The Paleo Diet: What to Eat and What to Avoid

The Paleo Diet: Myth vs. Truth

If thoughts of a Paleo diet conjure up images of men with clubs dragging women around by the hair, then you've been led in the wrong direction.

There are many normal people who follow this nutrition plan and walk among us club-free.

To follow the Paleo diet, you just eat real food and avoid modern processed, refined foods. Focus especially on removing foods that contain vegetable oils, glutenous grains, and refined sugar.

Some people keep dairy products in their diets (this is usually referred to as a Primal diet), while others go dairy-free. Some stay away from white potatoes while others include them. Many even include a bit of white rice now and then.

But throughout all of its variations, basic Paleo principles remain the same: the best nutritional plan for human beings is one that includes foods we've been eating forever and excludes modern, industrialized foods.

Whole Foods are Best for Your Health

Meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, and small amounts of nuts and seeds have been the main ingredients of the human diet for thousands of years.

Industrialized products, like boxed cereals, microwavable meals, snack foods, imitation meats--and the plethora of preservatives, dyes, and flavorings that go along with them--haven't.

Source

Grains and Legumes Pull Nutrients From Your Body

Grains often make up the main ingredients in processed products. All kinds of grains and legumes contain anti-nutrients that absorb minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron from your body.

According to Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution, archaeological evidence illustrates a shift in general health that occurred after humans began farming these crops.

Malocclusions, dental caries, and low bone density are conditions that were rare before the dawn of agriculture. They have continued to become more common, and the consumption of plant toxins may be one of the main factors.

Although toxins can be almost entirely removed through sprouting or fermenting, Paleo-eating people don't eat grains or legumes at all.

Gluten, a combination of proteins that are damaging to the intestinal lining and other body tissues, stay intact even when prepared according to traditional principles. Glutenous grains, wheat being the most common in almost every diet, aren't included in Paleo nutrition.

Millions of people have celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. As a result, gluten-free flours are popular, making it possible to still enjoy goodies like pancakes and muffins without using wheat flour.

Since the low-fat diet craze began about 30 years ago, dietary saturated fat intake has taken a nosedive. On the other hand, the amounts of polyunsaturated fats and sugars in the diet have escalated.

Science continues to reveal the damaging effects of these common ingredients.

The Paleo diet chooses nature over a laboratory
The Paleo diet chooses nature over a laboratory | Source

Avoid Vegetable Oils . . .

Popular marketing tactics have led people to believe that vegetable oils are healthier than saturated fats. These oils are new inventions and have proven to be some of the most dangerous ingredients common in virtually all American diets.

Vegetable oils are unnaturally high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Omega-6 is an essential fatty acid that becomes a health risk when it's heated or consumed in excess of omega-3.

In the past, the human diet contained a balance of omega-6 and omega-3. Today, the average person consumes about 15 to 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3. Research shows that excess omega-6 in the diet supports the spread of cancer and hardening of the arteries.

PUFAs are fragile fats that convert into toxic compounds when they are heated, most notably trans fat. As Dr. Catherine Shanahan explains in her book Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, since these oils are so heat sensitive, all foods containing vegetable oils include a portion of trans fat.

Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology

. . . and Refined Sugar

The list of diseases caused by sugar--whether it's in the form of evaporated cane juice, common table sugar, agave nectar, or high fructose corn syrup--continues to grow longer and longer.

The effects of refined sugar and fruit juices are different from fruit in its natural form. Fruit contains a balance of micronutrients, fiber, and antioxidants that protect the body from sugar's toxic effects.

Cancer cells prefer sugar for nourishment. Sugar increases the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are found in high concentrations in those with diabetes and age-related disorders.

It causes atherosclerosis by damaging the walls of arteries that leads to plaque build up. Neurological development issues similar to those found in infants born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder are also found in those born to mothers with high-sugar diets.

Sugar is an addictive substance. It reaches the opiate receptors in the brain--the same areas affected by drugs of abuse. Cravings for sweets are natural to all mammals, but refined sugar and artificial sweeteners aren't.

And the most obvious problem with sugar is that it makes you fat. Sugar is made up of glucose and fructose. Glucose elevates blood sugar levels that stimulate the production of the fat-storing hormone insulin, and fructose converts into fatty acids that go straight to your fat cells.

Just Eat Real Food!

After sorting through the biased reports, it's easier to see that Paleo eating isn't about reverting back to caveman times. It's really about eating nutritious foods while avoiding toxins whenever possible. Many diets--even some vegetarian diets that include small amounts of animal proteins like eggs (and dairy for the Primal-types) fit into a Paleo diet philosophy.

© Liz Davis 2012 Paleo Eating

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Comments 6 comments

sethpowers profile image

sethpowers 4 years ago from Virginia

This is a good intro, love the paleo lifestyle!


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 4 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Awesome! Thanks for the comment, sethpowers.


BlissfulWriter profile image

BlissfulWriter 4 years ago

I am all for following the Paleo diet general guidelines and think this is a very healthy way to eat. Your information is right on.


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 4 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Thanks, Blissful! You and I are on the same page :)


WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 3 years ago

This is really great; we're not on the paleo diet but we do keep strict control of carbs and sugars, and mostly eat real foods (unprocessed meats & fresh veggies) and have felt so much healthier since. We usually cut lose for holidays and allow ourselves things like desserts and potatoes or baked breads... and it makes me feel like crap the next few days so it's losing its appeal.


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 3 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Sage, I don't follow a strict Paleo diet, either. I try to adhere to "real food", staying in the outer perimeter of the supermarket (except for coffee--gotta have that)! I make einkorn wheat bread at home, which is the first wheat, the purest strain. I don't overdo it, though, because it still contains anti-nutrients. Thanks!

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