Weight watchers, low carb, keto, vegan, Whole30, eat paleo, on and on blah blah blah.
Today’s diets seem like the clicks from our high school days. How cool are you and are you 100% abiding the diet laws of your chosen program? Have we not grown up at all? I will never be 100% anything. Unless it’s 100% crazy. Then sure, I won’t contest that. But, following any plan to a T isn’t my personality. I will say though, I do abide by a paleo lifestyle most often, with room for beer, chocolate, dairy, and bread on occasion. Why? Because I freaking like them okay! Does my body love them? Not unless you consider breakouts, bacne, and constant brain fuzz love. So, I choose to eat those things in moderation. The result? My body seems to thrive when I eat paleo (ish). 😉
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What is Paleo?
Essentially Paleo is eating a diet which consists mostly of:
Sounds like a pretty solid eating plan right?
Honestly we know processed food is bad for us and sugar isn’t the best. And how many of your friends are gluten free? Wheat products have been pushed heavily on us by large corporations not because grain products are high in nutrition, but because they’re cheap to grow and the markup makes it extremely profitable. As much as it’s been touted that grains are easy for our bodies to digest, the science isn’t there to back that up. Legumes present with many of the same problems.
The issue with grains & legumes: phytates
(A quick summary by me taken from Practical Paleo)
Phytates are the indigestible mineral-binding compounds found in the hulls of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. (Yes I said nuts and seeds too, but we’ll get to why they’re okay in a moment.) While animals have the correct enzymes to digest and break down phytates, we do not. Phytates adhere to the minerals in our foods and prevents their absorption into our bodies. When this happens (anytime grains & legumes are consumed) our bodies are unable to use the minerals in the foods we ingest. Minerals are extremely important for our overall health. They play a role in every single cellular function in our bodies! Crazy right?!? Minerals serve as antioxidants which help the body fight cancer, prevent heart disease, regulate hormones, (includes fertility and stress management) as well as a myriad of other amazing benefits to our bodies. The conclusion? Minerals are absolutely essential.
Back to the nuts and seeds. The phytates found in these are mostly contained in the outer hard shell. We remove these before eating thus eliminating most of the problems associated with consuming phytates. There is a small amount of phytates within the nuts and seeds themselves, which is why these foods should be consumed in small amounts.
And then there’s gluten
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It’s present in both sprouted and unsprouted grains and refined flours. The problem with gluten for those who have a sensitivity to it is that it increases the body’s levels of zonulin. Zonulin (which is considered a antinutrient) loosens the junction between the cells in the lining of the small intestine. This allows too-large intact food particles into the bloodstream which has been known to be a factor in inflammation, autoimmune disease, and cancer. Not everyone is as affected by gluten as others.
One last point concerning grains & legumes
If you soak, sprout, and ferment them it makes the seeds think they’ve been planted so they release their antinutrients making them safer for ingestion. While this does improve things quite a bit, they still don’t give off as much nutrient dense bang for their buck as the other paleo approved eats.
The grey area of dairy
Many Paleo eaters will say no dairy, since it has been shown to cause inflammation in the body. However, some are okay with small amounts, but they will always stress it should be organic, high quality, and unpasteurized.
Want more info? I’ve got you covered!
Really this is only scratching the surface of why the paleo diet is such a solid way to eat. If you want to delve into the paleo world more I can recommend some amazing books to start your journey.
If you want to know the science and nuts and bolts of paleo this is it. Diane has made an amazingly beautiful, informative, and comprehensive book all about the paleo lifestyle. It also includes 30-day meals plans for different autoimmune conditions, quick guides including what you should fill your pantry with to successfully eat paleo, as well as over 150 recipes each with beautiful photos. She covers every base and I find it highly unlikely you’ll have any questions left after reading this gem.
This is a great cookbook by Danielle who found the paleo diet after suffering through an autoimmune disease that had her in and out of the hospital for years. She healed herself with a healthy diet and created several books to help and encourage others.
Why I eat Paleo
Bottom line? I feel better. I’m less tired, have more energy, and am overall a happier person. My body has always worked better with more fat and less carbs (though everyone is different) so this style of eating works for me. I love myself some baked sweet potato in the mornings with a couple slices of bacon and an egg. I use cashew cream in my black coffee and man, I feel on top of the world. And that’s only breakfast! Lunch and dinner are always just as filling and delicious. I never feel deprived, and that’s a big win for me.
I find paleo easy to follow because it’s uncomplicated. There isn’t a ton of “specialty ingredients” that cost an arm and a leg which you have to have to eat this way. It’s just real food, and to me that’s really amazing. When you think about it, it’s very simple: quality food filled with nutrients that my body needs. That’s paleo. Nuf said.
Do I cheat? Sure, but I don’t consider it cheating. I love how Diane put it in Practical Paleo:
But here’s the thing: Paleo isn’t a religion, and eating paleo isn’t about being so rigid that you end up fearful of foods, militant about your choices, or dogmatic about the lifestyle. That kind of mindset is an unhealthy one when it comes to food, and it can be extremely damaging to you moral when you’re faced with a less-than-ideal food situation. It can also unnecessarily alienate a lot of your friends and loved ones who aren’t interested in eating the way you do
Don’t you love how freeing that is? Like I said, I’m never 100% anything. (other than crazy. 😉 )
8 Tips for starting Paleo
Don’t get hung up on the details.
Any newish eating strategy is a tad confusing at the beginning. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. Make note of what happened and move on. No stewing.
Keep a food diary for the first couple weeks.
So much of our habits are on autopilot and it’s easy to slip a snack that isn’t Paleo into your diet unintentionally. Oops! If you keep a journal it forces you to think more when choosing your food, and if that doesn’t get you, writing it down and reviewing your eating habits at the end of the day usually will.
Start paleo based on what kind of person you are.
Are you all-or-nothing or better at slowly changing and incorporating new habits over a period of time? Either way works! Are you better at purging the pantry, stocking it up with Paleo friendly foods and going all in? Fun! I’m that way too! If you’d rather eat what you have and as you regularly shop slowly start incorporating more paleo friendly options into your lifestyle that’s perfect too! There’s no wrong way to start, so do your thang!
Drink all the water!
This goes for any eating plan really but honestly, everything is better when you’re hydrated. You can think clearer, don’t get as hungry, and it also helps the willpower. So drink up! Water boring? Try sparkling water, LaCroix, or experiment with some other kind of fun drink. (Stay away from anything artificially sweetened though.)
It’s okay if you don’t want to eat meat 24/7.
There are many people who think paleo is meat meat and more meat. Not so! Veggies are great sources of protein and you can definitely consume many meatless meals while still getting amazing nutrition and staying paleo friendly.
Consider going a month strictly paleo.
I know, I know, I just said I don’t like to stick to any plan religiously and don’t box me in! But, I’ll make an exception. Sometime we use “Oh, I’m not 100% anything.” as an excuse to eat things we know we shouldn’t a little more often than “on occasion”. (Oh that’s just me? #callingmyselfout) What I’m getting at is sometimes we have to push back against our comfort zone and going 100% all-in for a short period of time forces ourselves to experiment with new foods, get uncomfortable, and seek out a different, better normal. The Whole30 is a great program to try for a month. It’s hard but pushes you to see how awesome you can feel and the benefits you’ll experience when giving this way of eating a honest try. Practical Paleo also has great eating plans.
Find your community.
There are many paleo facebook groups you can ask to join. Go to groups in FB and search paleo. It’s great to feel part of something larger and have help when you need it as well as get questions answered quickly. Also, find and follow some fun paleo IG accounts. Of course I hope you’re following me, but also I love PaleOMG’s account as well as PaleoGrubs. Check them out!
Write down how you feel before you start, and after a month in.
Sometimes the amazing changes of eating paleo happen so slow we don’t take time to notice that we feel more energized, have less brain fuzz, maybe lost a pound or two, and our skin is more glowy. Take time to notice, and place credit where credit is due.
Sooooooooo, what do you think about Paleo? What’s your main questions or concerns? I’d love to know so I can address them in future posts!
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