This is the big question. What is the Paleo Diet? You may have heard it called the hunter/gatherer diet. So, you’re going to have to go forage for berries and hunt some big game to lose some weight? Fortunately for all of us, that’s not the case. The Paleo Diet is actually just based on what our bodies evolved to eat.
What is Paleo?
The basic idea behind the paleo diet is that we as humans haven’t evolved as fast as our changing food supply. Through research by several anthropological studies, they found that our ancestors suffered far fewer instances of cancer, diabetes and other ailments. This gave someone an idea. His name is Dr. Loren Cordain, and he is sort of the godfather of the paleo diet. When you examine the diets of our ancestors, and how are changing eating habits coincide with rising cancer rates and adult onset diabetes. As the agricultural revolution happened and our species grew more dependent on grains we got sicker. So I read all of this and thought, hey, that makes sense.
I know, you thought we were talking about shedding a few pounds. Well it turns out that’s just a side effect of the Paleo “Diet”. The best part about this is the fact that it’s a healthy way of eating, and losing weight is just a part of it. You end up feeling better, and I’ll cover all the things that changed for me further down the page. The reason all of these happen is that the Paleo diet is essentially an anti-inflammatory diet. There it is. That word inflammation! That’s the big one. You know you’ve heard it and how it links to heart disease and auto immune disorders. So how do we stop inflammation? Keep reading!
What is the Paleo Plan?
The Paleo plan comes down to three simple rules. It’s not about what you do eat, it’s about what you don’t eat.
Here’s the things you need to cut out of your diet for Paleo
Here’s the issue with grains. Our bodies have simply not evolved to digest them. I know you’ve been told to eat your grains, you need the fiber, and so on. Grains have a good amount of fiber, but that’s about all they have going for them. Most grains are not even edible unless they’re heavily processed by boiling them, or by other means. When we ingest grains, our body essentially converts them to sugar. We all know that ingesting sugar raises your blood sugar level. Luckily our bodies have a safety mechanism for elevated blood sugar, insulin. As our blood sugar rises our pancreas releases insulin to counter the effects and lower blood sugar. In a healthy adult, I’ve read that it takes about 9 grams of sugar to trigger an insulin response. Is that a lot? Well 1 cup of cooked white rice translates to about 45 grams of sugar. That’s just a single serving of white rice, throw in a soda or a glass of juice, some potatoes or maybe a piece of bread and your pancreas is just pumping out the insulin to lower your blood sugar. That’s what it’s for though right? Sort of. Remember I said it’s a safety mechanism? Our bodies are not designed to depend on insulin. In fact, insulin is actually an inflammatory chemical. Don’t get me wrong, it works. It does exactly what it’s supposed to, but it also damages important components of your body at the same time. In fact, the more we depend on insulin, the more your body needs to do it’s job. This phenomenon is called insulin resistance and you’ll be hearing that term a lot in the future on this site. So our goal here is to avoid insulin release at all, and eating grains is not the way to do that. Also, please keep in mind, as we get more in depth we’ll discover some carbs that are good for us, especially if you’re highly active, or into weight lifting. I know all you lifters are saying “whoa man, I need that glycogen!”. That’s true, but for this simple explanation for people that just want to get healthy, and to start the paleo plan, let’s cut out those grains! If you’re worried about fiber, don’t. You’re about to get more fiber form veggies than you’ll need!
Why no dairy on the paleo diet? Well that’s controversial. I’ll post some articles on using dairy in the paleo diet but for now we should cut it out. This is one you can actually add back in later but we’ll discuss that strategy in the conclusion of this article. For now let’s just cut dairy out of the picture. Give me thirty days on this one. Obviously diary has lactose, which is a sugar. We just went over why sugar is so bad so I’ll make this section quick. Lactose is a sugar, and 80 percent of the human population is intolerant of it in some form. To be honest, I’ve always thought it was a little strange to drink a cow’s milk that’s meant for it’s calf but that’s just a personal thing. Don’t forget that there are amazing alternatives out there too. Almond milk is a great option, if it’s the no sugar added variety. If you’re a cream in your coffee kind of person I don’t expect you to give that up! Just switch to almond milk for thirty days. We’ll go into depth on dairy options in a later article.
Just a quick not here. Eggs are not dairy. Eggs are delicious and incredibly healthy. In fact, if you can only afford to buy one high end product for this journey, eggs are the place to spend your money. Always look for pasture raised eggs. The nutrition in them versus common eggs is exponential and so is the taste factor. Eggs, not dairy, and highly encouraged for Paleo people!
Beans are high in protein and fiber so why are beans not paleo? The answer is, gut health. That’s another one of those terms you’ll be hearing over and over. Beans are actually not edible unless we boil them. They also contain phytotoxins that are terrible for the good bacterial that resides in your gut! This is why beans are the musical fruit. Your gut flora is trying like heck to digest them but those phytotoxins are fighting that process the whole way. This is extremely inflammatory to your gut. Maybe you’ve heard this but your health starts right there in your gut. If your intestines are inflamed your body is inflamed. It’s a chain reaction and there’s no way around it. Let’s cut those legumes out!
Another note here. Nuts are highly encouraged in the paleo diet, but peanuts are not nuts. They are legumes in disguise. In fact, farmers that grow actual tree nuts call peanuts dirt nuts. Stay away from peanuts and grab the almonds!
How to Start the Paleo Diet
Here’s where to start. Us paleo folks call it the 30 day paleo challenge. Avoid all of those foods for 30 days. All grains (including corn), all dairy, all legumes, all sugar and candy and soda of course, all juice, anything that will spike blood sugar (including starchy vegetables like potatoes). Give me 30 days of strict Paleo, and you will lose weight. You will feel better. The 30-day point is important because it’s at this point we can start adding stuff back in to see how it makes you feel. Maybe you want to try to add corn tortillas back in and you still feel fine, or cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. That’s fine. Your body will be your guide. I’ll tell you this, after 30 days I ate a burger with the buns and all. The next day, I literally felt like I had a hangover. After 30 days your body will have a baseline that you can work from. I want you to enjoy what you eat so for the next 30 days eat as many veggies as you can, good meat, poultry and fish, nuts, seeds, and very little fruit is OK (I’d rather you didn’t for the first thirty days but if you must, eat actual fruit, not juice). Coffee is great, beer is out, a glass of wine here or there is OK, and distilled spirits are fine (not mixed drinks unless it’s just soda water). It sounds hard, I know, but then you sit down to a steak dinner with spinach and avocado salad drizzled with olive oil and sea salt and say “I’m on a diet”. One last thing. Don’t go hungry! If you’re hungry, eat! This is not about counting calories. It’s about eating clean food. The weight will come off. You should definitely mix in exercise, but you should do that anyway. Feel free to ask any questions that you might have. There’s lot’s more to come on this site so thanks for visiting!
So are you going to take the 30 day Paleo challenge?