You might have heard the famous paleo diet nowadays and saw on the Internet or heard it from other people. Still, a lot of people ask, “What is paleo diet?” Because they just heard the word or probably judge that it is harmful.
Before I tell you, what paleo diet is all about, let me tell you why you should reconsider changing your diet.
In the last 50 years, there is a significant increase in the number of cases of obesity and cardiovascular diseases, not just in the US. These health problems are global concerns, too. Do you know the reason why? Look at the foods on your table or inside your refrigerator. Maybe there is bread, ice cream, soda, meatball spaghetti, potatoes, and more.
Do you know what is even more alarming? According to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the Americans are eating more calories than they should. Look at the Americans’ top sources of calories that this committee has issued. The list is in chronological order.
Top 10 Sources of Calories in the US
- Grain-based desserts (granola bars, pies, cakes, and cookies)
- Yeast bread
- Chicken and chicken-mixed dishes
- Soda and energy drinks
- Alcoholic beverages
- Mexican dishes
- Beef and beef mixed dishes
- Dairy desserts
Looking on those lists, you can say that the Americans are unknowingly killing themselves by eating those unwanted calories. This list is just an example. You know how delicious and tempting cookies and cakes are. For this reason, excess intake of calories is possibly a global concern, too. Other countries are also concerned about the growing number of cases of obesity, heart attack, and diabetes.
According to the standard American diet, sugar is the main culprit to ruining a person’s health even if he or she tries to eat according to the food pyramid. There is sugar in almost any kind of food nowadays.
This global problem is what the paleo diet wants to solve. Basically, this diet trims the excessive sugar intake, thus, fewer calories.
However, you do not have to worry that you might not enjoy your favorite meal if you choose to follow this diet. In fact, the paleo diet is one of the easiest to follow among any other types of dieting.
What Paleo Diet Is All About
Paleo diet became famous due to the influential books, “The Paleo Solution” by Robb “Wolf and “The Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson. For this reason, you might have heard the phrase “paleo diet,” but you might not know what it really is.
Let me introduce it to you by telling you the origin and the reasons why you should start eating paleo meals. First, let me tell you the why this widespread diet is called paleo.
The paleo diet is not new. What is paleo refers to the eating habits of the Paleolithic humans who existed 2.6 million years ago. These people would only hunt and gather food just to fill their empty stomach. Their life was simple back then that they only used simple cooking tools and fire to prepare food.
During their time, there were no machinery, preservatives, and laboratories to complicate the food preparation. Plants, animals, and their products did not have to go through processing just to make them tastier and prolong their shelf life. Paleo foods were natural and free from harmful chemicals. In other words, these are real foods.
On the other hand, 10,000 years ago, agriculture came into the picture. To make my point clear, I have nothing against agriculture. In fact, I believe that it is crucial for modern sustenance. What I am against is the agricultural revolution that paved the way to the existence of food innovation and the invention of harmful preservatives, insecticides, and chemicals that are harmful to humans. Also, additional harmful calorie sources have been cultured.
As you have noticed, we barely eat real foods nowadays. From canned goods to the bottle of milk, almost every food is a mess. For this reason, the aim of following the paleo diet meal plan is for us to revert to the way our ancestors ate their food back then when there were no chemicals and preservatives. In paleo diet, you are only allowed to eat fresh fruits, grains, vegetables, and meat.
To know if a particular food is included in the paleo food list is to ask yourself if your ancestors will eat it. If you think he or she would not, then you better look for something else. The bottom line of the paleo diet basics is: “Don’t eat it if you think your Paleolithic ancestors would not eat it.”
To give you a head start, here are the basic paleo diet rules to consider knowing which foods are considered in paleo diet:
- If you think that paleo diet weight loss includes calorie counting or portion control, you are wrong. You can eat and sleep in the most natural way. Eat whenever you feel hungry. Sleep when the sun goes down, and wake up without the help of the alarm clock.
- Eat foods high in fats. No, not just any fat. Take note that there are so-called saturated and unsaturated fats. The former is good for you, and the other one will give you the heart attack. Paleo diet encourages you to eat foods that are high in saturated fats, like coconut oil and grass-fed butter. Lard is also good when it comes from healthy animals.
- Eat a moderate amount of protein. In paleo diet, the most preferred are the grass-fed ones. It does not matter if it is white or red meat. Your ancestors would not even bother themselves to think about it. However, pick the lean parts, especially if you want to lose weight.
- Eat a large amount of vegetables. You already know how rich they are in fibers, vitamins, and minerals. Almost any type of diet encourages you to eat the greens, not just the paleo diet.
- Artificial sweeteners and refined sugars of any kind are no-no’s. If you want to sweeten a food, go for honey or maple syrup.
- Eat low to moderate amounts of carb. If you are trying to lose weight, eat less carb.
- Eat low to moderate amounts of fruits and nuts. Remember that fruits are rich in a natural sugar called fructose. The paleo diet encourages you to eat less sugar as much as possible. That’s why it is important to control your fruit intake. If you have auto-immune diseases or if you want to lose weight, eat less nuts.
- Stay away from hydrogenated and vegetable fats. Examples include margarine, corn oil, canola oil, and even olive oil when you use it to cook food. Eat olive oil raw.
- There is nothing wrong with giving yourself a treat sometimes. If you’re not a strict follower of the paleo diet and only eat for its benefits, you can have a treat sometimes by eating a non-paleo treat. Eat dark chocolate or probably an ice cream.
- Do not eat legumes. Yes, you heard it right. Even though you see them naturally grow in plants, legumes are totally banned in paleo diet due to the following reasons:
- Legumes are nutritious only when they are raw. The proteins they provide are not as good as from the animal sources. Most nutrients found on legumes like magnesium and iron remain unabsorbed in the body because of their high levels of phytates. Phytates prevent the absorption of these nutrients in the body.
Also, they prevent the digestive enzymes and protease from functioning well. That is why, if you would notice, you’ll feel gassier after eating a significant amount of legumes.
- Phytoestrogen is also found in legumes. These anti-nutrient leads to overproduction of estrogen in the body, resulting in hormonal imbalance. Long-term exposure to hormonal imbalance may lead to asthma, cancer, and infertility and increases the possible risk of having Alzheimer’s disease.
- Legumes are rich in saponins which tend to bind to the intestinal cells. These could go through the bloodstream along with harmful bacteria and chemicals that may damage the cell membranes.
To sum it up, legumes are no-no’s in paleo diet because they are destructive to the digestive system. If you still insist on eating legumes, prepare them in the most natural way by fermenting or soaking to reduce the amounts of anti-nutrients found in them.
- There is still a debate whether dairies are accepted in the paleo diet food list or not, but as you can notice, most dairies nowadays are processed in a factory. Cavemen would just kill cows and eat them. They would not culture them and drink their milk. However, some people believe that milk is still natural and should still be considered acceptable in the paleo diet. However, it depends on the kind of milk. The more processed it is, the more non-paleo it becomes. Thus, whole milk is accepted, not the powdered milk.
- Bread and cookies are not allowed. Yes, bread and cookies are not included in the paleo diet menu.
Benefits of Paleo Foods
Paleo diet encourages you to eat in the most natural way. The paleo diet foods include meat and vegetables. In this diet, you will get to eat more vegetables, fiber, protein, omega fatty acids, unsaturated fat, vitamins, and minerals. You will eat less saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. Moreover, you can easily order them in a restaurant unlike in other diet types.
How to Create a Meal Plan
There is no definite paleo meal plan since the ancient humans wouldn’t care about having a meal plan or a diet plan. They would just eat and sleep the natural way. We are the ones who coined the word paleo diet as a basis of their eating habits.
You do not have to pressure yourself to come up with the different kinds of paleo chicken recipes, because unlike the other types, the paleo diet is one of the easiest to follow.
However, due to the modern lifestyle that we have, it is still good to create one just for yourself. You are free to create your own meal plan based on the combination of meat and vegetables or fruits on the suggested food options. Paleo breakfast recipes are just your common breakfast without the bread and cereals. You can create high-protein meat-based paleo dinner recipes.
Breakfast: eggs, bacon, fruits, vegetables, and meat
Lunch: lettuce leaf sandwich, meat, vegetables, steak, chicken salad drizzled with olive oil, nuts, stir-fry vegetables, or burger without buns
Dinner: burger, salsa, vegetable, salmon, ground beef, fruits, pork, steak, sweet potatoes, salmon, and grilled chicken
Snacks: eggs, fruits, nuts, leftovers, and vegetables
Desserts: bars, brownies, carrot cake, flourless chocolate brownies, cheesecakes, and cupcakes (Use almond or coconut flour and natural sweeteners for the taste.)
In creating the meal plan, you are the boss. In fact, there are a lot of typical meals that you can eat, too. What you have to take into consideration is you should distinguish which food is allowed and not allowed to eat. Then, you may start creating your own paleo diet plan and paleo recipes if you want to.
List of foods that are allowed to eat:
- Maple syrup
- Lean meats (as much as possible buy the grass-fed ones)
- Fruits that are less in sugar
- Nuts, except peanuts
- Natural oils like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil
- Grass-fed butter
List of foods that are allowed to eat in moderation:
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
List of foods that are not allowed to eat:
- Even the allowed food types if they contain chemicals
- Artificial sweeteners
- Refined sugar
- Junk foods
- Canned goods
Finding a recipe is not difficult on the paleo diet. As you can see, you are allowed to eat almost everything. There is almost no inhibition on the amount of calories or portion that you have to take in, except only when you are trying to lose weight. To start your journey to eating like a caveman here is one of the easy paleo recipes that you can try.
Paleo recipe: Lamb stew
- Cubes of lean lamb meat
- Mirepoix (carrots, garlic, onion)
- Beef stock
- Cooking fat (lard, grass-fed butter)
- Sea salt
- Ground black pepper
- Melt the fat in a saucepan. This will serve as the oil for cooking food.
- Sear the pieces of lamb, and set them aside.
- Sauté the mirepoix until all the ingredients are cooked.
- Add the remaining veggies, except the thyme.
- Pour the beef stock.
- Make sure to stir from time to time, and scrape the bottom to prevent scorching.
- Add the thyme, and adjust the taste.
- Put the pieces of lamb back in the saucepan until thoroughly cooked.
As you notice, the paleo diet is not that difficult. There is no definite rule on which time of the day you should eat your food. You do not have to worry how much calories you have to take. All you have to do is to think if your ancestor would eat a particular food or not. You can even easily find the foods even in the restaurant even if they are not labeled as “paleo diet.”
Also, take a look at the article I wrote about the paleo diet definition.