What is a Paleo Lifestyle & What can it do for me?
Now that the Paleo Lifestyle has proven to be more than just a fad, you’re curious to know exactly what this lifestyle entails.
What it is: Basically, it’s all about getting back to the basics. The Paleo lifestyle is a nutrient-dense whole foods lifestyle based on getting back to our primal roots and what our ancestors used to eat—in essence, non-processed foods. Or basically, anything we used to hunt or gather. The thought is that we should stick to the lifestyle humans evolved on, mainly plants and animal protein. It focuses on eating whole foods, and lean and clean proteins (think grass-fed), vegetables, fruits and healthy fats.
It’s value: This lifestyle does have a point. Processed foods have moved us away from nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods to sugar-laden beverages, carb heavy meals and grain-based desserts, all of which don’t offer much by way of nutritious value. So just by eating the Paleo Lifestyle, you will be eating a clean lifestyle without preservatives and additives. By cutting out sugar and eating more fruits, vegetables, healthy oils and nuts you should also reap the benefits of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
The drawbacks:However, it’s worth considering that the lifestyle completely cuts out grains and legumes. And the reasons for doing so still draw some questions by some experts. While legumes do have some anti-nutrients such as lectins or phytates, research suggests that the benefits of legumes outweigh their bad parts. And, cooking beans eliminates most of their anti-nutrient components.
Similarly, grains are thought to contribute to inflammation and other health issues. Yet, aside from those who have celiac disease or a wheat or gluten intolerance, research shows there are many benefits to eating whole grains and that they don’t necessarily contribute to inflammation if you do not have an intolerance to them.
The Paleo Lifestyle does offer a clean, nutrient diet, but as with any lifestyle, it’s worth thinking about what you are keeping in your lifestyle and what you are cutting out to make sure it’s the right fit for you.
What You Can’t Eat
- Grains—forget about breads, pastas, rice, cereal. Includes: wheat, rice, barley, rye, corn, quinoa, amaranth, teff, sorghum, oats, buckwheat and spelt
- Legumes—no beans, no soy (which also means no soy sauce or tofu), no lentils, peanuts or chickpeas or any kind of bean …so no hummus, peanut butter or black bean soup. Yet peas and green beans are allowed.
- Most dairy products—straight up, dairy is not allowed on the Paleo lifestyle, with the exception of butter and ghee. But some in the community argue that raw unpasteurized or grass-fed dairy is okay. In these cases, the decision is up to you as to what you deem okay or not.
- Potatoes—white potatoes are not allowed because they are from the Neolithic age, whereas sweet potatoes are allowed.
- Processed foods
- Refined sugar—Cane sugar, white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup … Yup, anything with added sugar not from a natural source, such as honey, is a no no.
- Artificial sweeteners —it goes without saying splenda, aspartame, equal and the likes are off the list.
- Soft drinks
- Refined vegetable oils—margarine, corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and canola oil are off the list.
- Trans fats—these are often found in baked goods or processed foods
- Iodized table salt—common table salt typically contains preservatives and additives.
What You Can Eat
- Grass-fed meats—Paleo is big on eating meat, but not just any meat. Meat should come from pasture-raised animals largely raised on grass, not grains or wild-like animals such as elk or pheasant, not just cows. The lifestyle also says we shouldn’t be afraid of fattier cuts of meat, too. Lean cuts are not necessarily the most nutritious.
- Organs, too—The lifestyle also supports eating as much of the whole animal as possible, including organs and bone marrow.
- Bone broth—bone broth is considered to be rich in minerals, good for immunity and joint health and ranks as a superfood in the Paleo world.
- Fish/seafood—While acceptable, avoid unsustainably harvested seafood, such as shrimp, and seafood that typically has high levels of mercury or toxins.
- Eat some poultry—the Paleo Lifestyle suggests we eat less poultry because it has not been a staple of our lifestyle over the centuries. But when we do eat it, choose free-range hens.
- Fresh Fruits—any kind, in moderation, preferably organic
- Fresh veggies—any kind, preferably organic and local
- Sweet potatoes—in the absence of grains, sweet potatoes often become a staple in the lifestyle to help keep you satiated.
- Eggs—like chickens, the Paleo Lifestyle also supports eating eggs from free-range chickens
- Butter and ghee—other dairy is not allowed
- Nuts and seeds—all kinds, but not with added salt or oils
- Nut butters—the likes of almond, cashew or sunflower seed butters are allowed, but not peanut butter
- Healthy oils—think avocado, coconut, olive, walnut, flaxseed and macadamia
- Natural sweeteners—honey comes from an animal and is a natural sweetener so is acceptable. Maple syrup and molasses, coconut sugar and date sugar are also allowed.
- Herbs and unrefined salts—without additives these are allowed to help flavor up meals.
- Paleo baking flours—while grains are out you can bake with almond flour, arrowroot powder, coconut flour and other plant-based, non-grain flours.
- Cooking extras—Unsweetened applesauce, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, cacao nibs (not any old chocolate) and Worcestershire sauce are allowed.
- Coffee and tea and more—Okay, the good news is while juice and milk are out, coffee, green tea, matcha, kombucha and even wine in moderation are still on the A-okay list.