Paleo 101 is all about the essence of the Paleo Diet. However, before I start, I want to specify that I don’t agree with the basic tenet often taught when it comes to the Paleo Diet, which is that cavemen did not eat grains and were healthier. I believe agriculture has been practiced since the beginning of history, but our bodies have been weakened by leaky gut and an incredible amount of environmental toxins. Consequently, many foods that are are supposed to nourish our bodies are becoming inflammatory. After all, we have seen people react to sunlight, chicken and spinach. It’s all about finding what you need to remove from your diet to feel great. For many of us, this means becoming Paleo.
Paleo 101 – What is the Paleo Diet?
Most people have heard of the “Paleo Diet”. and many know that it means removing grains from your diet. Grains have been abused in so many ways as a cheap food. Our bodies do not process them well and they cause more inflammation. However, there is obviously more to it. Let’s look more in detail at what the Paleo Diet entails. It is natural to want to define any type of diet by what it excludes. However, in this case, I want to start with what it emphasizes.
Foods To Focus On When Eating Paleo
1- Vegetables: Eating Paleo will not be enough unless you eat ample amounts of vegetables. Dr. Terry Wahls talks about that in her books. If you want an amazing story of healing through foods, look her up. She is a source of inspiration and knowledge.
2- Fruits: Eating Paleo doesn’t necessarily mean low-carb. Some people do better when they eat less carbs, but you will need to find out for yourself what works best for your body.
3- Health Fats: Eating seeds, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados will help you get enough fat in your diet to keep you satiated. They can help with weight loss, reduce the risk of heart disease and decrease inflammation.
4- Meat, seafood and eggs: The Macro ratio used to dictate how much meat you will consume will vary. Some are people even vegan or vegetarian as well as Paleo.
Foods to Avoid When Eating Paleo
1- Legumes (Beans, lentils, green peas, chick peas, soy products, peanuts, etc.): If you start researching the Paleo Diet, you will definitely learn about phytic acid. Many suggest that legumes and grains should be avoided because of their phytic acid content. Phytic acid is considered an anti-nutrient because it binds with other important minerals in your body and may cause deficiencies. However, I tend to side with Chris Kresser on the topic of legume consumption. Read what he says here.
2- Dairy: If you are just getting started and are not sure you can keep up with the whole Paleo lifestyle, start by eliminating gluten and dairy. I am convinced that the vast majority of health issues could be improved if people avoided these two foods.
3- Grains and pseudo-grains: Grains, pseudo-grains and legumes all contain certain chemicals that may be inflammatory. Lectins, phytate and phytic acid are the main ones. Lectins are plant proteins that bind to carbohydrates. Many types are not harmful, but prolamins and agglutinins often cause issues in people who consume them. Again, the issue here may not be necessarily about the foods and their compounds themselves, but about leaky gut. Theses proteins gut may cross the gut lining and reach your blood stream. Your body recognizes these particles as foreign invaders and reacts.
4- Refined vegetable oils: These oils are relatively newcomers in the food industry. They are highly processed and contains high level of polyunsaturated fat. These fats are highly unstable and the oxidize easily. They may cause oxidation and mutation in cells. Moreover, their Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio is very imbalanced.
5- Refined sugar: You know sugar is bad for you, right?
Here we have it! Obviously, apart from these restrictions, you also need to use common sense. You may be allowed honey, stevia and coconut sugar, but it doesn’t mean that the bulk of your diet should be paleo treats. You still need to use common sense and ensure you are getting a balanced diet. Eating store-bought “paleo” snacks all day is not going to serve you well.
What about potatoes?
Yes, of course potatoes deserve their own section! I don’t know about you, but my family loves potatoes. Some say that they should be avoided and others that they are loaded with nutrients, but are they paleo? As you can imagine, there is controversy on that too. I guess it depends on how you define Paleo. The way some people define Paleo (and I side with this) is eating whole, nutrient dense foods and avoiding inflammatory foods. However for some people, Paleo eating is about duplicating the lifestyle of the hunters gatherers as much as possible. Again, you need to make your own decision on that. This article is a great starting point for researching this question.
Leaky Gut or Phytic Acid?
The more you research health, the more you will find that leaky gut is the root cause of everything, not lectins or phytic acid. All plant foods contain these compounds, its a matter of degree and of how your body processes them. Your gut health will determine how your body absorbs nutrients and reacts to foods. Over the years, I have found many ways to nourish my gut. I love fermented vegetables for example. However, real change happened when I started taking supplements that addressed the 3 pillars of health (gut health, blood sugar balancing, nutritional deficiencies). If that is something you would like to learn more about, contact me here.