The 'Paleo Diet', also (unfortunately) known as the 'Caveman Diet', is not a single diet prescription. It is not a rapid weight-loss diet, a fad diet. I posit that it isn't a diet at all.
|Average American Diet is 60% processed foods, 30% (processed) animal products and only 5% fruits and vegetables - according to Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.|
- Real, whole foods - both animal and plant products - that are high in nutrients and low in toxins [Always]
- Raw or lightly cooked non-starchy vegetables - especially leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage), roots (carrots, parsnips), tubers (sweet potato, yams, taro) and bulbs (onions, garlic) - preferably organic, local and in season [At almost every meal]
- Wild caught seafood preferably from cold water fish that eat algae or other small fish - e.g. sardines, mackerel, salmon (NOT FARMED), white fish and tuna but not too many predatory fish. [Most days]
- Wild or grass-fed/pasture-raised ruminant animals (animals that eat grass), pork, poultry [Often but not necessarily every day]
- Pastured whole eggs from healthy free roaming chickens but not from caged, soy/corn-fed sick animals [I eat about two per day]
- Additional naturally occurring fats (including saturated fat) predominantly from coconut products (raw virgin coconut oil, MCT oil, coconut cream/milk), grass-fed butter, extra virgin olive oil, lard, bacon fat and cocoa nibs/powder/dark chocolate [Every day].
- Some fruit, predominantly berries or other low-fructose fruit but not dried fruit [no more than 1-2 serves per day]
- Some nuts, preferably those with lower omega-6 content such as macadamia. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts and cashews are fairly healthy varieties. All nuts are high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats so should be eaten sparingly [Not as a staple]
- Starch from vegetables (sweet potato, yams, plantains, pumpkin, squash) or even white rice [when highly active or when more carbs are needed, but not every day].
- Probiotic/fermented foods including kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir or even full fat yoghurt if tolerated and preferably from raw milk. [Several times per week]
- Some other raw or grass-fed dairy such as hard cheese or sour cream if tolerated [Not as a staple]
- Seaweed or other sea vegetables for iodine [where possible]
- Organ meats - especially liver - and bone broth [where possible]
- Processed foods - you know, all the crap that comes in boxes or shiny packages / gets advertised on TV / is on the internal shelves of the supermarket / is sold in a fast food restaurant, convenience store / suspiciously doesn't go mouldy - including pretty much any food product with multiple ingredients or ingredients that you can't picture growing in/on the ground like butylated hydroxyanisole. WTF!?
- Refined fats from vegetable and seed oils including "heart healthy" sunflower, safflower, soy, corn, canola and especially hydrogenated margarines and trans fats. (If ants won't touch it nor should you!)
- Nutrient-poor carbohydrates from all GRAINS (wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, sorghum, oats, corn, rice, as well as cous cous and quinoa).
- Refined sugar in any form - including sucrose (table sugar), fructose (high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, agave) or even honey unless it's a very occasional treat.
- Artificial sweeteners. Real food is sweet enough when you stop eating processed foods.
- Most pasteurized dairy, especially milk and low-fat milk products, with the exception of grass-fed butter or cream or raw milk products for those who can tolerate it and find it!
- Conventional/feed-lot/factory meat including corn/soy-fed cows, chickens, pigs and especially processed conventional meats such as salami, pepperoni, boloney etc.
- All LEGUMES (beans, peas, lentils and peanuts) and especially SOY and all soy products including soy milk, tofu, tempeh with the exception of perhaps miso and gluten-free soy sauce.
- Fruit juice. Eat the whole damn fruit or not at all! The jury is still out on 'green smoothies' for me, especially if you're adding a whole apple or other sources of fructose such as five carrots. The vitamins from green vegetables such as kale or spinach are better absorbed when lightly cooked and eaten with fat.
- Too much omega-6 (linoleic acid) from the fat in poultry or from nuts and nut flours. I think this is a common mistake of many well-intentioned Paleo-ers. Eating a whole chicken (which I used to do) or baking a cake with 300g of almond flour is effectively like drinking half a cup of vegetable oil - highly pro-inflammatory.
- All drinks that contain calories except for unsweetened coffee or tea [daily] or coconut water, kombucha, red wine, tequila or vodka straight or with soda water and fresh lime [occasionally]. No beer sorry. The blood of a young sacrificial lamb is totally Paleo. Just kidding. We love animals... They are delicious.
I'm not a huge believer in supplementation with the following exceptions:
- Iodized salt if seaweed or other sea vegetables are not a part of your regular diet
- vitamin D if you live at an extreme latitude and cannot get enough naturally from the sun. Australians and even New Yorkers are probably fine given some sun exposure throughout the year.
- Magnesium, especially at night to assist sleep (and constipation). I take 5-10g of Natural Calm powder in water 30 minutes before bed
- 1-4g of EPA and DHA from Fish Oil, especially if not eating enough oily fish
- Perhaps a probiotic supplement - especially to help repopulate good gut bacteria after a course of antibiotics
- A top quality grass-fed, cold processed whey protein - especially if training hard and/or on rare occasions where eating real food is not practicable.
- Milk Thistle seed extract for liver function - especially if consuming too much alcohol
Just because you adopt a Paleo diet doesn't mean you have to give up your worldly possessions, build yourself a mud-floor hut and hunt wild kangaroo in the outback of Australia with sharp sticks… although that would definitely be "strict Paleo". However, there are some other lifestyle factors that I believe are essential to a healthy and more Paleo/Primal existence.
- Sleep enough and sleep well. Take afternoon naps if you're in sleep debt
- Get adequate sun exposure. Play outdoors - preferably in beautiful natural surroundings or by the ocean if at all possible. Go bare-foot.
- Reduce toxins - from plastics, BPA and known carcinogens (charred food, cigarettes, pesticides, pollution), etc.
- If you aren't into cooking or grocery shopping, work on it. There's nothing more satisfying than picking out your food directly at a market from farmers/grocers who actually care, then taking it home and cooking something simple and delicious. I guess growing your own food would be better still… One day!
- Sit as little as possible. Walk more. Drive less. Bike more.
- Manage stress however you can - yoga or meditation may seem vain to the uninitiated but it really does work.
- Read. Listen to podcasts. Go for long walks. Get a dog. Don't let social media and emails stress you out too much.
- Show gratitude that you have the means to eat Paleo and to optimize your health rather than just to survive. A great proportion of the world rely on cheap cereal grains to subsist. Be thankful that you can afford quality meat, fish, vegetables and fruits... and then eat them!
- Find exercise/activity that you enjoy and do it regularly. Ideally learn to like weights and sprints!
- Share you Paleo lifestyle with those who are interested but don't be over-zealous about it. Paleo may change your life but unlike Christianity and CrossFit it is not a religion. Each to their own. Except for vegans. But hey, everyone makes mistakes!
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