Ok, so you’ve heard about Paleo, your friends are talking about it, your eye has been caught by the latest paleo headline promising greater health, better focus and a lean physique – but where do you start?
*** WARNING ***
PALEO IS NOT FOR VEGETARIANS
The whole premise of Paleo was to expose the major flaw in low fat diets i.e. the lack of saturated animal fat and dietary cholesterol which are critical for the production of hormones that give us a robust sex drive, make us emotionally stable and happy, help us build muscle, enable us to fend off illness, and maintain a fired-up metabolism maintaining that leaner physique a lot more easily. It’s Babe or Paleo – not both!
So what’s PALEO all about?
Basically, Paleo is about eating like a caveman. Only foods that have been around since the Paleolithic era (when we first started using stone tools – yes, that far back!) qualify. There are a dozen variations of “paleo” today, most stemming from the ideas of gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin in the 1970s. Some devotees of Paleo are strict, not even allowing nuts, quinoa, starchy tubers and non-organic meats. Others are more lenient, allowing sweet potatoes, raw cow’s milk, some supplements, and even some dark chocolate.
However, you’ve got to start somewhere so this guide is for the complete novice. If you consider yourself a healthy eater, chances are you’ve accidentally done some variation of Paleo before.
The basic Paleo guide
1. Cut out processed, chemical ridden, foods
That means giving up those awful morning diet biscuits, diet yogurts, margarine spreads, convenience foods, pasta, bread, soft drinks etc. If it hasn’t come straight from the ground, tree, sea or animal, then don’t eat it! Read the labeling. If the ingredients look like a chemistry formula, then it’s not for you
2. Eat meat and nuts for breakfast
Meat allows for a slow and steady rise in blood sugar. The nuts provide a great source of healthy smart fats that allows the blood sugar to remain stable for an extended period of time and stimulate the neurotransmitters in the brain for increased focus. If you are allergic to nuts subsitiute with the following low glycemic/low fructose fruits with your breakfast: Apricot, avocado , blackberries, blueberries
Do NOT SKIP BREAKFAST! When you skip breakfast you miss out on that metabolic kick start to the fat burning process. You will be missing out on 4 to 5 hours of potential fat loss. Additionally, a breakfast high in carbohydrates makes you over eat throughout the day.
If you can’t face meat in the morning, start with having a salmon omelet or a kipper and as you get accustomed to this new way of eating then exchange for meat.
3. Include vegetables and salad with every meal and snack
Salad and vegetables provide fiber, essential vitamins and phytonutrients so include as much of these as you can. At least 8 servings a day. Because of the high levels of sugar in fruit and the process of fructose metabolism, you should keep the servings low – 1 or 2 a day maximum
4. NO Alcohol for 45 days
Alcohol was not part of a paleolithic diet so strict Paleo followers will cut it completely.
However alcohol is moderation can have beneficial health effects so a small amount, 1 or 2 small glasses of wine every week, would be fine. If you can’t keep to moderate consumption do the 45 day ‘alcohol free’ trial. Remember, many wines have sulphites which can contribute to a stuffy nose, asthma, and rashes if you are allergic. Also, you can develop an allergy to a food at any time of your life so don’t be surprised if something you used to be able to tolerate now makes you ill or brings you up in any of the above symptoms.
5. NO DAIRY for at least 30 days
Dairy is not Paleo, it triggers a lot of insulin, so should not be used if you are diabetic or need to lose weight and many people are mildly intolerant to dairy products – (milk, cheeses, yogurt, etc) If you do decide to reintroduce it after 30 days choose A2 milk or goat milk. Do not go near soy milk or soy products!
6. Coffee and other drinks
Black coffee only (max 2 small cups per day), all herbal teas are fine. Drink bottled water, minimum 3 liters a day
7. Spices and herbs
YES! Use lots – they have great health and anti-inflammatory properties
Every time you eat you include protein, good fats and carbohydrates and an unlimited amount of salad and colourful , non starchy vegetables
It is imperative to include a portion of protein, carbohydrate and fat with every meal as it sets up the correct cell signaling for optimal body fat metabolisation (fat burning) insufficient amounts of any of these macronutrients interferes with this process and causes the body to eat itself to supply the missing macronuitiorent
What is Protein and why do I need it?
Protein is the building block of every cell in our body and comes from meats, poultry, eggs, fish and game. It is absolutely critical to get sufficient amounts every day for muscle repair and growth, healthy glowing skin, strong bones, enzymes and bloods cells. Without adequate protein (about a palm sized portion per meal) you lose muscle tissue. Remember, the heart is a muscle – without adequate protein in your diet your body will eventually break down heart muscle
Protein is also one nature’s strongest fat burners! It burns twice as many calories as either fats or carbohydrates through its thermic effect. This increase in metabolism torches up to 200 calories a day – which means, if you changed nothing else in your diet, did no extra exercise but ensured you got a palm sized portion of protein with every meal – you could loose 10kg in one year! Additionally a reduced calorie diet (lower than 1200 calories per day) will lower your metabolism, and having plenty of protein counteracts this.
Another bonus from protein – it’s very slow to digest so you will feel fuller for longer which means you won’t need will power to resist chocolate, sweets, cheese etc because you’ll just be too full!
Not only that, increasing lean protein and decreasing refined carbohydrates improves blood sugar and cholesterol levels, decreases high blood pressure and increases insulin sensitivity – reducing your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and a whole host of other life threatening health issues
Good sources of protein
Paleo proteins come from grass fed or free range / wild, organic animals and fish
– Beef; Flank steak, Top sirloin steak, chuck steak, lean veal or any other lean cut
– Lean Pork
– Lean Poultry
– Rabbit meat, Goat meat
– Game meats; ostrich, kangaroo, venison, emu.
– Fish and shellfish – all. Fresh fish is better than canned. Occasional canned only if there is no added salt and only in spring water
– Organ meats; calf liver (young animals are lower in toxins)
– Beef, lamb and pork tongues
– Beef, lamb and pork sweetbreads.
– Lean nitrate free bacon is okay occasionally – some of the Freedom farm range, check labels, can be high in salt
– Whole eggs, 2 – 3 a day are fine.
– Protein powder for peri-workout nutrition. Do not use as substitute for natural protein
What are Carbohydrates and why do I need them?
Carbohydrates are foods that provide the cells with glucose for energy – all carbohydrate foods whether starch (long chains of glucose molecules linked together) or sugars (one or two links of sugar molecules) are broken down into single glucose molecules by enzymes during digestion. We need glucose to provide cellular energy. CrossFit and other high intensity workouts deplete glycogen fast. If you don’t replace it you won’t perform at your best and you won’t recover as fast
Although muscle cells will run on fat, and brain cells will run on ketones. PALEO IS NOT A ZERO / LOW CARB DIET! Research found that the majority of Paleo and hunter gatherer diets where lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein and fat compared with today’s western diet where carbohydrates are eaten far in excess of requirements.
Zero / Low carb diets have led to many very serious issues including low energy, poor recovery, sleep problems, adrenal fatigue, faulty auto-immune responses, intestinal microbiota, endocrine disruption, beta cell dysfunction, abnormal pancreatic function and metabolic damage to name but a few. It can take a very long time for the body to recover from this and during this time your fat burning capacity will be in tatters
– Lots of fibrous and colourful vegetables, these provide a huge range of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fibre, it is very hard to overeat these – broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, red/ yellow peppers, tomatoes, lettuce etc Minimum 8 servings a day
– Include lots of above ground vegetables, except corn (grain) and peas and beans (legumes). Green beans are okay.
– Lots of non starch root vegetables, carrots, onions, turnips, garlic and beetroot.
– Fruit: Maximum 2 pieces a day. Choose richly coloured non starchy fruit, berries are great, 5 portions of these allowed. Best time to eat fruit – immediately before or after intense training
– Include only small – moderate amounts of starchy vegetables, kumara, taro, pumpkin etc.
– Dried fruit (raisins, dates, dried aprocts etc) are allowed however they are very high in natural sugars and incredibly easy to over eat. Limit or cut out completely if you want to lose weight or have no control around them. Best time to eat – immediately after intense training
– Potatoes – all types allowed – ideally peeled
– Non grain starch flours such as coconut flour, potato flour, tapioca pearls and tapioca flour are fine in moderate amounts
Fats are good?!
As mentioned above saturated animal fat and dietary cholesterol are critical for the production of hormones that give us a robust sex drive, make us emotionally stable and happy, help us build muscle, enable us to fend off illness, and maintain a fired-up metabolism maintaining that leaner physique a lot more easily
Not all fats are created equal, the impact of fat on blood cholesterol and the consequent risk of heart disease is enormous.
The are different fats. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature (think of the fat on a piece of steak). Animal fat and dairy fat is predominantly saturated fat. Coconut oil is a good saturated fat and is heat stable for cooking. I would recommend you only cook with this oil from now on. (Don’t worry – it’s not going to make all your food taste cocnutty)
Unsaturated Fats, Monounsaturated ( Omega-9 ) and Polyunsaturated fat (Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids ) are liquid at room temperature. Olive oil is monounsaturated fat, sunflower oil is polyunsaturated fat.
Monounsaturated fat like unheated Olive oil, has an incredibly beneficial effect on cholesterol and other metabolic processes. Polyunsaturated fats are either Omega 6 fats (Western diet has far too much of this) found mainly in vegetable and seed oils and Omega 3 fats (it is critical to include more of this)found in fish oil.
What fats to eat
Have a small portion with every meal and snack you eat
– Olive oil – unheated
– Nuts – all, eat them raw, unsalted. (not peanuts as they are a legume) best are macadamia, cashews and almonds.
– Pistachio – unsalted
– Sesame seeds – in moderation
– Sunflower seeds – in moderation
– Pumpkin seeds – in moderation
– Nut oils, especially macadamia oil
– Avocado oil
– Toasted sesame oil (not too much as it is higher in Omega 6)
– Flax seed oil (don’t cook with this)
– Coconut milk, oil and cream
– Fish oil capsules or liquid (ideally high purity, high concentration. Look on the container for the DHA / EPA values. Ideally these values should be higher than 250 mg each. Otherwise you are wasting your money on bad quality, ineffectual fish oils)
Non PALEO Foods – DO NOT EAT
So here is the list of banned foods. Like anything, how strict you really want to be is totally up to you. If you need to change many things in your current lifestyle then take it slowly, only change one or two things at a time. For example, if you take 5 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee reduce it by 1 teaspoon every 3 days or more, if you need more time. If you get takeaway every night of the week, save your body and your money and cook something easy at home (the bbc website has some great, easy to follow recipes with videos) Believe me, you will have far greater success at permanently changing your lifestyle and your body, if you do it gradually. Give your body, your taste buds, your habits time to adjust. Forever change = forever body
– NO processed meats (contain nitrates and salt),
– NO Fatty cuts like chops, fatty mince, hamburgers and sausages
– NO tinned fish in unhealthy oils eg sunflower oil
– NO cheese that is high in salt and fat (hard cheeses)
– NO tofu and soy products, and all mature beans, lentils, legumes including peanuts
– NO canned fruit – stick to fresh and 2 per day max.
– NO legumes; peas, beans, lentils, peanuts, soy beans and soy bean products.
– NO corn (grain)
– NO Juices
– NO grain products, oats, rye, wheat, rice, corn, millet, barley, corn, quinoa, buckwheat, linseed, chia
– NO sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup
– NO soft drinks sugar containing drinks like Poweraid, lucozade (even sport versions) cocacola, fanta etc
– NO Honey
– NO Alfalfa sprouts (contain anti-nutrients)
– NO chemical and non calorie sweeteners at all!
– NO artificial sauces like ketchup, mayonnaise, barbeque sauce, mustard etc
– Limit saturated fat, coconut oil is okay in small amounts and heat stable for cooking.
– NO vegetable and seed oils high in omega 6.
– NO Trans fats – used in processed food, deep frying
– NO Margarines – they have an unhealthy chemically altered fat called interesterified fat.
– NO Roasted and salted nuts and seeds (roast your own fresh nuts)
NO Peanuts and peanut oil (legumes, potentially atherogenic)
So there you have it, the basics of Paleo and how to apply them. Good Luck everyone and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.
Healthy Regards and Successes,
Also check out these Paleo diet snacks and What celebrity chef Pete Evans has to say on the Paleo Way