A Crash Course in the Basics of the Paleolthic Diet
For millions of years, humans and their relatives have eaten meat, fish, fowl and the leaves, roots and fruits of many plants. One big obstacle to getting more calories from the environment is the fact that many plants are inedible. Grains, beans and potatoes are full of energy but all are inedible in the raw state as they contain many toxins. There is no doubt about that- please don’t try to eat them raw, they can make you very sick.
Around 10,000 years ago, an enormous breakthrough was made- a breakthrough that was to change the course of history, and our diet, forever. This breakthrough was the discovery that cooking these foods made them edible- the heat destroyed enough toxins to render them edible. Grains include wheat, corn, barley, rice, sorghum, millet and oats. Grain based foods also include products such as flour, bread, noodles and pasta. These foods entered the menu of New Stone Age (Neolithic) man, and Paleolithic diet buffs often refer to them as Neolithic foods.
The cooking of grains, beans and potatoes had an enormous effect on our food intake- perhaps doubling the number of calories that we could obtain from the plant foods in our environment. Other advantages were soon obvious with these foods:
· they could store for long periods (refrigeration of course being unavailable in those days)
· they were dense in calories- ie a small weight contains a lot of calories, enabling easy transport
· the food was also the seed of the plant- later allowing ready farming of the species
These advantages made it much easier to store and transport food. We could more easily store food for winter, and for nomads and travelers to carry supplies. Food storage also enabled surpluses to be stored, and this in turn made it possible to free some people from food gathering to become specialists in other activities, such as builders, warriors and rulers. This in turn set us on the course to modern day civilization. Despite these advantages, our genes were never developed with grains, beans and potatoes and were not in tune with them, and still are not. Man soon improved further on these advances- by farming plants and animals.
Instead of being able to eat only a fraction of the animal and plant life in an area, farming allows us to fill a particular area with a large number of edible plants and animals. This in turn increases the number of calories that we can obtain from an area by some 10 to 100 fold or more. Then followed the harnessing of dairy products, which allow man to obtain far more calories from the animal over its lifetime than if it were simply slaughtered for meat. Dairy products are interesting as they combine a variety of components- some of which our genes were ready for and some not. Whist cows milk is ideal for calves, there are several very important differences between it and human milk. For example, the brain of a calf is only a tiny fraction of its body weight whereas humans have very big brains. Not surprisingly, cows milk is low in critical nutrients for brain development, particularly omega 3 fats.
Paleolithic Diet buffs refer to the new foods as Neolithic foods and the old as Paleolithic Diet foods. In simple terms we see Neolithic as bad and Paleolithic as good. Since then, some other substances have entered the diet- particularly salt and sugar, and more recently a litany of chemicals including firstly caffeine then all other additives, colourings, preservatives, pesticides etc.
The characteristics Grains, Beans and Potatoes (GBP) all share:
· They are all toxic when raw- there is no doubt about this- it is a fact that no competent source would dispute- they can be extremely dangerous and it is important never to eat them raw or undercooked. These toxins include enzyme blockers, lectins and other types.
· Cooking destroys most but not all of the toxins. Insufficient cooking can lead to sickness such as acute gastroenteritis.
· They are all rich sources of carbohydrate, and once cooked this is often rapidly digestible-giving a high glycemic index (sugar spike).
· They are extremely poor sources of vitamins (particularly vitamins A, B-group, folic acid and C), minerals, antioxidants and phytosterols.
Therefore diets high in grains beans and potatoes (GBP):
· Contain toxins in small amounts
· Have a high glycemic index (ie have a similar effect to raw sugar on blood glucose levels)
· Are low in many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytosterols- ie they are the original “empty calories”
· Have problems caused by the GBP displacing other foods
As grains, beans and potatoes form such a large proportion of the modern diet, you can now understand why it is so common for people to feel they need supplements or that they need to detoxify (ie that they have toxins in their system)- indeed both feelings are absolutely correct. Unfortunately, we don’t necessarily realize which supplements we need, and ironically when people go on detoxification diets they unfortunately often consume even more Neolithic foods (eg soy beans) and therefore more toxins than usual (perhaps they sometimes benefit from a change in toxins).
Eat none of the following:
· Grains- including bread, pasta, noodles
· Beans/Legumes including string beans, kidney beans, lentils, peanuts, snow-peas and peas
· Dairy products
Paleo Foods & List
Paleo diet consists of foods that could’ve been hunted, fished and gathered. This includes seafood (caught in the “wild” not farmed) and lean cuts of meat, free of food additives and preferably from grass-fed/free range animals; they typically contain higher levels of omega-3 fats compared to grain-produced domestic meats. Let’s not forget eggs that could’ve been gathered!
Here is a detailed list of Paleo Preferred Foods:
Beef, Flank steak, Top sirloin steak, Hamburger, London broil, Chuck steak, Veal, Pork, Pork loin, Pork chops, Rabbit, Goat, Lamb.
Alligator, Bear, Bison (buffalo), Caribou, Elk, Emu, Goose, Kangaroo, Muscovy duck, New Zealand cervena deer, Ostrich, Pheasant, Quail, Rattlesnake, Reindeer, Squab, Turtle, Venison, Wild boar, Wild turkey.
Beef, lamb, pork and chicken livers, Beef, pork and lamb tongues, Beef, lamb and pork marrow, Beef, lamb and pork “sweetbreads”
Chicken breast, Turkey breast, Game Hen breasts.
Chicken, Duck, Goose.
Bass, Bluefish, Cod, Drum, Eel, Flatfish, Grouper, Haddock, Halibut, Herring, Mackerel, Monkfish, Mullet, Northern pike, Orange roughy, Perch, Red snapper, Rockfish, Salmon, Scrod, Shark, Striped bass, Sunfish, Tilapia, Trout, Tuna, Turbot, Walleye, Any other commercially available fish.
Abalone, Clams, Crab, Crayfish, Lobster, Mussels, Oysters, Scallops, Shrimp.
Artichoke, Asparagus, Beet greens, Beets, Bell peppers, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Collards, Cucumber, Dandelion, Eggplant, Endive, Green onions, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Mustard greens, Onions, Parsley, Parsnip, Peppers (all kinds), Pumpkin, Purslane, Radish, Rutabaga, Seaweed, Spinach, Squash (all kinds), Swiss chard, Tomatillos, Tomato ( a fruit that thinks it is a vegetable), Turnip greens, Turnips, Watercress.
Apple, Apricot, Avocado, Banana, Blackberries, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Cantaloupe, Carambola, Cassava melon, Cherimoya, Cherries, Cranberries, Figs, Gooseberries, Grapefruit, Grapes, Guava, Honeydew melon, Kiwi, Lemon, Lime, Lychee, Mango, Nectarine, Orange, Papaya, Passion fruit, Peaches, Pears, Persimmon, Pineapple, Plums, Pomegranate, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Star fruit, Strawberries, Tangerine, Watermelon and most all other fruits.
Nuts & Seeds:
Almonds, Brazil nuts, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts (filberts), Macadamia nuts, Pecans, Pine nuts, Pistachios (unsalted), Pumpkin seeds, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds, Walnuts.
*No peanuts; they are a legume/ No cashews; Cashews are in the same family as poison ivy and poison sumac. Like the others in this family, the cashew plant contains powerful but natural chemical irritants, so handling and eating raw cashews will cause the familiar itchy skin reaction. They must be baked or roasted to be eaten. Paleo rule of thumb: it is can’t be eaten in it’s natural/raw state: YOU DON’T eat it!
Olive, avocado, walnut, flax seed, coconut.
To give you a visual here are 2 Paleo Food Pyramids:
This Paleo Pyramid is a very good representation of how I eat. I know there is a bit of controversy when it comes to diary and the paleo diet. In the strict Paleo sense, dairy of any form was not consumed in the paleolithic era, other than human milk in infancy of course. It just wasn’t very practical to milk wild game. However just because something isn’t paleo doesn’t mean it is bad, and just because something is Paleo doesn’t mean it is healthy. You must pay very close attention to your body and how it reacts to different foods. If you are considering keeping dairy in your meal plan I STRONGLY suggest you do the research of the benefits of non pasteurized/non homogenized diary vs pasteurized/homogenized dairy. If you do chose to keep dairy in your diet I recommend consuming raw, free range, full fat and grass fed dairy.
Courtesy of Castle Grok
What’s Right For You?
As you can see there are variations of the Paleo Pyramid. I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer here. Not everyone’s bodies will have the same reactions to this diet. Listen and pay attention to YOUR body and how it reacts with different foods and you will know what food combinations work best for you. No one knows your body better than you do.
It is up to you as an individual to choose if Paleo is right for you and how to implement the diet into your life
When you make the Paleo transition you can expect some minor tuning issues- don’t worry, you can deal with them:
· It will take some time for your body to adjust to the changes after all these years. There is a huge surge in your vitamin intake. There is a huge decrease in your toxin intake.
· Start with breakfast for few days, as this is the easiest place to start as most people eat it at home, and it tends to be the least Paleolithic meal of the standard 3. For weight loss you will eventually need to reduce your carbohydrate intake, but ignore this initially as most people have high carb intakes and this can continue for the first few days that you are on this diet. If you reduce too quickly then you may fell unwell. Then move on to lunch or dinner for a few days and then to all 3 meals. If you work, you will often find it easier to take your lunch to work.
· Keep reading more about the lifestyle- and read it again. Remember, there are many dietary myths that will need to be unlearned. Particularly, please read the section on fats several times. Knowledge on fats has exploded over the last decade and there is a realization in mainstream nutrition that omega 3 fats are critical to good health. It is very important to ensure that you have an adequate intake of these. The low fat diet craze of the 90’s was well intentioned but many people “threw out the baby with the bath-water”- most people reduced omega 3 fat intake as well as other fats, and sometimes even increased omega 6 fats. There is now a realization that the low fat diet theory of the 90’s doesn’t often work (it has about a 6% success rate like most other diets) and that the vast majority of the Western population need to increase their omega 3 intake and decrease their omega 6 intake. Even if you don’t end up on a Paleolithic Diet, you will benefit from a better appreciation of fats.