What is Paleo?
The Paleolithic diet is, in a nutshell, a way of eating based upon those who lived within the Paleolithic Era (that’s the earlier part of the Stone Age to you and me). It has been adapted for the modern day homo sapiens (human, man, woman you name it) and I guess it is lightly based upon being the modern day hunter-gatherer… and no I don’t mean jump in your car and go to your nearest drive-thru – tut tut!!!
It is about eating without the aid of agriculture, as agriculture did not make an appearance until the Neolithic era (the latter part of the Stone Age) however this does not mean that Paleo lovers can’t eat farmed livestock. I think we all know why we can’t just go out there, slaughter a random animal and drag it back to our humble abode. It is about eliminating grains, dairy (except for raw grass-fed butter) processed, refined foods and trans fats (the nasty fats). Food is preferably to be kept in a raw state and cooked at low temperatures when required. It is a very high-fat diet with large amounts of vegetables, a moderate amount of protein and a smaller amount of carbohydrates from starchy vegetables from the tuber family and fruits – mainly berries.
Unknown to most people, living by a Paleo diet is not just about what you eat but also about maintaining an active lifestyle and eliminating the foods from your current diet that have a negative effect on your body. Many people turn to Paleo for health reasons &/or to fit in with their current lifestyle i.e. boosting energy levels and improving their quality of sleep. You do not have to be a Paleo Purist and most people aren’t which is why you will find a lot of baked goods on my website.
I will break this down further on!
Pfffft go on then what am I ‘allowed’ and not allowed to eat?
Treat yourself to plentiful amounts of:
- Vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables
- Fruits (try and stick to berries as they have a lower sugar content and higher antioxidant content)
- Lean Meats (preferably grass-fed)
- Fish and seafood (preferably wild and from a sustainable source)
- Eggs (free range)
- Nuts and Seeds
- Healthy unrefined fats (coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil)
- Tubers/root veg (Sweet Potatoes are brilliant try and keep potato to a minimum)
- Flour alternatives (coconut flour, almond flour, tapioca flour, chestnut flour, sesame flour)
- Drinks – herbal and fruit teas, rooibos tea, plenty of water, nut milks and coconut milk
- Buttery/MCT Bulletproof Coffee and matcha green tea (although not condoned by everyone)
Ok to eat but try not to overconsume and generally avoid:
- Grass-fed, raw & unpasteurised dairy (raw butter, raw milk, unpasteurised cheeses)
- Unrefined sugars (paleo desserts, raw honey, maple syrup, coconut nectar)
- Caffeine (there are set timeframes when it is better to consume caffeine)
- Members of the ‘Solanaceae’ family better known as nightshades (aubergines, bell peppers, chillies, tomatoes, potatoes, paprika, goji berries)
- S*** s*** and more s***
- Processed foods and sugars (Cakes, sodas/fizzy drinks, biscuits, pies, crisps etc)
- Grains (Bread, Rice, Corn, Wheat, Quinoa, Amaranth, Barley, Oats)
- Legumes (beans, peas, peanuts, soya and whatnot)
- Starches (i.e. white potatoes etc)
- Alcohol ( I do not think anyone needs to tell you why)
I will soon be adding ‘Paleo food cupboard essentials and substitution guide’ for a more in-depth list so keep your eyes peeled!
What the *@!! do you mean no breakfast cereal, pasta, pizza, peanut butter, bread, cakes, biscuits, pies and all things that generally lead to complete carbocide?!!!
Woah woah wooooah!!! Calm down… You will be pleased to know that you can still have all of these things and that is why I am here to help. I will teach you how to make super tasty treats that you will probably prefer to eat over all of the junk that you have been eating for all of this time. They also won’t leave you feeling weighed down and you will be bouncing off of the walls full of energy and not in the’ I-have-consumed-far-too-many-E-numbers’ kinda way. As for peanut butter, I am sorry, I feel your pain, I really do, however, there are plenty of other nut and seed butters out there that you can use in ways you may never have imagined and in fact, I actually now prefer almond butter. There are ways of making bread, crumpets, pancakes, granola and all sorts of things in ways you probably at first will find rather bizarre (until you taste them that is).
Where am I going to get my carbohydrates from then?!
Alright, smart ass!!! Don’t be so blind and brainwashed! Carbohydrates are everywhere… they are in your fruit, your vegetables and in tubers like sweet potatoes. The energy released from these foods is long lasting rather than a short burst.
What health benefits can I expect to experience?
Ok so I am not an expert dietician, biologist, dermatologist and I am certainly not a doctor, but a lot of people have experienced the following benefits after adopting a Paleo lifestyle:
- Stable blood sugar – brilliant if you are diabetic
- Clearer skin and improved skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
- Better teeth
- Fewer aches and pains
- Reductions in sinus problems
- Improved sleep patterns
- Increased and sustainable energy throughout the day
- Increase in strength
- Increase in muscle
- Reduction in allergies
- Improved mood and concentration
- Fat loss and an overall leaner figure due to burning off stored fat
- Improved immune response i.e. Loss of water retention, reduction of IBS symptoms, and improvement of skin conditions such as eczema
- Less general coughs, colds and bugs
- Increased libido (insert your favourite winky face here)
- Improved symptoms of existing autoimmune diseases and other health problems
This all sounds a little too good to be true? Is there something that you’re not telling me?
Yes, actually there is. In the long term, living a Paleo lifestyle is fantastic, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. The first few days you will feel great, full of energy, positive and then BANG it will hit you. You will wonder why you ever listened to me or any other one of those idiots that told you that this would be a good idea too. This is all completely normal – your body will ultimately be going through one mother of a detox from the whole world of abuse that you have been putting it through. It will be expelling built up toxins at a rate like there is no tomorrow. This may last a week or even a month but the outcome on the other side is a lot better. The longer it lasts the more you may become disheartened but channel your anger at all of the crap that you have been eating that has now made you feel like this. This may even become the time to adopt a new exercise regime as it will help you through the hard times.
You may or may not experience the following symptoms:
- Headaches, headaches and more headaches
- Irritability and/or mood swings
- Extreme fatigue
- Flu-like symptoms
- A feeling of having a heavy body and heavy mind i.e. brain fog and lack of concentration
- Increased thirst and/or appetite
- Increased urination (excess water retention being expelled)
- Sinus drainage (this is likely to happen when you eliminate dairy)
- Increased cravings
- Using weird terminology that you have never heard of before… and probably neither have any of your friends
Yes, this sounds like the worst idea ever, but please do think of the benefits and stay strong if you decide to take on this vast change in lifestyle. I will cover what foods and beverages can help to remedy and ease your detoxification symptoms.
Do I have to jump right in at the deep end?
You don’t have to do anything, and a lot of people follow the 80/20 rule – i.e. 80% Paleo 20% whatever the hell I want to eat. You can have a cheat day and this often helps people not to give up all hope in the start, however, it can quickly become your enemy and suck you back in like a slinky serpent with a nice juicy poisoned apple.
I am in the middle of devising a ‘Craving swap guide’ and hope to share this with you all soon.
Don’t you cavemen and women just eat a whole lot of meat? I’m a vegetarian/vegan/don’t like meat can I still give this a go and get the nutrition I need?
Firstly, it is a common misconception that Paleo lovers just eat all the meat in the world and love bacon! The largest part of your diet should, in fact, consist of vegetables and large amounts of fat! It is typically a high-fat diet with low to moderate protein intake. I do not personally eat red meat and never will. I largely grew up Pescatarian (more of a vegetarian really) and only in recent years have I started to eat chicken, although I do bounce backwards and forwards between my old Pescatarian ways. Most of my recipes will have vegetarian-friendly options and a lot of them will be vegan too. I do believe that it is possible to maintain a nutritional balance whilst being a vegetarian and following a Paleo diet.
However being vegan and Paleo seems to be an incredibly grey area and I am looking to make a Vegan meal plan to stick to for 1 month in order to see the outcome, if I feel ok then I will try to extend this period further. There isn’t much information on the internet and a lot of people almost think it’s contradictary to attempt a Vegan and Paleo diet combination but I think it is definitely an interesting concept and one that needs exploring further. I think the diet of Paleolithic man would have varied greatly from those who ate mainly meat and others that ate meat less frequently. It would all have been about where you could hunt and forage your food from. At times there may well not have been any animal matter available other than maybe snails and earthworms.
If you are concerned about where you can still get a good source of protein from then try to eat plenty of avocados, nuts and seeds (especially chia seeds and nut butters), sea vegetables, chlorella and spirulina. Although protein powders are not Paleo you could go for an organic raw hemp powder to boost your protein levels. Some people even soak grains and eat those too if they don’t cause an inflammatory response in their body. It may well be an option to follow an 80% Paleo diet and then 20% regular Vegan diet however as I mentioned before I am not a qualified dietician or health professional.
(Please note that I am neither trying to encourage nor endorse a Paleo/Vegan diet but I do feel that Vegans are being kept out of the loop and I know some will be curious!)
Do I need any fandangled equipment to eat like this?
Hmmm, no you never NEED anything, but if you want to follow my recipes the following may be required:
- Knives… to uhhh cut stuff with? I think you all have those right?
- A decent blender/hand blender (if you own a Vitamix or a Blendtec then you are obviously way richer and better equipped than I am) just get a cheap one from a well trusted brand that states it can crush ice, then you know it means business.
- A food processor, again these bad boys should be in everyone’s kitchen, they save a lot of time and I myself own a Magimix that I cannot live without, however you do not need to fork out for one and there are plenty of cheaper versions that work well. If you own a KitchenAid you are now my arch nemesis.
- A julienne peeler and or Spirooli/spiral cutter. The latter is so much fun and well worth investing in if you become hooked on things like Courgetti (that’s right spaghetti made out of courgettes)
- A pestle and mortar… it’s all about the spices. You want to be able to grind these bad boys up and create delicious pastes and dry rubs, unleash your inner primal beast!!!
Why have you chosen to eat like a caveman and why should I turn into some primitive, wild beast?!
Well, good question… You don’t have to do anything, however, I will explain why I decided to take this path in my life.
I first stumbled upon the Paleo about 5 years ago (I think, I don’t even know) and after taking in all of the information I had found whilst researching I thought why not take on the challenge (I bloody love a good challenge). I was always feeling drained and I have been suffering from a long term auto immune disease called Henoch Schonlein Purpura (HSP for short) since I was a child. I decided to give it a whirl.
In the early days, I had an on/off love affair with Paleo but something always lured me back in. After falling pregnant with my 3rd child, working full-time and getting SPD I slowly had to stop running, and I gave up completely, I dropped my lifestyle, I had hit rock bottom. I lost my energy levels, gained a hefty 3 stone and suffered from a whole host of other minor health problems. As soon as I gave birth I jumped straight back in head first to the Paleo diet and my life felt complete again, my mood improved and the weight flew off (this isn’t just through my change of diet of course).
The Paleo diet has undergone some hefty scrutiny by dieticians but I just look at the facts. I will not go into grave detail here as there are people out there who can explain in a much better way than I can. We as a species were not supposed to eat processed and unrefined crap, that is a fact, and if something makes me feel healthier, well, I will just go with it.
I have also suffered from depression and insomnia, and this has begun to subside and my auto immune disease is easier to manage, in fact, most days I don’t really notice I have it. When I do experience the odd flair up the symptoms are minimal. I am never bloated, I am energetic, my concentration and brain function has vastly improved, my skin is clearer and ageing slower than it used to. I am often asked by friends how I manage to maintain such a figure after having 3 kids, and although I do exercise frequently I really do put a lot of this down to eating this way. I am leaner than I have ever been in my life and not in a creepy anorexic, faddy diet way.
Personally, I do not think that Paleo is just a way of eating but more a way of living a healthy and active lifestyle.
In all honesty, the main part I love is the food! I love food, I mean REALLY LOVE food, and I love being creative and it just so happens that eating in this way allows me to display some creativity and enjoy what I am eating.
And I guess that’s why I think everyone should at least give it a go for a few months if they are up for the challenge! It is definitely a good way to learn what your body likes you to consume and you may find that things that have been eliminated can be worked back in one by one. Many people decide to do so. You might find that nightshades are fine in your diet (I don’t seem to have many problems with these) or even grains such as quinoa are ok as long as they have been soaked. Paleo does not have to be restrictive it’s about adapting to modern life so please do remember that!