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The Paleo Diet: A Closer Look

January 26, 2021
Paleo Diet

We’re taking a closer look at one of today’s more popular diets, the Paleolithic or Paleo diet.

The Paleo diet is a modern eating plan based on what prehistoric humans ate millions of years ago. During the Paleolithic era — 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.  During this time, humans were in a hunter-gatherer period. Humans ate what they could kill or gather from plants. Their diet consisted of such foods as fish, lean meats, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables. You should avoid grains, flour, and dairy products on the Paleo diet because the Paleolithic era predates crop cultivation.

What Foods Can You eat on Paleo?

Here are the basics:

Eat: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats and oils.

Don’t Eat: Processed foods, sugar, soft drinks, grains, most dairy products, legumes, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils, margarine and trans fats.

Foods to Eat on the Paleo Diet

The main foods to eat while on a Paleo Diet is whole foods that are unprocessed. If your food budget allows, always choose grass-fed, pasture-raised and organic if you can. If not, just make sure to always go for the least-processed option.

  • Meat: Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork and others – grass-fed, pasture-raised and organic, if possible.
  • Fish and seafood: Salmon, trout, haddock, shrimp, shellfish, etc. Choose fish that is wild-caught over farm-raised.
  • Eggs: Choose free-range, pastured or omega-3 enriched eggs.
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, kale, peppers, onions, carrots, tomatoes, etc.
  • Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, avocados, strawberries, blueberries and more.
  • Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and more.
  • Healthy fats and oils: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and others.
  • Salt and spices: Sea salt, garlic, turmeric, rosemary, etc.

Foods to Avoid on the Paleo Diet

Avoid these foods and ingredients:

  • Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup: Soft drinks, fruit juices, table sugar, candy, pastries, ice cream and many others.
  • Grains: Includes breads and pastas, wheat, spelt, rye, barley, etc.
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils and many more.
  • Dairy: All dairy products, but especially low-fat dairy, as this is more processed.
  • Some vegetable oils: Soybean oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil and others.
  • Trans fats: Found in margarine and various processed foods. Usually referred to as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils.
  • Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame, sucralose, cyclamates, saccharin, acesulfame potassium. Use natural sweeteners such as honey, stevia, or agave syrup instead.
  • Highly processed foods: Everything labeled “diet” or “low-fat” or that has many additives. Includes artificial meal replacements.

A simple guideline to follow for the Paleo diet: If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it.

Get in the habit of reading ingredient lists, even on foods that are labeled as “health foods.”

Foods to Enjoy in Moderation

Our paleolithic ancestors most certainly didn’t consume the following foods, but they can be incorporated into a modern Paleo diet. Just don’t overdo it!

Coffee: The third most popular drink on the planet derives its goodness from the coffee bean, which is the seed of the coffee plant. However, the jury is still out about the health benefits or lack thereof of drinking coffee. You could try to limit coffee consumption, even if you feel like you can’t start your day without your coffee fix as it will likely be healthier in the long run.

Chocolate: Studies have shown that the cacao solids used in dark chocolate have some health benefits when consumed in moderation. Opt for dark chocolate made from a high ratio of chocolate solids. Read the label and avoid chocolate made with added sugar, dairy, or artificial flavorings.

Dried Fruit: Dried fruit is a good on the go snack. Read the label to be aware of the sugar content and serving size so you don’t inadvertently consume too much sugar. The sugar concentration in dried fruit is much higher with the water removed.

Alcohol: In moderation, alcohol has been associated with a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as helping to improve insulin sensitivity. Make sure to limit the number of drinks you plan to have in advance, as alcohol tends to impair judgement as more is consumed.

Sweeteners: You can use natural sweeteners such as raw honey, coconut milk, stevia, and dark chocolate now and then to sweeten up your treats.

How To Start A Paleo Diet?

A man and woman in a kitchen. The man is cutting up red pepper, while the woman is stirring something in a big pot on the stove.

You should always consult your physician before starting any diet. Start putting together your grocery list after obtaining your doctor’s approval and reviewing Paleo guidelines.

“There’s really no trick to starting the diet. You just stop eating non-paleo foods like grains and dairy, load up on meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and nuts instead. It’s similar to other diets in that the biggest benefits come from not having all the refined and processed foods that most of us tend to overeat. Paleo, as a concept, is an easy way to eat more whole foods and less of everything else,” states Lou Schuler, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

Already eating Paleo or thinking about starting? Contact us today to talk about how we can supply your office with healthy and delicious Paleo-friendly snacks to keep you on track with the Paleo diet.

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