“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
I’ve had a few people recently ask me “what is Paleo?” and “what’s it all about?” Their questions inspired me to write this blog post about the basics – so thank you to those who asked!
You might have heard the phrase “Paleo diet.” That’s one way of describing it, but I have grown to really dislike that term. Our minds interpret the word “diet” in a negative light, as something that restricts us and is not fun…and that we will eventually stop. Being Paleo is the complete opposite of those things – in fact, it is freeing and a joy to live it every day! Paleo also encompasses more than just the concept of food; it is a lifestyle.
The #1 principle of the Paleo way of eating is embracing nutrient-density and bio-availability. In layman’s terms, we need to make sure the food we’re eating is packed with vitamins, minerals, and all those micronutrients….AND that those nutrients are free to be absorbed properly by our bodies. For example, a cut of fatty, grass-fed beef will be more useful to our bodies than a grain-fed, boneless-skinless chicken breast. There are more nutrients in that beef. An example of bio-availability would be eating a cup of raw yogurt from grass-fed cows or goats for breakfast, instead of having two slices of whole grain toast. Not only are there more nutrients in raw, grass-fed dairy than there are in grains, but those nutrients in dairy are more easily absorbed by the body.
So what can we eat? Or, a better question would be: what should we eat? Here is a basic list to get you started:
- Grass-fed, free-range meat
- Fish (wild is preferable)
- Organ meat from grass-fed, free-range animals
- Eggs from free-range chickens (including the yolks)
- Bone broth
- Starchy tubers (sweet potatoes, yams, plantain, yucca, etc.)
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, etc.)
- Good fats (coconut oil, olive oil, rendered animal fat, butter, ghee, etc.)
- Nuts and seeds
- Raw, grass-fed dairy (if tolerated)
- Dark chocolate (75% cacao or greater)
- Natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, stevia, coconut palm sugar)
- Beverages such as organic, fair trade coffee, tea, and gluten-free alcohol in moderation
Those are just some ideas to get you started, and in no way is this a comprehensive list. There are so many options on the Paleo template! As you go along, you will learn about “gray-area” foods that you could occasionally eat IF you tolerate them. White rice, which is a grain, is an example. But this list is a great start.
Switching our food from the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) to nutrient-dense, satisfying options involves a learning curve. Most people like to start out slowly, and that is okay! At first, I wanted to go cold-turkey Paleo (no pun intended), but learned that taking baby steps would be more effective in the long-term. I first started eating gluten-free, which included eating gluten-free grains. I kept figuring out what made me feel the best, and today I am all-out Paleo and loving it!
What questions do you have? Have you ever tried Paleo?