Navigating Paleo Diet In Modern World | Eating Healthy In A World Of Processed Foods
Whether we like it or not, the health of our society is bad and getting worse.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, diabetes is now the seventh leading cause of death, just in the United States alone.
Type 2 diabetes has been on the rise due to poor lifestyle choices, such as too much unhealthy food and not enough exercise. “Globesity,” a term coined by the World Health Organization to describe the worldwide obesity epidemic, is another problem as well. These numbers continue to rise as do the associated health problems and diseases.
Cheap, processed foods are so readily available and overwhelm the shelves in supermarkets. Toss desk-jobs, long drives or commutes and electronics into the mix, and we do a lot of sitting around and very little to burn off that processed food.
Americans spent about twenty-five percent of their net income on food ninety-years ago, according to a study done by RAND on why Americans are so fat. In the present day, we spend less than ten-percent of that income on food. But we’re certainly not eating less- we’re eating more, unhealthier, cheaper foods.
But perhaps we are finally seeing a turning point. The last three quarters, McDonalds has seen a global decline of about 3.3% in sales, perhaps indicative of less consumption of fast food.
With media covering the obesity epidemic and health and quality of life plummeting, some people are starting to see the light. Documentaries such as Fed Up are exposing food manufacturers concerns that lie only with profits and not health, and how added sugar is in over 80% of supermarket foods.
We may be a long ways off from getting back to “the good old days” where dinner was made from whatever was in the garden and processed foods were nearly unheard of. But the best we can do is inform ourselves on why healthy choices are the best for long-term health and quality of life.
As technology develops, our choices will only continue to grow. By making wise ones, we can help battle and slow this rising epidemic.
So today I want to give you a quick beginners overview of one of the best choices you can make in regards to overall health & a natural way of eating. The Paleo Diet…Don’t worry if you don’t know what it is, within the next few moments you will discover why it has been one of the most talked about diets of recent time.
Let’s dive in
What Exactly Is The Paleo Diet
If you don’t know what the Paleo diet is or you’ve never heard of it before, no worries – within this first chapter, we’re going to explore exactly what this way of eating is all about.
At its core, Paleo is a lot more lifestyle than it is a diet. A Paleo lifestyle is about eating real, whole, natural foods and avoiding all processed foods.
You see, the modern diet is exactly that, it’s modern. Humans ate in a Paleo style since the beginning of time before starting the agricultural revolution where we started to eat grain and sugar based foods, as well as processed foods.
The idea behind Paleo is to eliminate those processed foods, chemicals, vegetable oils and other new additions to the modern diet that can be detrimental to our lifestyle, from how we move to our energy levels to how we feel on a daily basis.
For all those years that we ate Paleo, humans were hunters and gathers. They ate meat and they ate fruits such as berries when they were in season. Which also meant they moved a lot and were very active. They needed to be strong and fit in order to survive. Their bodies were conditioned to efficiently use fat as fuel and energy, not carbohydrates.
Eventually agriculture came into being and the human diet changed dramatically.
The Agricultural Revolution occurred about 10,000 years ago and introduced grains, such as wheat, and breads into our diet.
Today’s modern diet contains things like significant quantities of gluten. Gluten was non-existent in Paleolithic times. Things like wheat, rye, many cereals and barley, contain gluten. Gluten has been recognized to cause inflammation in the gut and has been given widespread attention through celebrities like Kelly Ripa,who have famously gone gluten-free.It’s also been theorized (not proven) that gluten could play a role in an increased risk of some cancers as well as heart disease.
Another ingredient in the modern day diet that is linked to possible health problems is that of lectins. Lectins are present in grains. They cause wear and tear on our gastrointestinal tract, making it very difficult to heal.
Let’s not forget sugar. Sugar is everywhere and in everything nowadays. Sugar needs to be burned but another aspect of modern times is how sedentary people have become.
Everyone sits. They sit at work, they sit on the couch watching television, they sit at their computers, they sit checking out social media and texts on their smart phones. People do not move the way they used to and so they don’t burn calories the way they used to. This becomes a big problem when talking about sugar
In the Paleolithic period, humans were lean, strong and fit. They moved, pretty much all day every day. They didn’t farm or grow crops. As I mentioned above, they hunted and gathered. They
followed the food. They didn’t sit around playing on their Apple
iStone Tablet. If they did, they’d starve!
So all that sugar being consumed in the modern diet, which is bad enough, isn’t even burned off because of sedentary lifestyles. Which means energy spikes and crashes, and related health
problems such as diabetes and blood pressure issues.
One of the big myths that the Paleo diet has helped to dispel is the outdated notion of eating fat makes you fat.
This was a big deal when the high carbohydrate craze started in the eighties and you had everyone obsessed with the amount of fat calories they were eating. Almost every food in existence ended up with a low-fat or no-fat version. But most of that fat got replaced with sugar!
Fat is a crucial nutrient when it comes to our health. Dietary fat is needed for an optimal, well-functioning and healthy body. It’s all the chemicals, preservatives and added sugar in our diets that lead to the weight gain, health issues, energy problems and more.
Are All Fats Beneficial in the Paleo Diet?
The first point to note is that not all fats are created equal. The second point worth remembering is that you do not get fat by eating fat. In fact, you must consume the right fats for good health. Fats make you feel happy and provide a host of benefits such as reducing cancer risk, boosting you immune system and even helping you lose weight.
Yup! You need to eat fat to lose fat… but you must eat the right fats.
The problem these days is that most people are consuming unhealthy fats that come from hydrogenated oils. Many people are unaware of how unhealthy the vegetable oils they consume are. The oils are marketed as being healthy and made out of natural foods such as soy, corn, etc.
In reality, oils that have been refined or hydrogenated are extremely bad for the human body and cause many health
The paleo diet uses oils in their natural state. The oils are not bleached or subjected to chemical processes that make them harmful. The fats used in the paleo diet are not only safe but are extremely beneficial to the body.
Since the diet is heavy in meat, you will get a good portion of animal fats in your diet. Paleo dieters are encouraged to get grass-fed meats because even the food the commercial companies feed their livestock is detrimental. Eating grass-fed meats will ensure that no ill-effects are passed down to you. Animal fats are perfectly fine. Our ancestors ate lots of meat and our bodies have evolved over time to eat meat and handle animal
fat. Rest assured that your cholesterol level is not going to skyrocket. Studies have proven that dietary cholesterol does not cause high cholesterol in humans.
Do you want to know what causes high cholesterol levels in human beings?
Hydrogenated oils sold on supermarket shelves. Unhealthy fats found in cookies, junk food, fast food, etc. These are what cause unhealthy cholesterol levels. Worry not! Since the paleo diet does not allow consumption of these awful items, you’re safe.
Coconut oil is the most preferred oil in the paleo diet. Just like how olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, coconut oil is the staple oil in the paleo diet. It contains over 90% saturated fat and every bit is good for you. Coconut oil is stable at room temperature and can be used for cooking. It contains lauric acid which is easily digested and helps boost your immune system.
Another healthy fat that is seen in the paleo diet is olive oil. This is a very healthy oil and helps to balance the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the body. This will lubricate your joints and prevent inflammation in the body.
Butter and ghee are other fats that are also used to prepare paleo dishes. Many paleo dieters scramble their eggs in the morning with melted butter. Butter is not a strictly paleo ingredient but it does have many health benefits. So, if you’re willing to be a little lax, you can include butter as part of your diet. It does have many benefits.
These are just some of the fats in the paleo diet. There are other fats such as avocado oil, etc. The point you should take awayn from this article is that the fats in the paleo diet are perfectly healthy.
You should be more concerned with the normal food that is being sold commercially. These are the biggest culprits for most of society’s health issues these days. Avoid these unhealthy products and go paleo. It truly is life-changing.
The Paleo diet has been referred to as the “Caveman” diet because that is basically how you are asked to eat. The Paleo
diet mainly consists of meat, fish, turkey, chicken, fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Overall, Eating Paleo eliminates the negative aspects of the modern diet, such as sugar, trans fats and preservatives, while nourishing your body with much needed vitamins, minerals, proteins and healthy fats such as essential fatty acids. Essential as in your body needs them! Get it?
With the Paleo diet you are basically going back to, well, basics! Well that’s a basic overview of what the Paleo Diet is, in the next part we will look at going organic and following that we will look at Paleo approved foods.
Is Organic The Way To Go In This Modern World?
Part of being an informed and conscious consumer is being aware of the foods you buy and their health benefits and drawbacks especially if you’re looking at adopting the Paleo way of eating. Buzz words float around the world of healthy eating so frequently that it’s hard to keep track of what’s what and why- and “organic” is certainly no exception.
Walk into your typical, everyday grocery store and chances are you’ll stumble upon a few aisles labeled “health food aisle” or “organic aisle.” Sounds pretty good, right?
The shelves are stocked with items labeled “natural,” “raw,” “sprouted,” and “organic.” The prices are a bit high but hey,
that’s the price you pay for health, right? It’s important to understand what these labels mean and if they
really even mean much, at all.
The term organic refers to the way in which agricultural products are grow, raised, handled and processed. Using natural fertilizers over chemical ones, and natural insecticides over synthetic ones are both ways in which food can be grown and processed to be considered organic. Meat that is considered organic comes from animals that were given organic feed and no antibiotics, growth hormones or medications.
There are a variety of organic labels that you may have come across. Some foods say made with organic ingredients. But who really knows what that means exactly?
Variations of “Organic” Labeling
• 100% Organic- completely organic or made of all organic
• Organic- at least 95% organic ingredients.
• Made with Organic Ingredients- 70% or higher organic ingredients.
It’s important to consider the value of buying a particular item in an organic variety. Just because organic costs more doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth it.
Organic.org has a list of foods they call the “dirty dozen,” which contain those that have the highest level of pesticides and therefore are best bought organic. There is also a list of a dozen foods that you can buy non-organic (“least contaminated”). This guide is a great reference for your trips to the grocery store.
Adding Organic Foods Into A Paleo Diet
Now that you understand what the term organic means, what are some reasons you should start adding organic foods into your grocery purchases if following a Paleo Diet?
• More Nutritious- Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, flavonoids
• Safer- No pesticides, usually no GMO’s
• Pure- No flavor enhancers, preservatives, contaminants
While many argue that the price of organic food makes itnimpossible to afford, there are ways you can make it fit your
• Shop at local farmers markets
• Join an organic co-op
• Buy directly from farmers
• Buy in bulk
• Grow your own
• Shop online
Those who are fans of organic foods believe it’s healthier and safer to consume than non-organic foods when following the Paleo Diet. On the other hand, some argue that there is no way to ensure that what you’re buying is truly organic, the major factor being the consumption of these foods over processed.
Paleo Approved Foods
Foods You Can Eat: (we’ll cover this in a bit more detail below)
• Fish and Seafood
• Herbs and Spices
• Natural oils (avocado, coconut, olive)
• Nuts (Seeds)
Big Paleo No No Foods (as in no, you can’t eat these):
Grains, grains, grains (barley, rye, wheat) – Among other things they contain gluten. Avoiding grains means no bread or pasta.
Sugars (includes high fructose corn syrup) – No soft drinks, fruit drinks, ice cream, pastries, candy, etc. Sugars may promote weight gain, give you diabetes, energy crashes and blood pressure issues, among other health issues.
Legumes – This means no beans or lentils
Dairy – Stay away from all low-fat dairy products. If you don’t have problems digesting dairy it may be okay to consume some full-fat dairy products like raw whole milk and certain cheeses but only in small amounts.
Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (canola, corn, cottonseed, soybean, sunflower, etc.) – These oils cause unhealthy levels of
inflammation. And remember the essential fatty acids mentioned above? One of the major problems today is our unbalanced intake of Omega-6 fatty acids compared to Omega-3. A major factor in this unbalanced intake is the high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids in these oils.
Margarine – margarine was created as a “healthy” alternative to butter. As it turns out, butter is the much healthier option. Most margarine has high levels of deadly trans-fats in them.
Artificial Sweeteners – things like acesulfame potassium, aspartame, saccharin and sucralose are to be avoided on the
Paleo diet. Obesity is an epidemic and many, many health problems have been connected to obesity. Obesity has been linked to diets high in processed foods, high in processed carbohydrates, and excess sugar intake. The potential health problems include heart disease, type two diabetes, cancer and stroke.
Yes, many of you are looking at this list of what you can’t eat and thinking you could never follow a Paleo lifestyle. Well, take another look at the list of things that you can eat! How often do you see some of those on a list of foods you can eat while on a so-called ‘diet
Not to mention the fact that a Paleo diet does not ask you to count calories!
Yummy Paleo Approved Foods!
Remember that list above of approved foods? We’re talking hamburgers, steak, pork, bison, lamb, duck, turkey, chicken and more! Bacon, baby! The world is better with bacon!
Grass-fed if you can. After all, meat with a bunch of added chemicals sort of defeats the purpose of the Paleo diet, don’t you think?
Seafood includes fish like salmon, trout, shrimp, a variety of shellfish, haddock and even more.
You can eat lots of vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, kale and tomato, as well as onions and peppers.
Sweet potatoes, yams and baked potatoes are on the approved Paleo eating list. This includes turnips, too.
Yes to eggs as well – hard boiled, soft boiled, scrambled, omelet (just add some of those vegetables and even some of the meat list, if that’s what you enjoy.
Approved nuts and seeds you can eat are almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, chia seeds and
macadamia nuts as well.
A large variety of fruits can be eaten when you go Paleo. On this list is all kinds of berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc.), apples, oranges, mango and pears. This also includes avocados which is a fantastic source of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats that your body needs.
Oils are an important part of the Paleo diet and include the aforementioned olive, coconut and avocado.
Finally, we have our herbs and spices. There is something here for everyone to flavor your food – Sea salt, garlic, turmeric, mint, basil, rosemary and many others can be part of your every day eating.
You will find slightly different approved foods with the Paleo diet or the “Caveman” diet. Some will tell you that it’s okay to consumer certain things in limited quantities. This includes red wine (science says there are a variety of health benefits to red wine), hot chocolate using dark chocolate, and certain teas, like green tea, that is packed with powerful antioxidants that have a lot of health benefits.
Hardcore Paleo enthusiasts will tell you to go organic as often as possible, to only eat grass-fed meat and consume wild-caught sustainable fish. If you can do this, great, but if not, don’t let that stop you.
Following the Paleo diet will do wonders for you even if you don’t go hardcore organic all the way. Do what you can.
Exercising On The Paleo Diet
Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. If you are going to embrace the Paleo lifestyle, you really should consider an
exercise regimen as well. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, like some weight training program from a roided-out pro bodybuilder or the training of a high level athlete.
In fact, if you all you can muster is a 30 minute walk every day, that’s a big deal. One of the biggest problems with modern life, is how sedentary we are nowadays. Many people sit at a desk all day long and then they sit on the couch in the evening, usually with a smart phone, tablet, or lap top, engaging in social media sites.
So if you can walk every day for half an hour, good for you! Keep it up! If you want a little more but you’re one of those people that REALLY struggles with sticking to your workouts, forget complicated, multi-exercise programs.
Start by focusing on making exercises a habit so that it becomes part of your life routine. And the easiest way to do this is not just to workout first thing in the morning but to make the workout unbelievably simple!
How do you make it so simple that you never skip a workout? Easy! As soon as you roll out of bed, start exercising! This can be as simple as one exercise.
Here are some examples. (View Demo’s Of Exercises On
Youtube If Unsure )
Roll out of bed and do X number of bodyweight squats (such as 50!) If you can’t do 50 straight take rests when you need it and keep track of the time it takes to complete all 50 and try and beat that time the next time you do it. Or, reverse it and do bodyweight squats for 7 minutes, resting when you need to and keep track of how many you do. Next time, try and do more in that 7 minutes.
You could do a different exercise each day for a week and then
Modify the exercises to fit you. If you have knee issues or are severely overweight or out of shape, burpees and jump lunges may not be for you. That’s fine. Do normal squats instead of the burpees. Do regular lunges instead of jump lunges.
Not strong enough for the push ups? Do them from your knees. Or do them on a wall, with your feet a few feet away so you have to lean into the wall.
If push ups are too easy, do a more difficult version, such as explosive push ups, clap push ups, or spiderman push ups.
Once you’ve done that for a few weeks and exercise becomes the normal thing you do in the morning, you can start doing multi exercise routines. Another option would be to set an appointment with your self. Instead of having a orkout scheduled for Tuesday, you should have an appointment with yourself to workout on Tuesday at 6
pm. You’ll be much more likely to keep this commitment.
Is The Paleo Diet Right For The Whole Family?
If you’re someone who is looking at starting a Paleo plan of eating and would like the whole family to join in the fun but don’t know whether it’s right or not, then you are not alone.
This question has been asked many times and in this chapter we will attempt to navigate our way through it.
Firstly, before you even approach your family and try to convince them to go on a paleo diet, you need to bear a few things in mind. Firstly, as we have covered, the paleo diet is not an easy diet. There are many restrictions such as no consumption of sugar, processed foods, artificial additives, etc.
Secondly, it’s not just a diet. It’s an entire lifestyle change. You will not be able to go to a party or gathering and eat what you want because not many people prepare food according to paleo requirements. Even restaurants and expensive eating establishments may not prepare food in a paleo manner. That basically means you will have to bring your own food to a party.
Thirdly, most comfort foods are excluded from the paleo diet simply because they contain sugar, dairy, or some ingredient that is not allowed in the paleo diet.
So how are you going to convince your spouse and kids to give up all their favorite foods and eat like a caveman?
The process itself may seem like you’re at a United Nations convention trying to get opposing countries to sign a multilateral agreement.
The best way to go about it would be to do it in stages. Don’t try to go from zero to paleo hero overnight. Yes, it is beneficial and yes, it is an excellent idea… but you will need to give your family time to adjust, adapt and assimilate.
In the beginning stages, make one meal a paleo meal. It could be breakfast. Throw out the sugary cereals and milk. Replace those with bacon fried in coconut oil, scrambled eggs and a glass of fresh fruit juice. Get a recipe book full of delicious recipes and tempt your family members with tasty paleo meals.
The key is to make them feel like they are not sacrificing delicious food for a paleo diet. Your excitement and interest as contagious as they may be, might not be enough to sway your family from tucking into that tub of macadamia nut ice-cream.
Also, try not to get too preachy and stop yourself from standing on a paleo pedestal and shaking your head at their poor food choices. Exercise tolerance and slowly swing them over to your side.
Of course, your family may say, “Yay! Let’s all get on the paleo diet and eat beef liver tonight!”… highly unlikely, but if it does happen, good for you.
Otherwise, follow the earlier advice.
It is a fantastic idea to get your family on the paleo diet because it is extremely healthy. You will be less prone to obesity, allergies, aches and pains, etc. In the long run, your entire family will benefit from the paleo diet.
So, it is worth pursuing and persuading. Have tolerance or your spouse may divorce you and let you have full custody of the chicken feet and bison tail that are happily sitting in the freezer.
The key to convincing them will be to become an excellent cook. Invest in a good paleo recipe book and hone those cooking skills of yours. Do focus on the desserts. Most people find it extremely difficult to give up the sweet foods.
Do not use the paleo diet as a crutch to cook unpalatable dishes. It is perfectly possible to whip up mouth-watering paleo dishes. Once you can do that, it is half the battle won.
Work on yourself… then work on your family. There are many families on the paleo diet. This goal is within reach.
Conclusion – Tips To Start Today!
You may be surprised to know that the majority of people who start something never complete it. If you’ve made it this far, you’re definitely interested in the Paleo way of eating and all the benefits it has to offer.
The best thing you can do, is to get clearance from your doctor and get started on a Paleo program.
Take your time and progress at your own pace. This is not a race. The more you do it, the better you will get at doing it and the healthier you will become. It’s all a matter of time and practice.
In this last part we will look at practical steps to start a Paleo lifestyle starting today.
Understand the basic do’s and don’ts of what to eat and
Do Eat: Nuts, vegetables, fruit, eggs, organic & grass fed meats, mhealthy oils (coconut, avocado, olive, etc.), fish/seafood
Don’t Eat: Processed foods, dairy (butter, yogurt, cheese, milk), cereal grains, legumes (beans, peas), peanuts & peanut butter, refined sugar, potatoes, refined vegetable oils, candy, artificial sweeteners, starchy vegetables (potatoes, yam, etc.)
Plan on a lifestyle change, not a temporary “thing”:
Lasting results happen when you stick to something permanently. That doesn’t mean that every now and then you won’t find yourself having a cup of milk with an Oreo. But going into a diet change with the mindset that changes are permanent and long lasting is a key to success.
Remember that this is not a race. It may take a while to remember what foods to incorporate and what foods to give up.
Do a sweep of your kitchen:
Let’s face it. The box of cookies in your cupboard clearly won’t fly within the world of Paleo. But if they’re there, you’ll likely eat them. Same goes for the butter, the peanuts, the potatoes. In order to avoid temptations every time you pen the cabinet door, you’re going to have to toss some of that stuff. Give it to a neighbor, a friend, or the local food bank.
Make sure you understand your reasoning:
Oftentimes we read about a new diet or exercise and we get so stoked, we just want to dive right in because man that sounds awesome! But in order to keep our motivation up for the long haul, it’s important to understand why you’re choosing to start something.
Are you diving into Paleo because your friend did it, because you want to feel better, or because you want to lose weight? Whatever your reasoning may be, make sure it’s one you truly believe in.
Aside from the fact that this is just an awesome overall rule for life, it reminds us that we aren’t perfect. Every now and then we may want a treat (read: something that doesn’t fall on the “eat” list for Paleo). Some people allow themselves treats every now and then- some do so on a scheduled basis, others as life tosses things their way.Regardless, don’t beat yourself up for “slipping up.” We’re human after all!
Do your homework
If you’re a restaurant junkie and are weeping at merely the thought of giving up your Friday-night-fun, hang on a minute. Revisit the menus of places you frequent and see how you can make the food selections fit the Paleo “requirements.” Or, if there’s a dish you just can’t live without, plan to have your cheat at the restaurant that serves it.
Making the choice to live a healthier life is awesome and admirable, whether Paleo ends up being the route for you or not. By eating the foods that our ancestors ate, instead of filling our bellies with packaged everything, we can be sure we’re heading down a path of healthier, happier lives!