Like all animals, humans were designed to be able to meet their basic needs without the modern conveniences we have today. Rather than running out to the store for a candy bar or bag of chips each time they needed a snack, early humans needed to rely on their ability to hunt and harvest natural foods if they wanted to eat. Food was about survival rather than decadence. While the paleo diet does not require you to hunt for all your meals, it does require you to take your cues from these early humans when creating your paleo diet food list for shopping.
An Introduction To Paleo Eating
The Evolution Of The Human Diet
Long before modern diets were designed by researchers and nutritionists, humans managed to eat a healthy diet. More importantly, humans managed to maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass. This was done without counting calories, managing serving sizes, or searching out daily recommended values of particular nutrients. Without any scientific assistance, cavemen were able to get what they needed from food without suffering from obesity or other food related problems. Many researchers now believe that this is due to the man-made ingredients that are used in the majority of foods found on the shelf of your friendly neighborhood grocery store.
While the era of the caveman may seem too far in the past to be relevant to the way you eat today, the truth is, your genetics are still remarkably similar to those of a caveman. So why it is that the average caveman was muscular and athletic while the average person today struggles to climb a few flights of stairs? Many experts believe that the answer can be found in the amount of grains the average person eats.
Early humans ate a diet comprised primarily of meat, fruits, and vegetables. However, when man learned how to farm their diet rapidly shifted to one comprised primarily of grains. Despite the fact that humans have been eating this way for thousands of years now, the body has not evolved to accommodate this new grain-rich diet.
Understanding How Grains Are Processed By Your Body
In order to understand why grains have such a negative impact on our health, it is important to first understand how our bodies process grain products. All grains are made up of carbohydrates. When humans ingest carbohydrates these carbs are turned into glucose, a naturally occurring type of sugar. The glucose is then used by the body for energy. However, any glucose that is not used quickly for energy will be stored as fat. This is why many of the people who eat a diet rich in grains will struggle to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. Despite this fact, the FDA still continues to recommend that people eat as many as 11 servings of grain each day.
Many grains also contain a substance known as gluten. Chances are you have seen this term while shopping at your local grocery store and checking out the ever growing selection of gluten-free products. Ever wondered why so many of these gluten-free products started popping up? The answer is simple! Research has now shown that a large percentage of the population is actually gluten intolerant. After years of eating grain-rich foods, these individuals are experiencing a wide variety of medical problems such as joint pain, dermatitis, and acid reflux. In many cases, these medical problems can be eliminated by simply eliminating the gluten from a person’s diet.
The last and perhaps most important part of processing grains that you must understand can be found in the coating of the grain. This coating is lectins and actually compromised of a natural toxin. This toxin is an evolutionary development with the purpose of preventing the grains from being safely eaten.
Typically the body has the ability to repair itself from normal wear and tear. The lectins that are found in grains prevents the body from being able to repair its intestinal tract in this manner. This can lead to issues such as ulcers and irritable bowl syndrome.
What The Paleo Diet Does Differently
When transitioning to the paleo diet, you will need to ask yourself one simple question when making your food choices. If I were a caveman, would I be eating this? If the answer is no, you will need to make a new food choice.
While grains represent the largest change in the human diet, it is certainly not the only change that has occurred. Dairy products, processed foods, and sugar are also unnecessary parts of the human diet which paleo eating prohibits. Think about it, if you were a caveman, you would not be enjoying a chocolate chip cookie with a tall glass of cow’s milk. Therefore, you should not be eating this type of food on a paleo diet either.
Once you have eliminated grains, processed foods, processed sugar, and dairy products, what you will have left is all natural foods. While you may think that your choices will be extremely limited, the truth is, there are still many types of food that you can eat. These foods include natural fats and oils, red meat, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
While it is commonly referred to as the paleo diet, paleo eating is truly more of a lifestyle change. The good news is, by making the simple changes that paleo eating requires, research has shown that you can prevent, treat, or even reverse many of the health problems that effect a large number of people today.
A Closer Look At The Benefits Of Paleo Foods
Now that you have a general idea of how paleo eating works and why it is important, it is time to take a closer look at some of the foods you will be eating as part of your new paleo lifestyle. In this section not only will you be learning to better identify paleo foods, but you will also be learning what type of health benefits you can expect to see with each of your choices.
Natural Fats And Oils
While most diets consider fats to be bad or strictly prohibited, the paleo diet does allow for the consumption of natural fats and oils. This includes coconut, olive, and avocado oils. These natural oils have been shown to actually reduce the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. However, it is important to note that these oils are still quite high in calories and therefore should not comprise the majority of your diet. Instead, use these oils sparingly to add flavor to your food and reap the health benefits that they have to offer.
Grass Fed Beef
People often assume that red meat is bad for them because of the high level of fat that is often associated with this type of meat. However, the problem is often not in what you are eating, but rather in what the cow is eating. This is because many cattle raisers now choose to feed their cows grain based foods rather than their natural diet of grass. They do this because just as grains fatten people up quickly, they also fatten up livestock. This allows cattle farmers to raise the livestock from birth to slaughter in a much shorter period of time and ultimately maximize their profits. This also results in a much fattier product that is not good for human consumption.
While grain fed beef is not very good for you, there are many health benefits associated with the consumption of grass fed beef. For instance, grass fed beef is naturally much lower in fat. This means fewer unnecessary calories. Grass fed beef is also naturally higher in Omega-3’s. If you are unfamiliar with Omega-3’s these fats are often referred to as good fats. This is because Omega-3 fats play an important role in many bodily functions. For instance, people with an ample supply of Omega-3’s will typically have lower blood pressure, a lower risk of heart disease, and better brain function.
This category of food includes meat from all animals that have wings and at least try to fly. This includes common meats such as chicken and turkey, as well as less common meats such as ostrich and duck.
Poultry is one of the healthiest choices you can make when eating paleo. This is because in addition to providing you with a good source of protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals, poultry also offers a relatively low calorie count. This is especially true when consuming the white meat. White meat is naturally lower in calories as this meat comes from the part of the animal which requires less muscle use. This is why you will find white meat on the breasts of non-flying birds but on the legs of flying birds.
Poultry is an excellent source of many of the vitamins and minerals that you need to survive. For example, poultry often contains high levels of Vitamin B, Vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, zinc, and magnesium. Each of these nutrients plays an essential role in keeping the body functioning properly.
Fish was a staple food for early humans and should become a staple of your diet as well. As with grass fed beef, wild fish are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Since your body does not make Omega-3’s on its own, it is vital that you get these nutrients from the food that you eat. Consuming fish on a regular basis is a low-calorie, delicious way to accomplish this goal.
Another important nutrient that is found in fish is Vitamin D. In fact, fish is the only significant natural food source of Vitamin D. This vitamin is extremely important as it acts as a natural steroid in the human body helping to aid in the development of muscle mass. Despite the importance of this vitamin, a large majority of people have been shown to have a Vitamin D deficiency. Adding fish your paleo food list can help to prevent or correct this type of deficiency.
The benefits of eating vegetables will vary depending upon what type of vegetables you choose to consume. For instance, while carrots can help to improve eyesight, green leafy vegetables are great for promoting digestive health. The good news is, vegetables are naturally low in calories, fat, and sugar. Consequently, no matter what type of vegetables you choose to eat, you can feel good about eating as much as you want.
The vegetable family also includes a specific type of food known as tubers. These are root vegetables such as yams and potatoes. Tubers are a healthy source of natural carbohydrates which can help to replenish your energy levels after a serious workout.
Fruits are the candy of the natural food world. This is because fruits are naturally high in sugar. Consequently, while fruits offer many important nutrients, they are also rather high in calories. Therefore, you should limit your consumption of fruit to just a few pieces a day when possible. To limit your sugar consumption further, you may also want to vary your fruit selections when choosing your paleo diet foods. This will allow you to enjoy your favorite fruits while also making some choices that are a bit lower in sugar.
Nuts are packed full of nutrients that can help your body starve off serious health problems such as heart disease and stroke. Not only are these tiny foods packed with protein, but they also offer healthy fats and an ample supply of calcium. This is especially important when living a paleo lifestyle since you will no longer be consuming dairy products.
As with vegetables, different types of nuts offer different health benefits. While almonds are well known for their calcium content, Brazil nuts are a great way to maintain good thyroid function. In fact, these nuts have been shown to drastically improve the thyroid function in many people with under active thyroid glands.
Nuts are another natural food that is relatively high in fat and calories. So while nuts will make a great addition to your salad or snack bowl, you will want to steer clear of eating too many nuts on any given day.
Identifying Paleo Foods At The Grocery Store
Now that you know exactly what type of foods should be included in your paleo diet, you are ready to head to the grocery store with your food list for paleo diet in hand. However, if you are like many people, you may find that the grocery store has become a confusing and a bit scary when trying to make this lifestyle change. This is because many of the product labels you will see are actually designed to make you think a product is all natural when it really is nothing more than a processed food in a fancy package.
Common Misleading Food Labels
One of the most common problems that people run into when shopping for paleo foods is misleading food labels. These labels purposely lead consumers to believe that they are selecting a healthy option when in fact the product is loaded with preservatives or other unhealthy additives.
The “All Natural” Food Label
This is a major problem for many people when learning how to eat paleo. After all, a paleo lifestyle is all about selecting natural food options. The problem is, not all food products that are labeled all natural actually live up to this title.
Currently the FDA has not defined the term “all natural”. Consequently, food companies are able to get away with labeling their products this way as long as they do not contain added coloring or synthetic ingredients. For instance, you will find that chicken is often labeled as all-natural despite the fact that it has been injected with corn syrup. Food companies are able to get away with this by saying that corn is a natural product and that it is healthy for you and therefore meets the criteria for the labeling. However, the truth is, corn syrup is a processed product that adds unnecessary calories and sugar to your food.
Made With Organic Ingredients
One of the reasons that people tend to go for processed foods is that they offer convenience. The ability to cook a meal for the whole family in just a few minutes after a long day at the office can be very tempting. Food companies are well aware of this desire for convenience and have begun trying to trick consumers who are looking for natural food options by labeling their products as “made with organic ingredients”.
If you are familiar with the organic food labeling criteria, you probably already know that any food which is labeled with an FDA organic food label must meet some rather strict criteria. Currently, these products must have 95% or more of their ingredients grown and processed without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Oftentimes people simply assume that this same strict criteria is used to label products as being made with organic ingredients. However, this simply is not true.
In order for food producers to label a product “made with organic ingredients” only 70% of the ingredients must be organic. This means that up to 30% of the ingredients can be synthetic additives. Consequently, while this may seem like a healthy food choice, it may actually be loaded with ingredients that are bad for you.
Getting Around Misleading Food Labels
Chances are, every other diet you have tried urged you to focus on food labels when doing your shopping with your paleo diet list of foods. As a result, what I’m about to tell you may come as a shock. The best way to avoid being fooled by misleading food labels is to simply stop reading them all together.
Rather than relying on food labels to help you pick paleo foods, begin relying on your common sense instead. Start by sticking to the outer aisles of the grocery store. This is where fresh foods are stored while highly processed foods are displayed on the shelves in the center of the store.
As you begin to choose foods to place in your cart, take a moment to ask yourself the following questions.
– If I was a caveman would I eat this food?
– How was this food made?
– Does the food require a list of ingredients?
– Were any artificial colors or flavors used in the product?
You should be selecting foods that occur naturally, that could be eaten even thousands of years ago by cavemen, that consist of only a single ingredient, and that do not require the use of artificial flavors or colors. If your food choices do not meet all of these criteria, remove the item from your list of foods for paleo diet and try again.
Common Mistakes Made When Transitioning To A Paleo Diet
Giving Up Too Soon
In addition to struggling with food choices at the grocery store, there are a few common mistakes that people often make when starting a paleo diet. Perhaps the most notable of these mistakes is giving up before the body has time to adjust to their new lifestyle.
Just because you start eating a natural, healthy diet today does not mean that your body will begin to feel the effects of this lifestyle change in a matter of days or even weeks. In fact, many people will need to go through a 30 day elimination period where the body rids itself of all the harmful foods and toxins that were consumed prior to eating paleo. If you give up after just a week or two, you may never see the benefits that come with eating paleo foods.
All Or Nothing Attitude
The fact is, truly healthy foods are often among the most expensive options your local grocery store will have to offer. While this may not be an issue for some people, individuals who are living on a tight budget can find it difficult to stick with a paleo diet simply because of the cost of natural and organic foods. However, this does not mean that you should abandon the lifestyle all together.
If you are struggling to purchase the best of the best at the grocery store, it is always better to buy the best your budget can accommodate rather than giving up the paleo lifestyle all together. For example, while you may not be able to afford a nice grass fed steak for dinner, this does not mean that you should trade in your healthy dinner for a frozen pizza. Instead, you can choose to purchase lower cost fruits and vegetables or a piece of seafood that is on sale.
Over time you will be able to cut the cost of your paleo foods even more by choosing to grow some of your own fruits and vegetables. You can also choose to seek out bulk meat or a cow or pig share to limit the cost of high quality meats.
In the end, a small food budget should not be used as an excuse to make poor food choices or to avoid the paleo lifestyle.
Maximizing Your Weight Loss Success With Paleo Diet Foods
While there are many legitimate reasons to switch to a paleo lifestyle, one of the most common reasons is to lose weight. If you are planning to use the paleo diet as a weight loss tool, the six tips below can help you to maximize your overall success.
1. Choose Simple Meals
There are lots of cookbooks out there that allow you to make amazing gourmet dishes while still sticking to your paleo diet. The problem is, it is much easier to go overboard when enjoying a gourmet meal than when eating a basic salad or other simple meal. This is why it is always best to choose simple meals when using the paleo diet for weight loss.
Simple meals should include a good source of protein (meat, nuts, or eggs), a generous portion of vegetables, root vegetables or fruits that contain natural carbohydrates, and a limited portion of healthy fats.
If you are a big fan of gourmet cooking, adopting this simple meal way of life does not mean you have to give up the foods you love. It simple means that you should save your more extravagant meals for special occasions or a special treat on weekends.
2. Seek Support From Family And Friends
As with many diets, one of the primary reasons that people quit before seeing any results is that it can be hard to sustain a different lifestyle than the people around you. For instance, you will find that you are far more tempted to eat a package of cookies after a bad day if these treats are already in your home because the other members of your family have not embraced the paleo lifestyle.
If you wish to maximize your weight loss success, you will need to ask both your family and friends to show their support by joining you in your efforts, at least when you share a meal together. It is also important to ensure that everyone in your home is on board with not bringing any non-paleo foods into the home.
3. Address All Aspects Of Your Life
People who struggle with their weight often rely on food to provide comfort after a bad day. This unhealthy relationship with food is often at the root of problems with overeating and plays a major role in the development of obesity. Even when choosing paleo diet foods, it is possible to continue this unhealthy cycle if you are overeating as a result of emotional or physical stress. This is why it is so important to not only address your food choices but all aspects of your life when starting a paleo diet.
Implementing mind-body techniques such as meditation and yoga can help you to manage day-to-day stress and ultimately reduce your chances of falling victim to an emotional eating binge.
4. Keep Your Body Moving
While the paleo diet does not require you to hit the gym everyday in order to see great weight loss results, the more your body moves, the more calories you will ultimately burn. Since we all know that more calories burned equals more weight lost, it is vital to keep your body moving throughout the day whenever possible. This can be something as simple as taking the stairs rather than the elevator or parking at the far end of the parking lot when visiting a local store.
Remember, cavemen not only ate natural food choices, they also were extremely active and athletic. If you wish to enjoy the healthy body of an early human, it is best to mimic both their diet and activity level.
5. Don’t Underestimate The Importance Of Carbohydrates
Since the science behind the paleo diet focuses so much on the harm that grains have done to modern humans, paleo newbies often try and take a radical approach by cutting out virtually all carbohydrates. This can cause serious issues as your body relies on complex carbohydrates to produce energy while being active.
The number of carbohydrates that you consume should directly reflect your activity level. If you have been working out every morning, you should be consuming carbohydrates directly after each workout in order to help replenish the body’s energy levels. However, if you have spent most of the day vegging out in front of the television set, your carbohydrate intake should be at a minimum. Following this simple rule will allow you to continue losing weight without suffering from a lack of energy.
6. Don’t Purposely Restrict Calories
What makes the paleo diet so attractive and successful is that it does not require you to track your food intake and overall calories. In fact, if you want to enjoy the maximum weight loss possible, you will want to forget about tracking calories ever again. This is because when you purposely drop your calorie intake below the number of calories you body needs to survive, your metabolism will begin to slow. This can result in no weight loss at all, or even worse, you could find yourself gaining weight.
Rather than aiming for a specific number of calories each day, try making food choices based on the basic nutrients that your body needs. When you do this, you will find that you begin to naturally eat smaller portions and consume fewer calories.
A Final Thought
There are many fad diets out there that claim they can help you lose weight quickly or with very little effort. However, the truth is, even if you see results when using these diets, those results are unlikely to last a lifetime.
With the paleo diet food list, you are not depriving yourself of meal in order to lose weight. Instead, you are simply making an effort to provide your body with the natural foods it craves rather than stuffing it full of useless ingredients. Consequently, not only will you see sustainable weight loss, but you will also enjoy a variety of other health benefits that can extend the length of your life and improve the quality of it as well. This is precisely why it is so important to view paleo eating as a lifestyle change rather than just another fad diet that will come and go.