Paleo Diet basics

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Monday, 10 February 2014.
Tagged: healthy weight loss, seeds, vegetables, vitamins, weight loss

Paleo Diet basics

The Paleo (Paleolithic) Diet is the modern equivalent to what our early hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. It's named for the Paleolithic Era which is defined as the time period from two million years ago up until approx 10,000 years ago when agriculture and settled life in villages and towns began. You'll also hear it called the Caveman Diet, Hunter-Gatherer Diet, Primal Diet or Stoneage Diet.

What can't I eat on the Paleo Diet?

All those foods that came into our food supply in a big way AFTER the Agricultural Revolution:

  • Grains e.g. wheat, barley, rye, rice, oats etc.
  • Legumes e.g.chick peas, lentils (this includes peanuts)
  • Dairy foods
  • Refined sugar (honey is ok)
  • Refined oils
  • Potatoes – not sure why as tomatoes and capsicum are allowed
  • Salt
  • All junk food

What you can eat on the Paleo Diet

"Anything that you can catch, fish, pull out of the ground or pick off a tree"

  • Meats, grass-fed and fresh, including internal organs e.g. liver, kidney, brains
  • Eggs
  • Fish, seafood
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables, salads
  • Fresh fruit
  • Healthy oils (Extra Virgin (EV) olive oil, EV coconut oil, macadamia, walnut, flaxseed)

 The diet is high in protein, thanks to the high intake of meat, chicken, fish and eggs, and it's much lower in carbohydrates than the average modern diet as you've cut out grains, legumes and sugar, which are the main source of carbs these days. You're getting your carbs from starchy vegetables (sweet potato, tubers, beetroot) and fresh fruit.

It's high in fibre from all the vegetables and fruit and supplies a higher intake of, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant phytochemicals – vegetables and fruit have much more antioxidants than whole grains.

You eat plenty of fat but it's not the bad fats in processed foods (trans fats) or much omega-6 from seed oils.

You don't add any salt so your food ends up being low in sodium and high in potassium, a complimentary mineral that helps overcomes salt's adverse effect on fluid retention, blood pressure and kidney function - this is the opposite of the modern diet.

It's the discordance between the modern day diet and our ancestral way of eating that Dr Cordain sees as the underlying cause of ill health and modern illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, auto-immune diseases, dementia and certain cancers.

Allowed Paleo snacks

  • Avocado
  • Leftover cold meats or chicken
  • Bananas and other fresh fruit
  • Nuts, unsalted
  • hard-boiled eggs

Dr Loren Cordain, the Founder of the Paleo movement and a researcher at Colorado University, has an 85:15 Rule which allows you 3 non-Paleo meals a week. The essence of a Paleo diet is to "eat minimally processed foods in the forms that our ancestors would have had sufficient access to", according to Dr Cordain.

Key Paleo websites

The original Paleo site from Dr Loren Cordain, researcher at Colorado University and founder of the Paleo movement.

Robb Wolf is a biochemist and regularly analyses research papers to prove his interest and liking for Paleo eating. Also combined with vigorous exercise programs such as Cross Fit in gyms.

Debunking the Paleo diet

The Paleo Diet is meant to be the food our ancestors ate and is supposed to be best suited to our genome. Many researchers dispute the Diet arguing that both humans and foods have evolved since our Caveman days so what we ate then has little bearing on the modern food supply.

You don't eat any dairy yet if you've descended from folk from Northern Europe who herded cows for over 20 generations, you have retained the enzyme lactase needed to break down and digest the natural sugar of milk.This is the only group who can and should drink milk into their adult years.

Christina Warinner at TEDxOU

(22 minutes on You Tube -Published on 12 Feb 2013)

TED Fellow Christina Warinner is an expert on ancient diets. So how much of the diet fad the "Paleo Diet" is based on an actual Paleolithic diet? The answer is not really any of it.

Dr Warinner has excavated around the world, from the Mayan jungles of Belize to the Himalayan mountains of Nepal, and she is pioneering the biomolecular investigation of archaeological dental calculus (tartar) to study long-term trends in human health and diet. She obtained her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2010, specializing in ancient DNA analysis and paleodietary reconstruction.

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Nutrition for Life  is a new update on all the things you've read or heard about. Think insects, collagen, vegan eating, Keto dieting, vitamin B12, fast food and cafe culture.  It has plenty of colour pictures and is easy to dip in and out of. Grab your copy NOW!