The Beginners Guide to the Paleo Diet

what-is-the-paleo-diet
The Paleo Diet, In a nutshell, is based on the diet of our ancestors. It is based upon everyday, modern food that mimic the food groups of our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Paleolithic man developed and thrived for countless centuries on a diet made up entirely of the things that grew and developed 100% naturally in the world around him.  There was no pasteurization, chemical fertilization, growth hormone augmentation, or toxic pesticide contamination.  He ate what he could catch and kill, and what grew indigenously and abundantly around him. Whether it was running after prey, running from a predator, or simply gathering supplies, he got plenty of exercise.

The basic logic is that eating foods that are not processed has worked for thousands of years.

So what changed?

Then came the dawn of the Neolithic period, marked by the domestication of animals, the development of agriculture, the manufacture of pottery and textiles, and the use of polished stone and flint tools.  While these things have all been considered progress, they also started a very slow process by which we humans began to slip away from our natural diet by learning to manipulate the world around us.

In the modern era, that process of mechanization, alteration, processing, and refining has spiraled out of control.

Getting back to a diet more in line with that of our prehistoric ancestors not only makes sense — it is what our bodies were designed to thrive on. In addition, it can be very tasty.

So how does The Paleo Diet work?

There are three main principles to the Paleo Diet:

1. Unlimited Lean meat, fruits, and vegetables
2. Limited Nuts, seeds, and starchy tubers (potatoes)
3. No dairy, grains, soy, legumes, or processed foods.

Comparing it to our hunter-gatherer ancestors:

Hunt all the naturally low-fat animals you can find.
Pick as many fruits and veggies as you can find.
Nuts and seeds only been available here and there in small amounts.
Unprocessed grains (think raw wheat) would have been completely inedible.

For a more detailed list of foods, check out my Paleo diet food list.

What does a typical Paleo meal look?

It is actually quite simple. There should be a source of protein with every meal, be it Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. My meals are usually Chicken and some Vegetables or a Salad. If you feel like the meals aren’t filling enough or you get hungry much faster and more often then add more healthy fats to your meals. This could be additional

The nutritional content of the diet

Meats – Protein mostly.
Fruits and vegetables – Fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
No dairy- no milk and cheese. It’s acidic so actually leeches calcium. Lactose intolerance is another issue.
No grains – wheat, corn, barley, etc.  Also a cause to rising obesity in America. The main issue is gluten. Gluten is linked to cancer, diabetes, and damage to the stomach lining.  Grains also contain lectins, an anti-nutrient that is a natural insecticide.

What’s wrong with Grains?

The original FDA produced food pyramid suggested 6-11 servings of grain daily, some 40% of the servings of food that man was supposed to consume daily. Even the reformed modern food pyramid recommends that around 25% of one’s daily food intake be grain based. The numbers just don’t add up. The problem is, as many dieticians acknowledge, the food pyramid and FDA recommendations were not designed with man’s health in mind, but rather gained favor for largely economic (grains are one of the cheapest food sources to produce and one of the most profitable goods exported by the U.S.) reasons. Tragically, the government’s recommendation to consume large quantities of grain on a daily basis does not align with modern man’s needs.

On a molecular level, grains and sugars are largely identical and differ only by their size and complexity. 

The main effect they have on the body, namely the stimulation of bodily hormones that signal the pancreas to release insulin to combat the higher levels of sugar in the blood (glucose is the main molecule that triggers insulin release, and is the main building block of both simple sugars and complex carbohydrates or grains), is identical. While some insulin release is perfectly harmless (many of the vegetable and fruits that our ancestors consumed contained some sugars and carbohydrates), modern man consumes them at levels far above what our ancestors did. Our dependence on grain is wreaking havoc on the health of modern man.

When glucose levels in the blood exceed what the body is capable of processing, it is stored as fat. 

This can lead to obesity, as well as a host of other weight related issues. Furthermore, in the presence of chronically high insulin (a result of chronically high blood sugar), bodily cells can become inflamed and insulin resistant, leading to diabetes. Finally, wildly-fluctuating glucose levels (a rapid rise at carbohydrate-heavy meals followed by a rapid decline during the periods in between), which serve to signal the bodies hunger functions, lead to over-consumption of all foods during meals and chronic fatigue when not eating.

There are other health hazards related to grains are processed foods

They all contain high fructose corn syrup – a sugar made from corn.
It is in nearly every processed food – Coke, bread, cereal, candy bars, and frozen pizza.
Soy and legumes contain large amounts of anti-nutrients. Damaging to young boys because it contains an artificial estrogen.

What are the benefits of getting on the Paleo Diet

Some or all of it should apply to you, depending on where you are in terms of health and wellness. I personally started feeling the Paleo diet benefits in about three days, but most are likely to really feel the difference after roughly three weeks or 21 days.

The benefits range from simple weight loss to lowering the risk of Cardio vascular disease. There are some benefits like reduced allergies, acne and gas that are thanks to the elimination of dairy, but to feel the full benefits I recommend 21 days of strict paleo. Here is the list of benefits:

  • Increased and more stable energy levels
  • Improved sleep
  • Clearer skin and healthier looking hair
  • Mental clarity
  • Improved mood and attitude
  • Improvements in those suffering depression or anxieties
  • Less or no bloating, decreased gas
  • Sustained weight loss
  • Muscle growth; increased fitness
  • Lowered risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer
  • Higher immune function and a general feeling of well being
  • Improved glucose tolerance; decreased insulin secretion and increased insulin sensitivity
  • Improved lipid profiles
  • Healthier gut flora
  • Better absorption of nutrients from food
  • Reduced allergies
  • Paleo diet is anti-inflammatory, most people experience reduction of pain associated with inflammation
  • Improvements in those with respiratory problems such as asthma

My own experience and scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the notion that the Paleo Diet of mostly meats, vegetables, and fruits is the optimal way for humans to eat . In addition Modern food related ailments, examinations of pre-historic findings make it abundantly clear that this the way that we should be eating as well.