“The Paleo Diet is the unique diet to which our species is genetically adapted. This program of eating was not designed by diet doctors, faddists, or nutritionists, but rather by Mother Nature’s wisdom acting through evolution and natural selection. The Paleo Diet is based upon extensive scientific research examining the types and quantities of foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. The foundation of the Paleo Diet is meat, seafood, and unlimited consumption of fresh fruits and veggies.” ~ Dr. Loren Cordain
More importantly, a Paleo lifestyle is an ever-evolving framework of principles for living well. Experts and laypersons in the Paleo community often differ in some of their recommendations, as well as in their personal choices. This is all part of a healthy debate which is particularly important as knowledge of the principles of robust health remains in its infancy. Individuals also differ in their tolerances and preferences. It is up to you to experiment and discover what works best for you.
The modern Paleo is a personalized work in progress!
At the base of the Paleo diet is the idea of eating real foods, prepared well There are, however, further principles upon which to create your Paleo lifestyle and achieve your optimal wellness goals.
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Foods To Avoid
- Wheat, corn, rice, or other grains. If you choose to eat some ancient grains, eat them sparingly and prepare them to minimize toxins, such as by sprouting and soaking. Wheat seems to be the most inflammatory of all the grains, while rice seems to be the most benign.
- Sugar, corn syrup, agave nectar, rice syrup, barley syrup and artificial sweeteners. If you must have some sweetener for a dish, you might try some more natural, Paleo friendly sweeteners. With time, your tastes will adjust: ordinary sweets will taste cloying, but formerly bland vegetables will seem delightfully sweet.
- Industrialized seed oils including canola oil, corn oil, or soy oil. Make your own mayonnaise and salad dressing. Avoid fried foods in restaurants: rancid vegetable oils are standard for frying. Avoid all hydrogenated fats as they contain damaging artificial trans fats. Choose naturally occurring animal fats – like ghee, lard, bacon grease and tallow along with unrefined coconut oil, avocado oil and olive oil.
- If you choose to eat some legumes, eat them sparingly and soak and sprout them to minimize toxins. Don't eat soy as it is goitrogenic and contains estrogen-mimicking hormones. Fermented soy might be acceptable in small amounts if tolerated.
- Dairy products other than butter and maybe heavy cream. You don’t need dairy, but if you can’t live without it, learn more about how to incorporate dairy into your Paleo diet here and consider raw, full-fat and/or fermented dairy.
Foods to Enjoy
- Humanely raised animals, preferably pastured ruminants and poultry as they tend to have a better ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fats than those fed on grains and soy. Avoid meats treated with antibiotics and hormones as much as possible. Be adventurous: don't neglect organ meats and bone marrow. Make homemade stock made from leftover bones or get the best ready-made bone broth right here>>>>
- Eggs, preferably from pastured chickens. Eggs enriched with omega-3s are a good option too.
- Fish and shellfish preferably caught wild rather than farm-raised.
- Vegetables. These are particularly good when slathered in good fats. Source well and choose organic, local and seasonal where ever possible.
- Naturally occurring fats including like coconut oil and butter or clarified butter. Beef tallow, lard and duck fat are also good, but only if they come from healthy and well-treated animals. Olive, avocado and macadamia oil are also good fats to use in salads and to drizzle over food. Check out our fat guide for more options >>>>
- Seasonal, local fruits. Fruits are often high in sugars, particularly fructose which can be particularly hard on the liver when consumed in excess. Minimize tropical fruits and enjoy berries plentifully.
- Nuts, if tolerated can be eaten in moderation. Nuts may require soaking and drying to eliminate toxins. Peanuts are legumes, not nuts. Learn more about the benefits and pitfalls of nuts here and here. Be aware of omega-6 load in some nuts. Grouped and ranked from least to most omega-6 content:
- (good) macadamias;
- (okay) cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios;
- (worse) pecans, brazil nuts, and pine nuts
- (terrible) walnuts.
- Fermented and cultured foods including dairy-free yogurt, kefir, and homemade sauerkraut and fermented vegetables are beneficial for your gut bacteria. Enjoy them.
Pay attention to your body; experiment to find what foods work best for you. If you have a health condition or an autoimmune disease, test foods by a process of elimination. Try completely removing potentially problematic foods including all grains, dairy, nuts, eggs, and nightshades for about a month to determine if you feel better without them. No matter what others may say, eat in a way that works for you. Ultimately, you should "look, feel, and perform" better than ever.
The concepts of "moderation" and "balance" as applied to diet are often meaningless on a personal level. Identify your range of healthy foods, and eat a wide variety of these. Experiment new foods, as your tastes will change over time. People will consume different macronutrient ratios on a paleo diet, depending on their bodily needs, health goals, and lifestyle. You will need find the right range for you.
Use the tools and support available to you – websites, cookbooks, recipes and some of the best Paleo meals delivered right to your door every week.
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- Sleep sufficiently and sleep well. Take time off time to recover from workouts. Don't abuse your body by failing to give it the rest it requires.
- Supplement with vitamin D, based on your blood levels. Consider the following supplements as well: cod liver oil and butter oil; iodine and selenium; magnesium and potassium; vitamin K2; fish oil. Try to get as much good nutrition from real foods as you can, but recognize that depleted soils impact the nutritional values of the foods available.
- Move your body. Consider alternatives to the standard "cardio" sessions. Try short, high-intensity workouts instead. Try weight training, sprinting, and barefoot running. For more structured programs, try CrossFit or Body by Science. Focus on moving around during the day
- Beware of toxins, such as the BPA lining all canned goods and bromine in hot tubs. You may want to consider using stainless steel or cast-iron cookware as mon-stick pans can be a problematic. For pure, clean water, use a reverse-osmosis or distiller system.
- Skip meals periodically, particularly when good food isn't available. Try intermittent fasting. Feed yourself well, but vary how much you eat.
- Reduce external stressorsin your life as much as possible. Get outside, have fun, laugh, smile, relax, discover, travel, learn and enjoy life like a daring adventure!
A Note on Cheat Days
If you choose to eat non-paleo foods on occasion, don't beat yourself up, refer to yourself as an abject failure and bury yourself in a gallon of ice cream. Instead, acknowledge any "cheats" as such and recognize that you'll likely pay a price for them. Sometimes, those cheats gently (or not so gently) remind you of the reasons you choose your Paleo diet. Don't make a habit of such "cheats" by scheduling "cheat meals" or "cheat days." They may happen on occasion or when fitting. Accept and move on.
You are 100% responsible for your own life, health, and happiness. There is no need to submit to the standard dogmas simply because they are conventionally accepted. Read, think, inquire, and judge for yourself.
The Paleo diet really is that simple. Once you begin your journey, you will quickly become aware of how well and positively your body, mind and spirit will adapt to these changes. Your health is a journey, and focusing on how your Paleo lifestyle serves and benefits you, will allow you to enjoy the ride.