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Paleo Diet Basics - And Why Grains are Bad

Updated on July 31, 2013

Paleo Diet - The Basics

Paleo Diet Basics: Eating the delicious, wholesome foods your ancestors enjoyed. The Paleolithic Diet (hereinafter called the "Paleo Diet") centers around the idea that people today should eat a diet consisting mainly of grass-fed meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts. In other words, to eat Paleo-style is to consume the foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors could find and eat, and to avoid grains, legumes, and dairy.

The introduction of grains and dairy into the human diet was recent in terms of our history on this planet; it only happened approximately 10,000 years ago when man first discovered how to grow crops and domesticate animals. This lead to man's cultivation and consumption of grains, and slightly later of dairy. The discovery brought us from the paleolithic age into the neolithic age. Hence, eating the way humans ate during the paleolithic age is the basis of the Paleo Diet.

Why Paleo says "No" to Grains, Legumes, and Dairy

Followers of the Paleo Diet firmly believe that grains, legumes, and dairy are all bad for the human body.

Grains and Legumes:

Let us begin with grains and legumes... and with evolution and natural selection. Plants are living things, organisms which need to adapt in order to thrive in their environment. Thriving equates to survival and the production of offspring. For plants that means going to seed and producing more plants. Vegetables and fruits have very durable seeds. They can be ingested by animals, then deposited onto the ground in the animal's waste material. From there, some of the seeds go on to become plants which produce vegetables or fruit, and seeds. The cycle goes on. Grains and legumes, however, are different. The grains and the legumes are, in and of themselves, the 'seeds'. They are not very durable, and cannot withstand a trip through a digestive tract unharmed. This means that once eaten and deposited with waste material, they can no longer produce a new plant and continue the cycle of life. That is where evolution steps in. The grains and legumes we have today are the ones which were able to adapt to their environment in order to survive and reproduce.

These grains and legumes eaten today did not survive because they grew more durable seeds; they survived because they produce a whole host of chemicals which are not agreeable to being eaten. People who eat grains and legumes are ingesting lectins, phytates, gluten and similar unfriendly proteins. Consumption of grains and legumes by humans can produce some very negative effects: damage to the gut lining; inflammation; insulin resistance; anemia; bone density issues; autoimmune disease; and overall health.

Dairy:

One word: lactose. Even if you are not someone who is affected by obvious lactose-intolerance, avoiding the consumption of lactose can bring health benefits to you. Many human bodies produce the enzyme lactase for the first couple years of life only. Lactase allows babies and toddlers to properly digest milk, because mammals are born to drink milk in infancy. Adults who no longer produce lactase will have issues with digestion of the lactose in milk. Another problem with dairy is the high carbohydrate count. This can produce issues related to insulin control and weight gain. All of this, and we have not yet even covered the fact that most milk available in stores today comes from cows who have been fed a grain-based diet... along with a lot of antibiotics and hormones. Do yourself a favor and opt for almond milk instead.

Benefits of the Paleo Diet

  • Weight Loss - Many followers of the Paleo Diet experience weight loss. The Paleo Diet calls for eating whole foods only, i.e. meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds; therefore you will not be ingesting any processed foods. Cutting processed foods (things which come in boxes or bags, etc.) from your diet is an excellent way to lose weight. Processed foods are generally higher in calories, fat, and sodium than the whole, natural foods which are enjoyed on the Paleo Diet.
  • Increased Vitamin and Nutrient Consumption - Enjoying a diet such as Paleo will increase your intake of the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to function properly and thrive. This will leave you looking and feeling healthier. With all of the vegetables and fruits you'll be eating on the Paleo Diet, you will easily achieve the recommended daily produce intake. Additionally, this way of life offers plenty of protein and healthy fats from the various grass-fed meats, fish, poultry, eggs and nuts you'll enjoy. Protein and healthy fats leave you feeling full and satisfied.
  • Improved Health - A study conducted at the Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine clearly showed that "Even short-term consumption of a paleolithic type diet improves BP [blood pressure] and glucose tolerance, decreases insulin secretion, increases insulin sensitivity and improves lipid profiles without weight loss in healthy sedentary humans." This means that you can follow the Paleo Diet, and even without exercise, you can improve your overall health. If you add exercise into the mix and go from sedentary to active, you could achieve weight loss as well.

What to eat and what to avoid on the Paleo Diet:

Is the Paleo Diet Right for ME?

After reading about the Paleo Diet basics, if you have not yet tried the Paleo Diet approach to a healthy lifestyle, you may want to give it some consideration. So far, we have covered the basis of the diet, the potential health and weight loss benefits, and shown what is ok to eat and not ok to eat while following Paleo.

Now, it comes down to asking yourself if you are ready to commit to this way of life. Do you want to feel healthier, have more energy, and look better? Do you want to minimize your risk factors for a number of chronic ailments? Do you want to drop a few pounds? If so, then the Paleo Diet might be right for you.

Here is an idea of how you might begin your day on the Paleo Diet:

Paleo Breakfast Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Almond Milk
  • 1 Banana
  • 3 Strawberries
  • 1/2 Avocado
  • 1 Cup Spinach, (packed)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Honey, (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Ice

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients into blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Pour into a tall glass and enjoy.

Recipe Rating

3.5 stars from 25 ratings of the Paleo Breakfast Smoothie

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    • SEO IT! profile image

      Karla Whitmore 3 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      My own diet is a variation of the paleo diet. I never really understood the reasons behind leaving out so many foods, other than protein and fat (especially GOOD fats - like avocado...) encourage the body to burn fat instead of glucose, so eating a higher ratio of protein and fat over carbs helps you lose weight. I KNOW that works, but according to this diet, I don't get enough of the good carbs most of the time and when I give myself freedom to eat carbs, I often indulge in the... ahem... yummy, sweet, goodness like brownies. ;) You did a wonderful job of explaining this form of eating beyond losing weight! Thanks!

    • LauraAmsel profile image
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      Laura Amsel 3 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      SEO IT!, thank you for your comment! I too have an issue with (over)indulging in carbs after I take the first bite. When I have tried the Paleo Diet previously, I found that the fewer bad carbs I ate, the fewer bad carbs I craved. It can be hard for me to stick with long-term, however, because every now and then, pizza sounds way too good to pass up! (;

    • snlee profile image

      snlee 3 years ago from Asia Pacific Regions

      Agreeable with Paleo Diet. Processed food is never good for health, which explains why the cases of 'modern sickness' are on the rise today.

    • LauraAmsel profile image
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      Laura Amsel 3 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      snlee, thank you for your comment. I agree that the large amount of processed foods humans are eating today is definitely contributing to a majority of health problems.

    • t.keeley profile image

      Tim 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I understand people's desire to become healthier, but honestly diet is less important than exercise, scientifically speaking. The reason our ancestors evolved to cultivated foods was ease of access for a growing population and increased energy for expenditure in manual labor. It's recently been studied, but we're finding a lot of these "civilized ailments" are not due to the diet issue. My cousin and her family adhere strictly to this regimen, but I always have to ask everyone: why do you eat a diet that is from an era where man barely reached his forties? Sure, modern medicine has a lot to do with this too, but a lot of the paleo people I run into are anti-vaxxers and the like (which has its own predicament when you consider the larger scale of humanity and once nearly extinct diseases making a roaring comeback).

      So if you adhere to a diet that we're evolving out of (evolution never has been easy for any organism and has many, many growing pains...health issues are part of that), isn't that principally harming the changes and adaptations mankind has been slowly evolving into over millennia? Take that further and realise that, frankly, there just isn't enough serious nutritional value in JUST plant material (we do not process a lot of it, we lack the bacteria in our stomachs and intestines to do so), so there needs to be a significant substitute, somewhere, to get the necessary cholesterol and fatty acids or your cells will simply fall apart eventually (a bit of a hyperbole, but it gets my point across).

      I'm not opposed to people choosing their diets and eating what they like to eat. I think what needs to happen is less homeopathic jargon mixed in with actual science (because, truth be it told, we scientists do not sit around and think of conspiracies to dupe humanity with on a daily basis, you know). As far as the health repercussions, I really don't have weight/energy issues, and I don't have rules to my diet and recreational habits. Funny thing is, those who live much like I do live longer than people who stress about what latest trends say are "ok" vs. "not ok."

      Don't regress evolutionary changes simply because the latest fads say so, especially in regard to alcohol. If it weren't for alcohol, mankind would be extinct. And frankly, I enjoy a good scotch and bourbon every now and then without so much as a pang of guilt.

      Wanted to toss in my two cents, as I see this stuff go largely unchallenged by people today and it's important to offer an opposing viewpoint, especially considering the long term effects it an bring. Basically, everything in moderation, but enjoy everything. Also, it's worthy of noting there has never been a developed civilization that were hunter-gatherers. All of the major artistic, scientific, and social achievements of humanity have come at the helm of the cultivator diet, as well as modern medicine and longer lifespans.

    • LauraAmsel profile image
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      Laura Amsel 3 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Thanks for your opinion, t.keeley.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      Nice hub.

      Paleo diet is great for me, but awful for my husband. We just had a week where we ate three meals a day, almost all of them had meat. He gets sick when he eats much meat. We attribute it to his A blood type. He does really well when he eats mostly grains and poultry.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 3 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      A good introduction to the Paleo diet. I think you have given enough basic information here, Laura for a person to get started with the diet.

      So, I’ll be giving it a go. Many thanks.

    • LauraAmsel profile image
      Author

      Laura Amsel 3 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      tirelesstraveler, thank you. I'm glad Paleo works well for you. I think my husband would love the Paleo diet, because he is all about meat and veggies, but he has never tried it.

      Angie Jardine, good luck! Come back and tell us your thoughts on this way of eating if you do end up trying it. Thanks for the comment. (:

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