I don't much like the term "diet". There is a lot of negativity associated with it so I don't use it often but in this case I'm using if for the sake of clarification. For me eating a close to paleo template is more of a lifestyle than a diet. I also say close to because I find the standard paleo diet to have some limitations. Having found a way of eating that works for me took a lot of trial and error but after 10 months of it, I can finally say I'm in a happy place.
When i first heard of the paleo diet, I was likely noshing on a baguette and couldn't imagine why anyone would ever want to go back to eating a caveman diet. Well it was a misconception on my part as a caveman diet cannot be replicated entirely in our modern world. After all, we live in very different times than our ancestors did. However, humans have been around for a very long time and did not thrive and flourish eating Twinkies and McDonald's chicken nuggets. Our ancestors ate meat when they were able to successfully hunt for it, berries, plants, tubers, fish and anything that was available and grew in nature.
I try to be realistic. We live in a modern world. I get my meat from the farmers market or the grocery store and while it may be ethically raised, I sure didn't go out and hunt it myself so I'm not going to be a hypocrite and pretend I can replicate a caveman diet. Far from it. But eating real food that's minimally processed does good things to the mind and body.
I don't recommend that anyone give up entire food groups if they don't need to. If you function perfectly fine and are not plagued by the issues so many of us face when it comes to our guts, by all means continue on and enjoy your life to its fullest and eat that baguette and butter. But if you've been struggling with food sensitivity and pains that interfere with your life, this way of eating may be an option.
I will highlight the foods I eat, those I don't, the benefits of eating this way and the drawbacks. My main goal of this way of eating is to keep blood sugar stable and keep carbohydrate intake in check. Too many carbohydrates and sugars negatively affect my gut but I don't abstain from them entirely. Instead eat them in moderation. I've found my sweet spot and know what I can handle and what I can't. I additionally don't completely eliminate grains as I believe they can be beneficial but eating them every day doesn't agree with me. If you want additional reading on paleo and grains, check out this post.
Regularly consumed food and drinks:
- Ethically raised meat - such as turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, bison, pork
- Wild caught seafood - such as shrimp, salmon, scallops, tuna, sardines, anchovies, etc.
- Organic vegetables - mostly non starchy with some exceptions. Leafy greens, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, etc.
- Organic fruit - all fresh fruit and minimally processed dry fruit occasionally
- Nuts and seeds: all nuts aside from peanuts, which I eat in moderation. Cashews, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, chia seeds etc.
- Nut butters: almond butter, cashew butter, coconut butter
- Cage free eggs
- Oils: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, walnut oil
- Drinks: bone broth, unsweetened tea, unsweetened coffee, kombucha, dry wine, coconut milk, vodka, gin, almond milk, cashew milk, mineral water, seltzer
- Sweeteners: honey, pure maple syrup
Occasionally consumed food:
- White potatoes
- Peanut butter
- Beans and legumes
Never consumed food and drinks:
- All gluten products such as breads, pretzels, pasta, crackers, etc
- All dairy containing products such as cheese, milk, yogurt
- Soy - I try to abstain from all soy and soybean oil products
- Soda diet or regular
- Beer - contains gluten
- Fried foods (wings, fries, etc)
- Artificial sweeteners - aspartame, sucralose, xylitol, sorbitol, etc
9 benefits of eating a mostly paleo diet:
- Reduced inflammation: By consuming whole, unprocessed food, one can mitigate inflammation. Our western diet is loaded with inflammatory foods so following a mostly paleo diet, may address some chronic issues caused by inflammation.
- Nutrient density: A large percentage of our population is nutrient deficient. A bag of pretzels doesn't stack up to a can of sardines in terms of nutrients so eating a mostly paleo diet, will by default provide more nutrient dense foods.
- Weight loss: When you eliminate a lot of empty foods out of your life and replace them with nutrient dense foods, you'll naturally start to lose weight and feel fuller longer.
- Improved digestive system: By eiliminating the majority of trigger foods, many will notice an improvement in their overall digestion. If you have gut issues, switching to a paleo or mostly paleo diet will improve nutrient absorption and heal a leaky gut. One of the best articles I've read on this topic is from Chris Kresser. You can have an in-depth read here.
- Mental clarity: I've written a previous post on what foods to eat for mental clarity. One of the positive side effects of eliminating trigger foods like gluten and dairy, has been better focus and improved mood.
- Improved glucose tolerance: For those who suffer from Type 2 Diabetes, this way of eating may be beneficial in stabilizing insulin levels. "In a randomized crossover study spanning two consecutive 3-month study periods, a Paleolithic diet improved glycemic control and several cardiovascular risk factors compared to a diabetes diet in a cohort of patients with T2DM."
- Skin health: It should be no surprise that healing the gut, helps to heal skin. Once you eliminate trigger foods that cause inflammation, you're left with better skin. If you want an additional reading on skin health, check out this post.
- Stable mood: Another benefit of following a mostly paleo diet is a stable mood. I think most of us could use a little more of that in our life. In doing some digging on depression and nutrition, I'm seeing a connection between inflammation and depression. Even though popular belief has been that chemical imbalance in the brain is to blame.
- Better immune system: There is a strong connection between a leaky gut and a weak immune system. A permeable gut lining allows pathogens to enter the body, weakening the immune system. Once we start eating real food that allows the gut to naturally heal, our immune system improves drastically.
Naturally as with any diet and lifestyle change, there are drawbacks. Making the shift to a mostly paleo diet is more expensive. Eating real unprocessed, organic food is unfortunately more expensive than the Standard American Diet. Having a good and bad list can sometimes leave people frustrated over what they should and shouldn't eat. But in my opinion, if you change your lifestyle entirely and focus on eating real food then you don't really have to question whether something is good or bad.
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