggest benefit I see in this way of eating is the complete avoidance of processed foods and grainy carbs. The processed food part is self explanatory, you should always try to go as natural as you can.
As far as grainy carbs go, I find them to be hugely over eaten by the general population. Grainy carbs are a fantastic source of fuel for the human body, but when our energy output is less than our input, it's not good. Grainy carbs increase the energy input a lot. All the paleo alternatives to grainy carbs are still carbs, but in the form of veggies which are digested a lot more slowly.
There is also the whole thing with gluten intolerance and Celiac disease that is avoided with the no grains approach.
Another benefit is that because of the huge limitation on carbs, this diet is often higher in protein, which helps reduce fat and build muscle. Since grainy carbs are replaced by veggie carbs, the calories are a lot lower. Regular pasta have 131 calories per 100g whereas zucchini only has 17 calories per 100g!!! Here is how to make zucchini pasta.
All in all, I like this diet and would recommend it to anyone. I would also recommend doing a few modifications, like eating strictly paleo on the week days and then allowing yourself a cheat or two on the weekends. It's always important to work a diet into your lifestyle and you need to enjoy yourself and be happy with it.
When I talk about cheats here, I refer to all the dairy, grains, beans and legumes you other wise avoid. Not the ice cream/pizza/candy/whatever other processed foods out there. For me, the hardest part would be forgoing greek yogurt. So I would definitely add it in the weekends.
I should note that you can make a lot of delicious "cheat meals" while following the paleo way. The diet allows a tons of various types of flours and other alternatives to baking ingredients that make kick ass meals. Just google what you want to make and add "paleo" after it to see what can be done.
You can actually make paleo bread, and the recipes out there look amazing. Coconut flour is a popular ingredient, and I find it delicious.
So there you have it, a pretty generous diet with lot's of room for modifications, which is low and high protein, would recommend for sure! If you have any thoughts or concerns about the Paleo way, email me here!