The Paleo diet is also known as the caveman diet. Why? Because the goal is to eat like a caveman. In the simplest terms if a caveman didn’t eat it, then neither does anyone who is on the paleo diet. The real purpose of this diet is to keep you healthy, by bringing you back in time before we had so many processed and not so real foods.
The theory behind the Paleo diet is that once man discovered agriculture, grain became a huge part of our diet, and what we ate and how we got our food began to change. The other thing that began to change is how our bodies looked and functioned.
The average caveman was muscular and agile, while today people are becoming increasingly slow….fat….. and sick. The paleo diet attempts to tackle all of those things.
The diet has been around, well, I guess since cavemen, but in 1985 gastroenerologist Walter Voegtlin wrote a book called, “ The Stone Age Diet: Based on In depth Studies of Human Ecology and the Diet of Man”.
In 1985 Stanley Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner developed the concept further, and in 2002 Loren Cordian wrote a book based on the work done by those who came before him called, “The Paleo Diet”. It wasn’t until somewhere around 2011 that the diet really started to take off and now it’s a huge movement.
I like to think of it as a low carb diet for athletes, or pretend athletes (like me). Although keep in mind it’s not all low carb, but we’ll get to that soon.
Before we get into what you have to do to be on the Paleo Diet, let’s talk about why you’d make the effort. First you’ll probably get to your ideal weight, which is why most people start it. Everyone’s body is different, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll lose weight.
You’re also more likely to eat a “clean” diet, which basically is a diet free from preservatives, additives, chemicals, and other things that just aren’t food. There are also anti- inflammatory benefits because of some of the food you’re encouraged to eat, like nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
Depending on what you’re eating, you may get more iron (if you go the red meat route), and you may feel more full because of the higher protein and fat (good fat) intake.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the negatives of this diet. First, you may get sticker shock when you go to the grocery store. Most healthy diets that contain whole, clean foods are more expensive, and this one is no exception.
You also can’t eat grains or dairy, which is really sad for pasta lovers, and everyone who likes cheese. These foods are also a great source of energy, so you’ll have to get that elsewhere.
If you’re a vegetarian, this is a tough diet to be on, because you can’t eat beans, and that is a major protein source for vegetarians. If you are a really active person (athlete level active), then you need a lot of carbs to function at a high level, and without grains and beans that’s going to be hard to achieve.
Most athletes need 3 to 6 grams of carbs per a pound of their body weight. Good luck getting that from fruits and vegetables.
For those of us who aren’t athlete level active and can make an attempt at giving up pasta and cheese, here’s what you can and should eat on the Paleo diet, along with some food examples.
Basically anything that a caveman could have caught you can eat. This includes, beef, chicken, lamb turkey, and pork.
Fish and Seafood
Try your best to get wild caught and not farm raised fish. Haddock, salmon, trout, shrimp, and shellfish are all fine.
Apples, bananas, oranges, berrie, avocados.
Kale, peppers, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, carrots.
Nuts and Seeds
Macadamia, sunflower seeds, walnut, almonds , hazelnuts.
Potatoes, turnips, yams.
Salt and Spices
Sea salt, himalayan salt, paprika, curry , oregano, garlic.
Healthy fats and oils
Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil.
What you can’t eat
Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup
This includes soda, fruit juice, table sugar, candy, pastries, ice cream and other sugary foods.
Including bread, wheat, spelt, rye, pasta, barley,and any other grain.
Beans, lentils and other foods from this family.
Avoid most dairy, especially low-fat. You can eat full diary on some paleo diets, these would be things like butter and cheese.
Soybean oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, and any others
These are found in “fake food”, they often show up as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils.
Aspartame, Sucralose, Cyclamates, Saccharin, Acesulfame Potassium, and anything else that is unnaturally sweetened.
Highly Processed Foods
If it says diet or low fat, it’s processed and you can’t eat it.
As the Paleo diet has grown in popularity, it has also been adjusted to what people want. There are versions of the diet where you can have whole diary, bacon from pasture raised pigs, grass-fed butter, and even some non-gluten grains like rice.
Many people use this diet as a base or template and adjust it in a way where they eliminate the majority of the “bad foods”, but keep 1 or 2 things that they don’t want to live without.