So you’ve read The Basics: In Which Paleo Is Explained.
The foundation: What to eat, what to avoid.
Please note: Some of this information is from me being smart and fairly well-edumacated on Paleo/Primal. But largely this information is gathered from other websites and books. I make no claim to any of this being all my own information, and thus I can’t be held responsible if something goes wonky.
DO eat these foods:
- lots of animal foods: meat, eggs, fish/seafood. The fattier cuts of meat and things like chicken skin are preferred (more on this later)
- lots of vegetables (note: CORN IS NOT A VEGETABLE- it is a considered a grain.)
- for cooking fats, use animal fats like lard, bacon fat, beef tallow, butter, olive oil, palm oil, or coconut oil.
- nuts/seeds. The following nuts should be consumed in moderation due to their relatively high omega-6 fat content: walnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts etc. Coconut is much lower in omega-6 fats and is rich in saturated fats and can/should be consumed more frequently than the above nuts. Remember that peanuts are legumes, not nuts, and are even more concentrated in omega-6 fats and antinutrient lectins.
- fruits (in moderation if trying to lose weight; lower-sugar varieties like berries are a good choice over high-sugar fruits like grapes, bananas, or oranges.). Whether for weightloss or maintenance, the sugars in fruit will still result in an insulin spike and body response.
Optional, depending on your tolerances:
- dairy (fermented dairy such as yogurt and kefir and raw dairy are preferred over pasteurized dairy products such as cow’s milk)
- starchy root vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes (Note: Again, concentrated carbohydrate sources can inhibit weight loss. If you are working out and need to supplement calories or carbs, eat these starchy foods according to your needs.) Remove and discard peels of tubers to avoid concentrated antinutrient sources
There is a broad range of opinion on the subject of meats in a paleo diet. The low-fat/high-carb conventional wisdom that most ‘diets’ preach leaves a lot of people thinking that lean meat is the only healthy option. One would preferably eat grass-fed meats, which are rich in healthy fats, nutrients, and have a good omega-6:omega-3 ratio. For grass-fed meats, even fatty cuts can be consumed as part of a healthy paleo diet. If consuming grain-fed meats, leaner cuts are preferable due to their less-than-ideal omega-6:omega-3 ratio.
Thought fat was bad for you? Not necessarily. Contrary to popular misconception, a meta-analysis found that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD (cardiovascular disease)
- Saturated fats such as those found in animal products, coconut, and avocado are ideal as they are highly unlikely to oxidize and cause damage in the body.
- Monounsaturated fats and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are also generally beneficial.
- Polyunsaturated fats are highly susceptible to oxidation and should be limited in the diet, with preference given to omega-3 fats found in wild-caught fish and grass-fed meats. Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (found mainly in refined vegetable/seed oils) are highly inflammatory and should be avoided.
- Artificial trans fats are among the most damaging/harmful fats in the modern diet and should be avoided like the plague- things like vegetable oil and shortening, soybean oil, canola oil.
When you take out the carbohydrates from grains, your body has to get energy from SOMEWHERE. Putting healthy fats (animal fats, coconut oil, olive oil) into your body replaces the carbohydrates, and when your body has adapted to burning off the fats you ingest, it switches to using the fats already stored in your body.
The grey area:
Most of the foods we encounter in the supermarket were developed or modified in the Neolithic period. For example, modern chickens or beef cattle are not quite the same as wild game. Likewise, many vegetables were either discovered or artificially bred within the last few hundred years: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and other greens were cross-bred as recently as a few centuries ago.
Just because a food is modern does not mean that it cannot fit into a paleo diet. If a particular food is not making you get sick or making you gain too much weight, don’t stop eating it just because “it’s not paleo.” Some people attempt to find as close an analogue to wild foods as possible, including hunting their own meat or only buying game meat or grass-fed meat. Others do fine simply eating from broad categories of foods (meat, fish, greens, fruits) and avoiding other groups (grains). Some people eat dairy, others do not.
Pay attention to your health and bloodwork and make decisions based on your own experience, not based on dogma or wanting to be somehow “pure.” You will already be eating better than the majority of others simply by being mindful.
General Guidelines: 80% of body composition success is determined by diet. Limit processed carb intake (hence, insulin production), and obtain sufficient protein and fat to fuel and rebuild.
- Protein: Average .7 – 1 gram per pound of lean body mass/day – depending on activity levels (more at times is fine).
- Carbs: 50-100 grams/day (or less) = accelerated fat loss. 100-150 grams/day = effortless weight maintenance. Heavy exercisers can increase carb intake as needed to replace glycogen stores.**
- Fat: Enjoy freely but sensibly for balance of caloric needs and high dietary satisfaction levels.
- Avoid Poisonous Things: Conventional Wisdom’s dietary guidelines promote fat storage, type 2 diabetes, inflammation and obesity!
- Eliminate: Sugary foods and beverages, grains (wheat, corn, rice, pasta, breads, cereals, etc.), legumes (soy and other beans), trans and partially hydrogenated fats, high-risk conventional meat and produce, and excess PUFA’s (polyunsaturated fats) and instead, increase omega-3 oils.
- Modern Adjustments: Some modern foods that our caveman forebearers didn’t eat can still be included in a healthy diet
- Moderation: Certain high glycemic fruit, coffee, high-fat dairy products, starchy tuber vegetables, and wild rice, unless concerned with weight loss.
- Supplements: Multivitamin/mineral formula, probiotics, omega-3 fish oil and protein powder.
- Herbs, spices and extracts: Offer many health benefits and enhance enjoyment of meals.
- Sensible (infrequent) indulgences: Dark chocolate, moderate alcohol, high-fat treats.
Now that we have the basic understanding of Paleo/Primal and we know what to eat (See this page for more on paleo and primal foods for real people)…
NOTE: Comments for this page have been turned off. If you feel an error has been made, please contact me with the information and credible sources to point me in the right direction. Thanks!