The Paleo diet is a diet plan that should consist mainly of foods that can be gathered and hunted, much like what people ate during the Paleolithic period. Food items such as bread, pasta, rice and dairy products are excluded as they required at least a farming and herding process and in many cases a secondary processing as well.
These foods are considered ‘agrarian’ and evolved much later than the hunter-gatherer foods.
Advocates of the Paleo diet believe that our bodies were never designed to eat grains, legumes and dairy products. They also believe that food should be unprocessed.
Paleo foods should basically be prepared from its natural state. This means in the case of plant foods they should be either picked (or purchased in that condition), cooked and eaten. Meat from animals should be cut into portions, cooked and eaten, with no curing or processing along the way.
Those who follow the Paleo ethos believe that incorporating non-Paleo sources into our diet is what makes us more at risk of numerous diseases and ill-health.
It may seem difficult and for some almost impossible to completely imitate what people ate in prehistoric times, as today we have so many foods at our disposal. We do not have to hunt or gather, we simply go shopping and there are so many processed foods offered to us today.
The Paleo diet is a mindset and it is not hard to think Paleo. If the meat came from an animal that by its nature would have swum, flown or grazed the grass, or if the vegetables or nuts could have reasonably grown without intervention, it’s probably Paleo acceptable.
However if there was a secondary process such as curing involved, it’s probably not. In the average supermarket most Paleo foods will be in the meat and fruit and vegetable sections. You won’t find much to suit in the aisles.
Here is a list of foods that you can eat if you want to follow a Paleo diet.
Meat and Fats
Meat forms the basis of the Paleo diet, supported by some vegetables, nuts and fruits. Red meat from most grazing animals, such as beef, mutton and lamb, goats and game animals is considered Paleo. Pork is also allowed but strict followers avoid bacon and ham due to the curing processes they have undergone. White meat from all manner of poultry, fish, shellfish and crustaceans are all accepted Paleo sources.
Degrees of adherence and interpretations vary, but those who do consider themselves ‘strict’ Paleo observers look for grass-fed rather than feedlot finished animals as their meat source.
You can add some flexibility on your Paleo diet by using flaxseed and olive oil in your meals.
Vegetables and Fruits
You can eat almost all types of vegetables and fruits. Some Paleo dieters prefer to eat raw fruits and vegetables. Avoid eating those that are from the ‘nightshade’ group such as eggplants and tomatoes. Corn is considered a farmed grain and not included. Many also exclude potatoes.
Water is considered the primary Paleo hydrator and should be the main fluid consumed. Milk products and soda drinks are definitely not part of the Paleo ideal. Paleo dieters often drink filtered water as drinking water from the tap is discouraged because it may contain chlorine and fluoride.
You may also squeeze a little lime, orange or lemon juice into your water to add variety. Aside from filtered water you can also drink fresh juice made from fruits and vegetables without any artificial sweeteners or preservatives.
You can also drink herbal teas such as chamomile, peppermint and ginger.
Health and Fitness
If following a Paleo diet you must not forget to incorporate regular exercise into your daily routines. The Paleo diet is a lifestyle diet and our ancestors certainly had to expend energy in the course of their hunting and gathering.
Like any other type of stringent diet plan, the Paleo diet has certain limitations. If you have any pre-conditions or concerns, it would be wise to consult with your health care provider or dietitian before starting your own Paleo diet plan.