The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet
MotivatePT will help you to understand what the paleo diet is, what foods you can eat and which foods you should avoid as a guide to its principles. We will also share with you our opinions on whether this diet is actually good for you or not. Throughout our article we will share tips and food substitutions to help you, to stick to the paleo diet.
What is paleo?
Firstly, the paleo diet is also known as the caveman diet as the fundamentals are based upon what, in principle, our ancestors ate. Paleo is defined as – ‘older or ancient, especially relating to the geological past.’ Therefore this diet is made up of protein from animals and wild plants. This means whatever a caveman could hunt or find, this is what you will be eating. Therefore, pasta, cereal, fast food, alcohol will have to go! Some people argue that cavemen didn’t suffer from diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity, before humans went from hunters to farmers as agriculture was discovered. However, it is very important to understand that it is difficult to find out what someone ate yesterday, let alone 10,000 – 1,million years ago!
What is the paleo diet?
So what does the paleo diet consist of? The paleo diet focuses on overall health and does not limit calories or macros. It takes into consideration our genetic makeup and promotes whole, natural foods that we are biologically adapted to. What foods can or can’t you eat? You are able to eat anything you would find in the wild, for example – fruits, vegetables, organic meats, nuts, seeds and unrefined vegetable oils.
This removes any man made foods such as, grains, gluten, sugar, alcohol and processed foods. The paleo diet does not require you to obsess over the number of calories you can consume, or the amount of macros you eat per day. Rather, you simply remove any food within your diet which your body does not genetically need and therefore, will supply it with nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly.
As ever here at MotivatePT we do not advise our clients to count their calories, with the main reason being that 300 kcals of chocolate will not have the same effect as 300 kcals of broccoli.
Continue reading below to hear our thoughts on the paleo diet.
What foods can you eat on the paleo diet?
Meat: Chicken, Turkey, Veal, Beef, Rabbit, Pig, Duck
Fish: Salmon, Tuna, Halibut, Mackerel, Cod, Sardine, Haddock
Seafood: Oysters, Prawns, Clams, Lobster, Mussels, Crabs
Eggs: Free-range & cage-free
Fruits: Berries, Apples, Oranges, Pineapples, Melon, Coconut, Bananas
Vegetables: Cabbage, Broccoli, Courgette, Carrots, Tomatoes, Peppers, Mushroom, Pumpkin, Sweet Potato,
Good Fats: Olive Oil, Avocados, Coconut Oil, Ghee, Almond, Butter
Natural Sugar: Pure Maple Syrup, Honey
Nuts, Seeds & Dried Fruit: Walnuts, Almonds, Pistachios, Cashews, Pecans, Pumpkin, Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Raisins, Prunes
Cooking Aids: Dried/Fresh Herbs, Coconut Flour, Banana Flour, Almond Flour, Coconut Milk, Coconut Butter.
What foods do you have to avoid on the paleo diet?
Grains: Wheat, Barley, Malt, Rye, Rice, Corn, Oats
Beans & Pulses: Chickpeas, Black Beans, Kidney Beans, White Beans
Refined Oils: Corn Oil, Canola Oil, Sunflower Oil, Vegetable Oil
Dairy: Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, Sour Cream, Margarine, Butter
Soft/Processed Drinks & Fruit Juices
What are the benefits of the paleo diet?
The paleo diet does not require you to restrict your food intake, which is hugely beneficial of course as it avoids hunger pains, which can lead to binge eating of the wrong sorts of foods. This diet allows you to eat as much as you like and to eat until you are happy and full. If it is done correctly, the paleo diet claims to help aid weight-loss and muscle gain. But with any diet, for the best results you should also be regularly exercising too.
Other benefits include:
Encourages good eating habits;
Promotes the consumption of foods which are free from additives, preservatives, refined sugar and chemicals;
It will help with weight loss;
Supports your digestive health;
It will help to regulate insulin and blood sugar levels;
Prevents and relieves allergy symptoms;
Help lowers bad cholesterol and improve good cholestrol;
Keeps you fuller for longer;
It will increase your daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, which will provide you with lots of antioxidants; and
Your diet will be full of protein, fibre and healthy fats.
Why can’t you eat grains on the paleo diet?
Wheat and Grains were the first processed foods that were made available. 20th Century technology has resulted in amazing advances but has also brought further problems. One example of this has been backed up with decades of research. Some studies have suggested that white flour is harmful.
Modern milling is extremely fast and efficient, can be shipped over long distances and also provides food to the world. And with regards to nutrition, it does not hold any nutritional value at all. Manufacturers have altered the structure of the grain and have replaced all natural nutrients with man made replicas, this is to create a long shelf life. Although this maybe good for their pockets, it is certainly not good for our health. Wheat is now also resistant to drought and pests due to new advances with chemicals. According to Paleo Leap; ‘We’re eating seeds that have been grown in synthetic soil to make a wheat that’s macerated to flimsy dust, then bleached and chemically treated; a “food” that no other animal will touch.’
When it comes to digesting these grains, it can also cause a problem inside your body. Grains come from carbohydrates, and these are usually simple carbohydrates, which means that they offer very little energy and often leave us hungry soon after. The carbohydrate is broken down into glucose which we immediately use as energy. However, if we do not need all of that energy, it is then stored as glycogen in adipose tissue (fat). Does this mean that all carbs are bad? Definitely not, however, if you are wanted to stick to the paleo diet then you must not consume grains as these are processed and were not part of our ancestors diet. It is much better to get your energy and carbohydrates from vegetable sources.
Grains also contain two ‘poisons that we can live without’ as Paleo Leap says. Firstly, wheat and grains contain gluten. Gluten is a protein which makes bread rise. Modern technology has increased the amount of gluten within wheat so therefore it contains up to 80% gluten. Although digesting gluten is difficult for people who suffer from celiac disease. The Guardian have also stated that; ‘since 2012 gastroenterologists have also identified a syndrome of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), with symptoms similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including bloatedness and diarrhoea but also fatigue, “foggy brain” and pain and numbness in the arms and legs. This syndrome should show an improvement in symptoms when following a gluten-free diet.’ A lot of the population suffer with bloating and gluten could be a cause, swapping to the paleo diet may help. The second ‘poision’ which grains contain are known as lectins – they are very small and are hard to digest and also bio-accumulate within your body. They damage the gastrointestinal tract and stop the gut lining from repairing itself, which can cause all kinds of damage. Therefore avoiding biscuits, cakes, bread, pasta will probably have a positive effect on your overall health.
Paleo for beginners
Sticking to the paleo diet is difficult, just like any other diet. However, if you are prepared and are willing to wait to see the results, MotivatePT has recommended simple tips to help you through.
Plan your meals ahead of time,
Aim for at least 60% of every meal to be vegetables,
Eat paleo friendly snacks however, opt for meals over snacks,
Choose organic meats whenever possible,
Replace sugar with natural honey,
Use herbs and natural spices to flavour your meal,
Eat when you’re hungry, and do not stress over calories,
Eat your favourite meals with paleo substitutes (read below),
Drink plenty of water and herbal teas,
Try and encourage your family for support,
Paleo is a lifestyle and not just a diet.
Paleo diet food substitutions
Here at MotivatePT we all have our go-to foods, ours is pizza! However, you can easily swap the ‘banned’ food to healthy alternatives. Swap…
Bread Sliced Sweet Potato,
Pasta – Courgette Noodles,
Cream – Coconut Cream,
White Rice – Cauliflower Rice,
Cow’s Milk – Coconut Milk,
Peanut Butter – Almond Butter,
Vegetable Oil – Olive Oil,
White Potatoes – Sweet Potatoes,
Chickpea Hummus – Cauliflower Hummus,
All Purpose Flour – Coconut Flour.
What are the con’s of the paleo diet?
Cost: Firstly buying organic meat and vegetables can become more expensive than picking up a ready-meal. However, remember your health isn’t an expense it is an investment. Despite this, you can still pick up organic produce, MotivatePT recommends that you try local farmers markets and eating seasonally, as this will really help to keep the cost down.
Eating Out: Eating out can be hard also, however, many restaurants now can tailor your meal to your dietary needs. Opt for a meat/fish with extra vegetables.
Restrictive: This is something many people believe but you are not eating low carbs like the atkins diet. Rather, you are not counting calories/macros or restricting your foods. You are simply changing which types of foods you are eating rather than limiting your intake of food.
What does MotivatePT think?
It is important to remember that we are all individually different and unique, so therefore this lifestyle may work for some, and it may not work for others. It is all about finding what is right for you.
There is so much conflicting information from doctors, dietitians, nutritionists, that it is hard to know what is right and what is wrong. If you are interested in the Paleo diet then we recommend that you go for it! Some people may find it easy to cut refined sugar, dairy, and grains out of their diets, however, some may find this hard to go T-total! We suggest making changes to your diet either slowly or in one go and to see how you feel. It is crucial that you are eating a variety of foods, ensuring every meal is balance, and are eating foods in moderation.
Any diet which restricts certain foods helps to reduce the number of calories. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that research has shown that many people have lost weight on the Paleo diet. So, while it is certainly possible to eat healthfully on a paleo diet and it may help you to shift those last unwanted pounds, we personally all could not live without cheese or chocolate! Eating in moderation, maintaining your health should be your first priority.
It is also imperative to ensure along with a health diet that you are staying physically active and are at least meeting the daily recommended physical activity guidelines.