A bit of history
The Paleo diet is exactly what it sounds like – a diet based on the foods our ancestors ate in Paleolithic times. Our grandparents of 2.6 million years ago really knew what they were doing…
In the stone ages, humans ate what was available to them. There were no supermarkets stocked with Pop Tarts and frozen pizzas. Instead, they ate off the land.
Or in other words, they ate food which was raw, whole and pure.
But to function they obviously couldn’t live off of a diet comprised of fruits and vegetables alone. Not only did these take forever to dig up and prepare, but they didn’t provide close to enough calories and nutrition for basic survival.
So protein was pretty big among these people. If they could kill one bison, they could feed an entire tribe for a couple days.
In the beginning our Paleolithic ancestors waited for other animals to make the kill and ate the leftovers. The problem with this strategy though is that there was never much left besides the carcass once the real killers were done with it. And so, we were forced to invent some tools.
As our tools got better and better, we ate meat more and more, advancing faster and faster as a society. By the time we were eating meat regularly our stomachs had shrunk by 60% and our brains had grown by a whopping 200-300%. Evolution was upon us.
Around 10,000 years ago our first farms began to pop up. Suddenly, our focus shifted from meat to fruits and veggies. Farming had made a plant-based diet a little more sustainable, and our species evolved further. Now, humans were an average of 6 inches taller compared to their meat-eating ancestors of 30,000 years prior. This time in history marked the end of our evolution process.
After this, it wasn’t until 1985 that the first mention of the Paleo diet came about through Boyd Eaton’s article Paleolithic Nutrition: A Consideration of its Nature and Current Implications.
Eatons’ thought process was that if we ate the way our bodies were designed to eat through evolution, we would be healthier than ever. The idea was still kind of revolutionary for the time period, and our people weren’t ready for it back then.
Fast forward 30 years, however, and people are all over the idea. Countless studies are showing that the diet really does have some awesome benefits. And logically all it makes sense. Our bodies were built on the foundation of fresh whole foods, meaning that our bodies thrive on these foods as well.
How to go Paleo
So our bodies were built to thrive on natural foods of the earth. Awesome.
But how many of which foods do doctors and nutritionists suggest you eat?
As a nutritionist myself, this is one of the only diets I don’t suggest a strict breakdown for. Our Paleo ancestors didn’t carry around calculators to figure out how many of their calories came from protein, so why should we?
So although I won’t give you specific percentages, I will give you a basic idea.
Most of your diet should be protein based. That means that each and every one of your meals should be based around seafood or meat.
Next comes fruits veggies. And not just any fruits and veggies, but fruits and veggies low in starch and high in fiber. I know that veggies like lettuce, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, cucumbers, and spinach don’t sound over-the-moon exciting, but if you prepare them properly they’re absolutely delicious. My Paleo eBook that comes free with the purchase of any of my eBooks is a great resource for that. As for fruit, you’re allowed to eat a delicious variety of melons, apples, pears, berries, apricots, peaches, oranges, lemons, and grapefruits. I don’t know about you, but I love my fruits. It’s certainly something I get excited about every time I go paleo.
And then healthy fats. Omega-3’s and monounsaturated fats are best as these are the ones which our paleo ancestors ate. Good places to find these kinds of fats are through flaxseed oil, fish oil, chia seeds, walnuts, basil, oregano, caviar, and fish.
As a side note, it’s important you steer clear of any and all processed foods while on the Paleo diet. Our ancestors didn’t have access to them, and you shouldn’t either.
The same goes for meat that’s pumped with antibiotics and lived in an unhealthy environment. Or fish and eggs that are raised “farm-style”. These animals are raised with a crazy amount of health problems that are known to pass onto the people that eat them. And that’s a risk worth avoiding.
Other things to avoid include cereal grains (such as whole wheat and corn), beans, legumes, dairy, sugar, and sodium. It’s the only way to truly replicate the Paleolithic way of life.
What’s in it for you?
With all these new rules and lifestyle changes to make, the benefits better be sweet.
And don’t worry, they are.
If you manage to properly adhere to the paleo diet, not only will your health improve, but your overall life will improve substantially as well. Here’s what you can expect:
- Better brain function. All that fish is going to go to your head! Omega 3s contribute to better understanding, memory, and sharper thinking overall.
- Decreased risk of developing diseases. Tons of studies prove that there is a strong relationship between the paleo diet and less disease, which makes sense. You’ll be steering clear of all the processed foods known to give us health problems. Our bodies just weren’t built to handle them…
- Weight loss. Whole foods have way less unhealthy calories than processed foods do. That being said, the paleo diet will most definitely help you lose weight.
- Muscle building and tone. As mentioned, the paleo diet is rich in protein, and protein helps build muscles! Whether you’re looking to bulk up or slim down, the paleo diet will help you substantially.
- Increased insulin sensitivity. Since the paleo diet will help you cut down on processed carbs and sugar, there will be a lot less glucose circulating around in your veins.
- Less allergies. Processed foods are packed with hundreds of ingredients we’ve never heard of. That being said, it’s no wonder so many of us break out in allergic reactions for reasons unknown. Thankfully, the paleo diet eliminates processed foods, which decreases the chance of nasty allergic reactions overall.
My favorite part about the paleo diet, however, is that it not only benefits people, but the world too! A paleo way of life creates less waste, hurts less animals, and helps the environment thrive overall.
The paleo diet helps you achieve something bigger.
My personal experience
As a sports nutritionist, I most often find myself recommending the paleo diet to clients looking to bulk up. But since it promotes such a natural way of living, I recommend it to pretty much anyone looking to improve their health.
There is a large variety of foods to choose from when it comes to going paleo, and the large amount of protein involved keeps hungry at bay. I remember one of my clients saying “Damn, this ain’t no starvation diet, is it?!” to which I burst out laughing and agreed.
For confidentiality reasons, I can’t mention the names of clients I have put on the diet, but I can describe their overall results.
And here’s what they were:
- Decreased body fat percentage
- Increased energy
- Rapid muscle building and toning
- Decreased brain fog
- Sharper understanding
- Sharper memory
- Stronger bones and muscles
- Improved endurance
- And overall happiness and joy in life
It’s amazing what eating right can do for people!
If you’re looking to accomplish any of the benefits listed in this article, going paleo will certainly help you with that. So, what should you do next?
I recommend doing a little more of your own research before jumping into the diet. You need to figure out all the ins and the outs of the diet before taking it on, or you’ll just be setting yourself up for failure.
If a convenient package of all these ins and outs along with tips, tricks, and a couple recipes sounds like what you need to get started, my Paleo eBook is a perfect resource. I currently give it away as a free gift with all my books.
Otherwise, start Googling! It might take a little longer than reading my Paleo eBook would, but as long as you’re informed I’ll be happy for it.