The Paleo diet has been really popular the last few decade, but like any diet, there is good information and there is bad. I believe strongly in the Paleo way of thinking (I do have my B.Sc. degree in Health and Exercise Science and Sports Medicine from Colorado State University, where the Paleo diet was founded!), but I think there are some things people should know when going Paleo, so I want to break down the basic principles of Paleo and some of the most common mistakes.
The Paleo diet is based on the observation and fact that we have no evolved significantly from our Paleolithic ancestors. While this can be argued with the common sense fact that we have gotten smarter, taller, faster, stronger (just watch athletes 50 years ago compared to today), genetically speaking, our human genome does not change very rapidly and we are genetically the same as we have been for 1000's of years. With this fact being established, we can look at the way the body is innately designed to function and what it is innately designed to thrive on and determine the right diet for us genetically. Some of these principles are based off theories about our ancestors, but they are all now backed by modern science and the research proves these dietary steps will help eliminate the causes of inflammation and prevent and reverse modern diseases.
Top 5 Principles of Paleo:
- Eat Real Food. This one is basic, but it is so crucially important. Think: If I were a caveman, would I eat this? What would a caveman think if you brought him a box of Hamburger Helper, would he or she think it was real food? No, because it's not. Eat food by God, not food by man.
- Think like a Hunter/Gatherer. You may have heard this term, but if you imagine back several thousand years ago, we hadn't yet invented farming and agriculture, we would forage on nuts and seeds and things we found in nature, but we would get most of our calories from hunting animals. Gathering and hunting. This is a natural part of the food chain (most animals hunt for food) and would sustain our energy for longer periods of time, or until the next kill, and we would snack on what we could find in the mean time. For this reason the Paleo diet is heavily based in animal products, nuts, and seeds.
- Eliminate Grains and Sugars. I love this one too. Our bodies are not genetically designed to assimilate grains and sugars, especially at the rate at which we are consuming them today. No added sugars, sweeteners, no refined sugars, but even limiting fruit as a source of sugar. Sugar impacts the insulin response and all sugars and all grains are very inflammatory, causing gut and cellular inflammation and allowing toxins into the body. Also eliminate beans and legumes, as they can also be very inflammatory.
- Eliminate Vegetable Oils - Canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, vegetable oil, margarine, shortening. In past decades our consumption of these oils has increased massively while our consumption of things like butter, ghee, lard, and tallow has decreased - and we have seen a massive rise in heart disease - the number one killer worldwide! Eliminate these damaged fats and oils, they are massively inflammatory.
- Others: -Eliminate dairy products. Exceptions - butter, fats from grass-fed cows like ghee, lard, tallow, or raw unpasteurized dairy is acceptable (Dr. Taylor's opinion). -Eliminate soy products and be careful around other goitrogens which can block thyroid function -Eat QUALITY ANIMAL PRODUCTS. This one is crucial because Paleo is so animal-based! You HAVE to have only: Grass-Fed beef products, organic everything, free-range chicken and eggs, wild-caught fish. The caveman didn't find a cow in a feed lot with 4000 other cattle eating grains and taking hormones. Wild game are great meat options! -Snack on nuts and seeds
Dr. Taylor's Tips for Going Paleo:
I think this is the best diet for a human being to eat for a long, healthy life. With that being said, I am not a fan of the mainstream Paleo image of: "Bacon for breakfast, bacon for lunch, steak for dinner after my crossfit WOD." I think there are several things to keep in mind when going Paleo aside from the above-mentioned principles.
- I avoid pork. Even though pork is 100% Paleo-approved (and for many Paleo-ers it is their #1 staple), it's not something I eat. Pork is typically a more toxic meat than chicken, beef, or wild game. I also avoid (painfully) shellfish and many larger fish due to their higher toxic burden, so I would be careful with some of these meat choices.
- I believe Paleo can and many times should still be plant-based. You don't hear much talk about vegetables with Paleo, but they are 100% approved and should still be the foundation of a good diet, especially when the highest quality meat products aren't available. You can still get a lot of good fats from plants (avocados, coconut products, nuts, seeds), which you want to be consuming a lot of. It's also still very important to get a full spectrum of phytonutrients in your diet, especially in today's toxic world. Make sure every single day you are eating a food from each color of the rainbow to get the full phytonutrient spectrum!
- Make sure you have a healthy gut. Adding in something like fermented foods to a Paleo diet can make a world of difference. This can be cabbage, kimchi, sauerkraut, or even fermented soy like natto or miso or fermented raw dairy like kefir - this is very important to ensure you have a healthy gut microbiome, or bacteria living in your digestive tract.