You’ve probably heard about the paleo diet or maybe improving digestion and autoimmune conditions by going gluten-free. Maybe you’ve even tried similar plans like The Whole 30.
But what are we actually talking about when we talk paleo ways of eating?
The ultimate goal of the paleo diet is to eat as our ancestors ate. So you may also hear the diet referred to as the “Caveman” diet (although depending on your region, your ancestors would have eaten various types of foods, possibly nothing like the paleo diet).
Today’s paleo diet consists of raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, eggs, and meat. You strictly avoid all gluten and grains (including corn and rice) and avoid or minimize sugar (including the natural sugars found in fruit).
Other foods that aren’t considered paleo include beans (including soybeans), dairy, potatoes (with the exception of sweet potatoes), and peanuts/peanut butter (other nut butters are okay).
Read the labels. Learning to read ingredients on every label and restrict your selections to the basics of the paleo diet will help you avoid things like the frozen bag of chicken that has 10 other things listed in the ingredients other than “chicken.” You’ll also be more aware of how difficult it is to eat food in places like airports and (no surprise) fast food restaurants.
Start with a shopping list of paleo-friendly foods and search for recipes. Go to Pinterest and simply type in “paleo” before or after your favorite foods to find recipes (e.g., paleo brownies or paleo chicken tenders).
Also check out books like Paleo for Dummies, Wheat Belly, or Grain Brain to learn more about the paleo diet, why we stay away from grains in particular, and how this diet can help with various health conditions. And they’re loaded with great recipes, too!
Many people have reported losing 10 pounds or more within the first week of following the diet. There have also been claims of higher cognitive function, better digestion (see “leaky gut syndrome”), and more vibrant hair or skin from all of the healthy fats and oils.
Many followers of the paleo diet have found a lot of success with managing autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) due to its extreme restriction of inflammatory foods. For in addition to avoiding the wrong fats and eliminating sugar, the paleo diet also focuses on raw foods that aren’t overprocessed or combined with additives or artificial ingredients.
Of course, as with any diet, you should speak with your physician about it first, especially if you’re interested in healing through diet. No one way of eating is right for everyone. A knowledgeable integrative practitioner can help you get your eating on a track that’s right for you.
As with most diets, the paleo diet should be considered an ongoing nutritional plan and lifestyle, not just a temporary diet. By straying, you’ll inevitably gain back weight that had been lost and lose the high performance/positive effects of clean eating.
Many new adopters start with an aggressive 30-day reset in order to retrain their mind and body. After the 30 days, you can apply a 90/10 or 80/20 rule to allow for some flexibility or non-paleo “cheats” – so you can go out to dinner or over to a friend’s house without having to pack your paleo snack box.
Finding a balance will also help you keep your sanity and not feel completely restricted from the food that we are otherwise surrounded by.
More than anything, the paleo diet will teach you how to be more mindful of what goes into your food and what food goes into your body. It’s a very clean way of eating. You may find yourself evaluating your body more like an engine and notice that when you begin eating foods off of the plan you feel sluggish and more lethargic. You may feel heavy and have difficulties with digestion.
Clean eating helps your body perform at its highest level; whether that’s controlling an autoimmune condition, improving athletic performance, or simply maintaining a high-functioning, lean and mean physique.
Still not sure about it? Maybe just give it 30 days. Try it out for yourself and see what you think!
Stephanie Kinsey is a blogger and healthcare consultant who has worked with organizations over the last 10 years, implementing, fielding and analyzing data to help them improve the experience of their staff and clients. She is passionate about contemporary approaches to understanding and improving healthcare.
Image courtesy of Stephanie Kinsey