What is Paleo?
The Paleo diet is a way of eating that mimics the hunter-gatherer diet of our ancestors from the Paleolithic Era (early Stone Age). The diet has been adapted to fit within the busy hustle and bustle and constraints that modern day life brings us and is about removing processed foods from your existing diet and replacing them with natural, organic, and nutritious foods gathered from sustainable sources.
The Paleo diet is gluten, grain, and in some cases dairy free. It is higher in protein, lower in carbohydrates, higher in healthy fats, higher in vitamin and minerals, and lower in sodium than the typical western diet. Although ‘treats’ are acceptable on a Paleo diet it is advised that these are kept to a minimum.
Although the Paleo diet may eliminate certain food groups it in no way eliminates anything from the nutritional value a human being requires. Protein, carbohydrates, fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals are all accounted for.
Paleo diet staples include:
- Fresh fruits, preferably berries due to their low sugar content.
- Pastured/grass-fed lean meats.
- Oily fish and seafood.
- Root vegetables and starchy tubers such as sweet potatoes.
- Nuts and seeds.
- Healthy unrefined fats such as coconut oil, avocados and avocado oil, olive oil, nut oils, and seed oils.
- Sea salts.
- Fermented foods; sauerkraut, kefir, fermented vegetables, and kombucha.
- Drinks such as nut milks, herbal/fruit teas, rooibos, and green tea.
Acceptable on a Paleo diet but to be consumed sparingly:
- Unrefined sugars such as pure maple syrup, raw honey, coconut nectar, date syrup, and blackstrap molasses.
- Dried fruits and fruit juices/smoothies due to their high sugar content.
- Flour replacers and starches such as coconut flour, almond flour, sesame flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, and arrowroot starch.
- Caffeinated coffee and teas.
- Plants from the nightshade (Solanaceae) family such as tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, chillies, and potatoes.
- Sprouted grains – as these are technically plants and not grains they can be consumed.
- Raw, unpasteurised, and grass-fed dairy such as raw butter, cheese, and milk may be tolerant to some people and often falls into a grey area.
Foods to be completely avoided on the Paleo diet:
- Processed foods and refined sugars.
- Grains and cereals; corn, rice, wheat, barley, amaranth, quinoa, and oats.
- Legumes and pulses such as peanuts, lentils, beans, soya, and peas.
- Alcohol and fizzy drinks.
- Table salt, flavourings, and additives.
When implemented the Paleo diet can:
- Encourage weight loss.
- Improve cardiovascular health.
- Improve mental health and well-being.
- Stabilise blood sugar.
- Increase energy.
- Improve quality of sleep.
- Improve immune response.
- Improve skin, hair, nails, and teeth.
- Build lean muscle mass.
- Improve sports performance.
The Paleo diet is suitable for people suffering from diabetes, chronic illnesses, and autoimmune diseases, as well as children and even athletes. There are a number of variations of the Paleo diet and you may want to find out which one is suitable for you before making the switch.
Living a Paleo lifestyle isn’t just about eating the right food, it’s about assessing factors in your life that could pose a risk to your overall health and longevity such stress levels, sleep patterns, and your fitness regime.
To help maintain a healthy lifestyle:
- Sleep for 8 hours; this must be good quality uninterrupted sleep.
- Avoid outside stressors.
- Avoid blue light devices.
- Connect with nature; go exploring or even go foraging. Your body needs vitamin D that the light from the sun provides.
- Move slowly but often; walking and other low level cardio activities such as jogging and swimming.
- Lift heavy; bodyweight exercises, kettlebells, and olympic lifting are all great methods of lifting heavy.
- Use explosive movements; sprinting, box jump, broad jumps, and swim sprints.
- Move naturally; jumping, crawling, climbing, and throwing.
- Indulge in some ‘playtime’ activities such as obstacle courses.