The Paleo Diet

In today’s holistic health circles, the Paleo Diet has gained its place in common household terminology and it may be as familiar or confusing to you as grounding and circadian rhythm, chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease, or wool dryer balls and chemical free laundry detergent.

Photo by Brooke Lark

Photo by Brooke Lark

What is Paleo?

The idea behind Paleo is to go back to the Stone Age (the Paleolithic era) and recreate the way our ancestors lived and ate. Well, sort of. Always on the move, they hunted and gathered for their food sources. They didn’t have farms and therefore didn’t have cattle or grow fields of grain. They relied on the local bounty (or lack of it, depending on the season), and when it was depleted they moved on. The “recent” progression of farming and domestic living has demanded toleration of “recent” foods, and it has taken its toll on our bodies.

While we don’t typically have to hunt for our food anymore (convenient grocery stores and eco-friendly farms do make modern life quite attractive), the Paleo Diet encourages a whole foods lifestyle by avoiding processed and refined foods such as dairy, sugar, and grains, and sticking to natural options such as fruits and vegetables, meats, nuts and seeds.

Photo by Brad Stallcup

Photo by Brad Stallcup

Why Paleo?

In addition to an active lifestyle, the Paleo Diet can help lower the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic inflammation. (1, 2)

Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants which, among other benefits, control harmful free radicals roaming the body, support the immune system, and promote detoxification and repair of cells.

Nuts and seeds can contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory. Eating these types of foods can reduce inflammation and help prevent autoimmune diseases brought on by chronic inflammation.

Lots of healthy fats and proteins from sources such as grass-fed meats, poultry, and wild game can help you feel fuller longer and reduce appetite.

Nutrient dense foods provide critical micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals, that are essential to a healthy functioning body but are often absent in processed and refined foods. (3)

How to Paleo

It can feel overwhelming to begin something new, especially if it’s a lifestyle change rather than something short term. But there are many support systems available including Paleo apps, Paleo pinterest boards, and sites that have meal plans (like this one). And while the Paleo community does have a few sub-categories that have some tweaks here and there (Autoimmune Paleo, or AIP, for example), the basic rule is to stick with healthy whole foods and avoid processed foods. (Some Paleo variations do allow consumption of some gluten free grains such as rice and quinoa. If you are given this option, these should still be eaten in moderation.)

Start by purging your kitchen of anything you won’t be putting into your body.

Take our list of foods to eat when you go food shopping (SEE BELOW). NOTE: If you are dealing with weight, blood sugar imbalances, or candida, it’s best to avoid many high carb fruits and vegetables. Eat the starchy vegetables only occasionally and limit fruits to those with lower sugar content such as berries.

Try consuming a wide variety of these foods to get the benefits of different vitamins and minerals. (While food variation is recommended, you may have specific medical issues to take into account. For example, if you need to keep an eye on your blood sugar, you would want to stick to low carb options for vegetables and avoid high sugar fruits like bananas. Opt for local, fresh and organic when possible.

And if you need to just start somewhere, try these fajitas or burgers for dinner tonight. Learning how to Paleo really is delicious!

Print our user-friendly Paleo diet PDFs: