Eat real food, not chemicals.

WHAT IS PALEO?

Paleo. You only eat meat, right?

 

I am often asked, “So what is paleo?” The term “paleo” is used broadly used to mean many different things depending on who is defining it. It is derived from the word paleolithic; as in the stone age, the dawn of historic man.  Pretty much, way before any form of agriculture, microwave ovens, and chocolate frappuccino lattes.  Paleo eating might also be talked about using the terms “ancestral eating”, “cave-man diet”, “whole food nutrition”, “nutrient dense eating” and “grain/gluten-free diets”. Unprocessed, whole foods, as close to how they grow wild in nature as possible, this is the idea behind, “what is paleo?” And to answer the first question, paleo eaters usually eat more fruits and vegetables than vegetarians.

 

A Paleo Lifestyle

 

I don’t take it to mean an exact re-enactment of the life of paleolithic man, rather using ideas about eating and exercising from those times and adapting them to encourage better health and active living in our modern times. Paleo lifestyle is a term that invites people to get back to the basics of a healthy life: eating whole, unprocessed, organic foods, breathing fresh air, time spent outdoors in sunshine, long restful sleep, keeping our bodies in motion, and finding joy in leisure, play and interaction with family and friends. Slowing down, no overbooked schedules, less complicated pastimes, just enough stuff, only having things you really use, activities that nurture your spirit and give meaning to your life, these are all part of the essence of a paleo lifestyle.

 

What Is Paleo Eating?

 

Paleo eating is not an attempt to exactly duplicate our paleolithic ancestors style of eating. If it were, how would we know which ancestors we were talking about? Most of us have a rich mixture of racial heritage, would we choose one over all others? Depending on from where, geographically in the world, one is descended, you could be talking about drastically different paleolithic food groups and types. Warm weather climates would mean tubers, fruits and vegetables, with less emphasis on animal protein. Colder climates would mean less fruits and vegetables, and a larger emphasis on animal protein.

 

Paleo critics often want to box us in; “too much meat”, “malnutrition without grains”, “planet can’t sustain such eating practices”, “elite expensive food”, “impossible to scale for the masses”. What critics are not acknowledging, is the vast scope of variety in one person’s paleo diet versus another. There is no one paleo diet.

 

    ~examples of 3 very different paleo eating styles~

 

Examples: 

#1 paleo person: eats fairly high carb (200-300 gm/day) mostly vegetables, roots, tubers, leafy greens, seaweed, wide array of fruits, nuts and seeds, eggs and organic raw dairy, no grains, no legumes, no fish, no meat.

#2 paleo person: eats moderate carb (100-200 gm/day) fibrous, lower starch vegetables and lower carb fruits like berries, eggs, nuts, seeds, mostly fish and shellfish, rare fowl, no dairy, no pork, no red meat.

#3 paleo person: eats lower carb (50-100 gms/day) large variety of greens and fibrous vegetables and tubers, occasional fruit, high fat grass-fed red meats, abundant fowl, game, fish and eggs, no dairy, no grains, no legumes (this is the most commonly identified style of a “paleo diet”),  yet all three of these people are eating “paleo”.

 

What critics don’t like to leave room for is the vast variation in human bodies and their individual food and exercise needs. Paleo is the opposite of one cookie-cutter-diet-in-a-box eating. Each person experiments with different types of paleo food and macro-nutrient levels (protein, carb, fats), to feel for themselves how their bodies react and what makes them thrive, then they eat those foods. 40 different people can be eating 40 different lists of foods, and they all can be eating “paleo”.

 

I believe what the terms people use to describe paleo eating do have in common, is their attempt to describe an intake of food that is as close to its natural state as possible. Whole foods, how they are found in nature, without processing, and changing from their original form so as to become unrecognizable “food-like products”.  Foods that have not been industrially processed, mixed with chemicals and preservatives and placed in a package meant for a shelf life of years. Also advocated by paleo eaters, is the avoidance of foods that contain multiple antinutrients, which are difficult for our guts to digest and process. Think – roasted organically raised chicken, versus chemical, food additive, and preservative laden frozen chicken nuggets.

 

Just as our paleolithic ancestors the world over ate differently, modern-day man has a varied diet due to accessibility of various foods geographically available to each of us in our part world. Every body system is highly individual and will be able to tolerate some types of foods better than others. This is why a paleo eating style encompasses such a wide range of foods.

 

           ~ready to give paleo eating a try?~

 

Take a look at my post, Paleo Foods: What To Eat and Drink. There is a great variety of food to choose from. What the general concept of all “paleo diet plans” have in common is the idea of unprocessed, whole foods.  A variety of animal proteins, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Nutrient dense foods without chemicals or preservatives. Most paleo plans omit gluten grains, legumes and most dairy. These foods have tended to cause the majority of intolerance and adverse health effects. That said, within the paleo-sphere, there are those who feel they digest organic dairy well, so they eat it. Some feel that soaked and sprouted grains and legumes are okay for their systems, so they eat them. There are even ova-lacto paleo vegetarians. Am I getting the point across that there is a hugely wide scope of food choices while eating paleo? Good, it should not stress you out to think you are going to be tied down to some hard and fast rules for eating paleo.

 

Fresh, organic and local are things to strive for if possible and affordable to you. This is your chance to experiment on yourself to see how foods make you feel. Some people will feel better and manage their weight and health markers best with higher protein, higher paleo fats, lower carb choices and no sweeteners. Others will find they do better with just the opposite, lower protein, lower fat, higher carbs plus more starches, including resistant starches. This wide variety of choices is the reason you can make a paleo lifestyle and eating plan that you can stick to for life, and not a fad diet that you force yourself to put up with for only a short time, then fall back into poor, unhealthy eating habits.

 

What is paleo? Not a straightforward, one-size-fits-all concept of eating, rather one full of individual choices and preferences, just like the millions of people who have chosen to eat this way.

 

If you feel ready to take the plunge into paleo eating, I urge you to try it out using my Payton’s Paleo 30 Day Challenge as a guide!