A Guide to Building Your Own Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet is, in my opinion, a very good diet, however, I feel, at best, it can only be used as a template for those who are experiencing inflammation and sensitivities to foods. Even though the diet is based off the original diet our ancestors ate, it is still very hard (if not impossible) to mimic this diet today. They didn’t have the kitchens we have, filled with ovens, microwaves, slow cookers, ect. The best we can do is learn as much as possible about the food we are eating and try to make commonsense decisions about what and whatnot to include in our diets.
I originally tried the Paleo Diet, as a recommendation by my doctor. I followed it entirely and lost about 5 pounds in one month (which is better than I’ve done before). After one month, I gave it up though because I didn’t see a ton of huge benefits and I felt that it was very restrictive. I was still experiencing the dermographism at an unimproved level afterwards. Then in August 2014, I decided to try the 90 Day Challenge at my gym. I had made the commitment to give it a solid shot, without giving up. I chose to do the food sensitivity test, out of curiosity, and this changed EVERYTHING! This is where I came to the conclusion that the Paleo Diet was really more of a template and that needs to be modified for each individual.
It isn’t any kind of revolutionary idea to consider the Paleo Diet a template for your own diet. I have read several other blogs out there that claim this exact thing. I jokingly call my Paleo template the Anieleo Diet. Here I will outline the basics of the Paleo Diet and add some points that should be considered when you’re creating your very own template.
The basis of the Paleo Diet revolves around meats. The key point is high protein. If you are on the Paleo Diet, you are eating a lot of meat. I suppose the tricky part really comes in determining what meats are best to eat. Naturally, most of us know red meats shouldn’t be the basis of our diets but for Americans, we eat more red meat than any other country. You want to be diverse with your meats and understand the different labels that you find on meat. I personally don’t believe all meat is created equally.
There are a variety of different labels for meats. Grass-fed, organic, all natural, naturally raised, free ranged, no antibiotics, amish, pastured, kosher, ect. It is up to you to determine what kind of meat you really want to eat.
When it comes to beef or even dairy (if you choose to consume it), the biggest concern is grass fed or grain fed. The typical calf, raise for human consumption, goes from 80 to 1,200 pounds in less than 14 months. This is not naturally possible on an all-natural diet but by inserting grains, protein supplements and various hormones, these calves can grow extremely fast. They are given a variety of hormones to allow them to gain weighed and feed in a manor that will grow them to the acceptable weight prior to slaughter. Some people even believe that these hormones can be transferred to humans upon eating. Other things to consider are the amount of antibiotics given to the animal and whether or not irradiation has been used. If you are unfamiliar with this term, it means that it has been treated with gamma rays, produced by cobalt 60, a radioactive material used to kill bacteria. Do your research on what you want to eat and whether or not you believe in these methods for consumed foods. I will always prefer grass-fed meats. It is my preference and I like the idea that we shouldn’t be inducing animals with excess amounts of whatever just to make them grow faster for the sake of creating as much beef as possible.
Organic meat sales are currently on the rise, just the same as other organic products. The term organic means that the animal is allowed to eat grains or other products that are considered to be certified organic. The guidelines are extremely strict. You can at least guarantee that there is no irradiation, genetically engineering, synthetic fertilizers or sewage products on the land within the last three years or more.
By eating all natural it means that there are no additions of colors or chemical preservatives. There is one downside, the animal can consume products that are or are not organic. The producer can determine if their animals require hormones or antibiotics. This is partially why you need to understand meat labeling and what it means for your food. If you don’t trust the food labeled by your local grocer then consider finding a producer that you trust to buy your meats from. Even the term “naturally raised” does not mean the same thing as all natural. This is an extensive topic that calls for its own post, which will come at another date and I will post a link here. I plan to follow up for my own knowledge as well, since I don’t feel I know enough. Until then, if you are unsure about a particular kind of meat, do your research.
I prefer to go with grass-fed meats and anything that is as natural as possible. I also prefer to avoid any chemicals or antibiotics inserted into animals. It’s not always easy to guarantee these things but what we can do is to push for a clearer understanding of the meats. I think they need to be labeled better and we need to be able to clearly understand what has been done to the meat, when we purchase it, rather than spending hours on Google trying to discover what these terms mean. I sometimes feel as though they make these terms so vague, to the normal person, so that the food produced the cheapest continues to make the largest revenue, even though it hurts the smaller farmers who are doing things exactly the way it should be done.
I wanted to include an additional piece of information. One of my original Paleo mistakes that I learned after my food sensitivity test was that I was sensitive to chicken…really, who would’ve thought? I ate chicken a lot with the thought that it was a good meat choice for me. Now I know.
I believe a good portion of our diets should be from fish. The meat is lean and offers a lot of good Omega 3 Fatty Acids. There are two sides to the debate on fish but one thing everyone agrees on is that most people need to increase their intake of fish. The difference between the types of fish you buy is whether or not it is farm raise or wild caught.
There are two very distinct arguments on this topic. Both sides have good points. Many sources claim that the fish that you purchase farm raised are just as nutritional as wild caught, if not better. One thing I have noticed though is that they say there are strict regulations on the farm raise fish here in the U.S.. They also claim you will never find any cancer causing chemicals or risky pollutants in the fish. Not all of our farm raised fish comes from the U.S. though. I’ve recently read that many of the fish we consume are actually from Chile, who has had a considerable amount of problems in their fish crops. As with the beef and other meat, this is another topic that calls for a full post of its own, which focuses solely on these issues.
Personally, I prefer wild caught. When it comes to a fish like Salmon, they are carnivores. You need several pounds of other fish to create the food needed to produce a healthy farm-raised salmon, when there are millions of these farm-raised fish, I feel like we then begin to overfish other species such as mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies, leading to a potential imbalance in the ecosystem. I think if we allow natural fishing then we aren’t hurting these ecosystems as badly as we are if we are feeding billions of fish in a farm. Perhaps, farmers aren’t even using natural salmon food; maybe it’s genetically modified. I don’t know but the natural approach is probably the best, that is, if you aren’t sensitive to anything. I found that I was actually sensitive to clams and mussels. I still love them though.
I’m still kind of a pansy on this topic. I prefer wild caught fish. I live on a lake and we could easily go out, during the winter, to fish for wild caught fish but we don’t because it isn’t easy for us to watch the fish die after catching them. Even for lobsters, the best part of the lobster can be bought when you buy the whole lobster but for us it’s still hard to kill these animals. We’d have our own farm if it weren’t for this.
For the most part, fruits are good for you. The only thing you need to remember is that fruits often have a lot of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates aren’t necessarily bad for you but if you are trying to lose weight you shouldn’t just eat fruit. Fruit can be used as valuable antioxidants but if there are too many being eaten then there is the small possibility that these excess carbohydrates will be converted into fat but for most people this is not the case. You just want to make sure you are not ingesting too much sugar. The body first attempts to burn carbs. They can’t be stored in large quantities though. When you reach your storage capacity, the liver converts these to triglycerides (fats) so they can be used for long-term storage. If you decide to eat more calories than you burn then they are mainly stored as fat. Just be careful with over consumption. Opt for vegetables instead, if you want large quantities of a natural food. A later post will be created to discuss the difference between organic and nonorganic fruit. This is a huge debate that can’t be properly disputed in a large post like this one.
During my first attempt at the Paleo diet, I wish I would’ve known I was sensitive to orange and watermelon. I love watermelon! We also ate a lot of oranges too. This was an additional contribution of why the Paleo Diet didn’t work for me.
Most vegetables are allowed, in large quantities, in a Paleo Diet; however, there are some vegetables that are prohibited. These are classified as nightshades.
This is one area I failed at during my first attempt at the Paleo Diet. I never understood my sensitivities so I went about eating everything I shouldn’t have. My vegetable sensitivities are asparagus, avocado and carrot. We ate a ton of asparagus and avocado prior to discovering my sensitivities.
The vegetables considered as nightshades are thing like bell peppers, sweet peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, goji berries, any type of hot pepper, paprika, pepinos, pimentos, most potatoes and tomatillos. There are many varieties to each of these species. There are many people who have an issue with these. People who suffer from inflammatory diseases are the most affected. If you suffer from gout then these foods are the ones that will cause all of your symptoms to erupt. So, what do all these items have in common? They all belong to the family of Solanaceae, which are plants of the Solanum genus. There are actually more than 2,500 species, which are used in food and medicine. Many people who have autoimmune diseases are very sensitive to these. Potatoes are also included but sweet potatoes and yams are not. If you have a leaky gut or have an autoimmune issue, I would highly suggest avoiding foods from this category. Now, I understand why my rheumatologist told me to avoid them. At a later point, I would also like to do a more in depth look into why these guys affect people more than other foods.
I love hummus and lentils but these are considered non-Paleo and anti-nutricious under the Paleo diet. There is a lot of scientific data out there on these types of foods. If you don’t know what a legume is, it is simply a bean, lentil, pea or peanut. Some of these foods offer a good amount of nutrients but other people say they are more harmful than good. On the proponent side, they are known to be rich in calcium, fiber, foliate, iron, protein, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, riboflavin, thiamin, Vitamin B6, potassium, ect. On the other side, it is considered low in nutritional value, contains phytates, lectins, protease inhibitors, high carbs, Phytoestrogens, BPA, saponins, FODMAP’s, ect. If you don’t know what many of these things are right now then perhaps you should Google them. My main goal is to just bring attention to things you need to consider for your diet. I’ll provide an in-depth discussion at a later date. Many of these items can be removed from legumes by cooking them or fermenting them though.
There is a lot of talk on this subject. In my opinion, I prefer to avoid these. I allow green beans and sweet potatoes, which are often not considered part of this group by people highly devoted to the Paleo Diet. If you experience sensitivities to these foods or notice stomach issues while eating these, I would highly avoid them. If you have a leaky gut, these are the foods to avoid.
This topic also includes the nasty soy. For many years, soy was considered the solution for a healthy living. I think this is the worst form of food ever. Sorry, to all the vegetarians, who may take this as an insult but I believe the western civilizations form of this food is the worst thing you can eat. If you want to go to Asia and eat it, go ahead but don’t do it here in the western world.
The reason why I suggest soy is a bad product, here in the west, is because it contains phytoestrogens. This is a chemical that mimics the body’s natural estrogen hormone. I don’t know exactly how true this is but they say that a baby, who consumes soy formula is actually consuming the equivalent of 4 birth control pills a day. Before beating me up for this comment, please let me research and correct, if needed. My doctors have always told me to avoid soy. I have yet to do the research but no matter whom I talk to, they say it’s bad. I’ve heard it is even bad for our planet. Most soybeans are genetically modified and have a gene within them to allow them to be sprayed with pesticides yet not die. Its characteristics have allowed it to find it’s way into American food as a cheap ingredient that can still allow the product to be called all natural.
Peanuts are the next topic on my list. I know my boyfriend will hate me for this because I’ve seen him eat peanut butter a lot, straight from the jar. For me, I know I have the smallest of allergy to them. Most people may think they are nuts but they are legumes. They have a very poor omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio. Like most legumes, they contain Lectins, which are a relatively large protein molecule that can be considered an anti-nutrient and are often irritating to the digestive tract, while also causing inflammation. Peanuts are considered one of the largest allergens to humans and can even lead to death. I honestly believe this is a food that is not needed in any diet but some people love it and consider it to be beneficial.
Grains are supposed to be considered the basis of our diets, based on the USDA standard; I’m referring to whole grains. Over the years the USDA standard has changed their food pyramid set up but it still calls for a large chunk of our diet to be grains. I actually can’t tolerate any grains. I’m sensitive to wheat and I’m sensitive to gluten. Actually, our body is not designed to function well on grains at all but our government insists it is the basis for our diets. It has actually been shown, that like legumes, grains contain phytic acid, a mineral blocker that can prevent absorption of valuable minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Grains can contain many important vitamins, however, we don’t allow them to sprout, so that they can break down the phytates that blocks the absorption of important minerals. I personally, can’t tolerate grains so I avoid them. This will also prove as a later post, since I think it’s important. I don’t believe grains should be part of our main diet. Many believe that grains and glutens provide the proteins necessary to break down your gut and influence the leaky gut syndrome (if you have this then you understand the importance of eliminating this from your diet). Perhaps, this isn’t enough to get you to leave your grains behind but they are filled with a ton of carbohydrates that don’t benefit your weight loss regimen.
Dairy and cheeses are prohibited from the Paleo Diet. I love these but I am soooooo sensitive to dairy! No joke. My measurements were off the charts for these items. If you are able to tolerate them then go ahead. I reserve cheese for my cheat days but my boyfriend handles these like a pro (I’m so jealous). In terms of processed foods and soft drinks, these should be off limits on a Paleo diet or any diet really. Your goal should be to eat all natural foods, without ingredients that sound like a chemistry experiment that you can’t pronounce.
Eating healthy means eating a more natural diet. It has been the basis of my weight loss and I believe those who have been unable to lose weight or manage either health may just need to do a better evaluation of the food they are choosing. I’ve seen some of the Weight Watcher’s food that has horrible ingredients in it and uses a particular type of wording to not make the MSG’s so obvious. Avoid these things. You really can do it on your own! Most people don’t need someone telling them what junk to eat. I don’t even believe in calorie counting either. In simplest form, eat natural and avoid certain food groups. A little bit of exercise goes a long way as well.