A close friend of mine and her husband (special shout out to L&B!) decided to go Paleo for the next 30 days. They have done some research but have never fully taken the leap into the Paleo/Primal pool. She had a few questions so I figured I’d do a quick little break down of the lifestyle here.
The Paleo/Primal lifestyle focuses on eating similar to how our neanderthal ancestors ate years ago. Thus the diet consists of mostly meat (preferably grass fed, local, free-range), veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds (all preferably organic). The diet eliminates gluten and grains. This is because more than 10,000 years ago those products were not farmed and eaten like they are nowadays. Our bodies are not meant to consume and process the amount of gluten the average person eats on the Standard American Diet (SAD). (Interesting how we are all of a sudden hearing about people having Celiac Disease and needing to eat gluten-free foods. Apparently everyone has a certain level of intolerance to gluten and SAD has gotten so bad over the past few years that it’s becoming more and more prevalent.)
The Paleo/Primal lifestyle also eliminates or reduces lectins. Lectins are carb-binding proteins that naturally protect plants from predators. They can damage the intestinal lining and disrupt our digestive and immune systems. Lectins are most highly concentrated in grains, legumes (beans, soy, and peanuts – yes peanut are legumes not technically nuts), nuts, and nightshade plants (tomatoes, eggplant).
Excess sugar is also eliminated in this lifestyle. Look at the ingredients of practically any processed food and you will find sugar. Fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, glucose, and whatever other name it might be called. It’s probably been added. Excess sugar not only leads to weight gain but it also spikes your insulin which wreaks havoc on your body. This is one of the reasons why certain foods that naturally contain sugar (fruits, honey) are allowed on the diet but are limited.
Dairy is a gray area in the Paleo/Primal world. Not everyone can tolerate dairy. Some Paleo followers eat/drink it while others don’t. Some suggest eliminating dairy from your diet for a month, then slowly add it back it. See how your body reacts and go from there.
Overall following a Paleo/Primal eating lifestyle will have you focusing on including protein, good fats (olive oils, avocados, some nuts, coconut, etc), and good carbs (veggies, potatoes, and some fruit) with every meal. You don’t have to count calories, points, or ounces. Just eat food that is natural, meaning not processed. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store (that’s where all of the vegetables, fruit, meat, and eggs are located). Even better – shop at a farmer’s market or local farm in order to get the highest quality food (that is hopefully chemical and pesticide free).
Here are some excellent resources for learning more:
Mark’s Daily Apple – (aka MDA) This is the website that started it all for Mike and I. We originally started doing CrossFit in 2008 and then heard about this lifestyle through some other CrossFitters who recommended this site. Mark Sisson is the author and blogs daily about the Primal lifestyle. It’s cool because he writes about not only diet but also exercise, sleep, and life in general. We highly recommend his book, The Primal Blueprint. Also for beginners we recommend buying his Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation. Sounds cheesy but is a great, simple breakdown of the Primal lifestyle.
Robb Wolf – Another great Paleo author and researcher. His book, The Paleo Solution, is another great read. He has a website and is mostly known for his podcasts answering questions and explaining concepts regarding the Paleo lifestyle. Robb has a unique, funny writing style so check it out if you want some humor with your facts 🙂
Elana’s Pantry – An excellent website for gluten-free recipes. Not everything is Paleo/Primal but usually Elana will note when the recipe is Paleo. Just look at her pictures – enough said – mouth watering goodness!
Food Lover’s Kitchen – Another great website that is strictly devoted to Primal recipes. Their cookbook, Make It Paleo, is a great reference to have in any kitchen (and the foreword is written by Mark Sisson of MDA fame).
There are, of course, a ton of great books, blogs, and sites dedicated to anything and everything Paleo but I have to cut the list short. If you are looking for anything in particular and can’t locate it online let me know – I’ve done my fair share of Paleo research over the years so I might be able to help out.