Intro to Paleo

chicken-mushrooms

What is Paleo anyway?

What does the word Paleo mean? It seems like it’s all over the place now. I had heard of it a few times a couple of years ago, but wrote it off as some weird cave man style of eating {why would anyone not want to eat bagels, and Eggo waffles for breakfast everyday anyway}. Really the word Paleo, Primal or Paleolithic just refers to the way we chose to eat, not that we are cavemen/women. Paleo is a set of guidelines to help you choose the best food that will heal your body and allow it to thrive. Paleo has become much more popular, as the world of Crossfit has expanded, which a large population of the Paleo community resides. But, it has more than just athletic performance advantages {thus, you don’t have to be a super athlete to get healthy and eat Paleo}.

In my search to find a way to become healthier, and get rid of my crippling joint pain, debilitating fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, dry eyes/mouth, headaches, painful rashes and a host of other symptoms {that you can read about Here}, I stumbled across the Paleo diet. I love science and how the body works {yes, I am a nerd, my husband will gladly tell you}, so before I was going to jump on the band wagon, I wanted to see WHY it was going to help me and HOW it would help my painful weak body {that seemed to feel like I was a 65-year-old not a 23-year-old}. I am not going to go into every single detail on how certain foods hurt or help the body, as I could write forever on that subject; if you are interested, I would highly recommend The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body or Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle. These books go into great detail, backed by research studies and science to show how your body and health is affected by the food you eat.

This is my view and “Paleo” is different for everyone; it is about creating a set of dietary guidelines that best fit you, to help you function optimally and to become healthier. That is also my goal, I am choosing the foods with the most nutrients that will help my body function, heal, and operate pain-free! {I’d also like to throw in some weight loss and muscle /strength gain in there, ahem} No matter what style or approach you choose, do what is best for your body, rather than trying to follow a certain set of “rules”. This is about creating a lifestyle of eating a.k.a your diet, rather than going on a “diet” for a few months and falling off into the deep end, gaining back all the weight you lost.

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How and Why: The health benefits of Paleo:

The guidelines of Paleo are simple really,

Eat whole foods that provide energy for your body, and

Avoid processed {McDonald’s quarter pounder}, refined {sugary packaged foods like Kit-Kats}, nutrient-poor factory foods {Eggo Waffles and Ice cream}.

  • Which means: avoid grains {gluten included}, legumes {Most}, refined sugar, and Pasteurized dairy products.

If you have an ice cream addiction like I did, this sounds very sad and limiting, BUT I can tell you, your body WILL thank you by feeling better, if you eliminate foods that don’t promote health. Which makes me happy! {even if I do have to give up my ice cream, although you CAN switch to nice cream, a few recipes, here and here}.

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My summary of how and why certain foods are bad for your body:

  • Grains, legumes, refined sugar and some dairy products promote imbalanced gut flora, which means you feed bad bacteria in your gut, leading to a host  of problems including digestion issues, increased immune activation  {in a bad way, think of chronic inflammation}, abdominal pain, and bowl movement issues {eek}.
  • These foods can lead to a leaky gut, allowing food, {example gluten}, to escape the intestines and cause an immune reaction in the body, which can lead to things like joint pain, rashes, low-grade constant inflammation, unhealthy skin, certain autoimmune conditions {if your genetically prone}, and an endless list of other bad symptoms.
  • A diet high in refined sugar and simple carbohydrates, leaves your body with an energy crisis. All day your blood sugar is jumping and crashing, leaving you tired and reaching for a sugary snack to pick you up, this is no way to live, constantly tired or feeling the 2 o’clock crash. This also can make your body more prone to developing type 2 diabetes!
  • These foods also lead to poor body composition due to their high level carbohydrates and low-level of nutrients. They leave you feeling hungry, give you a constant appetite, and leave you craving more sugary, fatty and salty foods. These foods are not filling nor provide than nutrients your body needs, so your body is constantly stimulating your appetite in hopes it will be fed more nutrients. This overall leads to more fat than muscle {poor body composition}.
  • Poor body composition and health will eventually lead you down the path of poor physical fitness and athletic performance. Stairs will make you winded, walking up a hill will tire you out, and cleaning your house will take everything out of you; most likely when you’re feeling this out of shape, exercise is out of the question because you are too tired to even walk up the hill in your backyard, let alone jump on the treadmill.

This list could go on forever; Please do your own research and find out how and why the foods you  eat on a daily basis are hurting or helping your body. We cannot create man-made food that is better than mother nature’s whole food.

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So what do I eat than since I can’t have my morning Coke, McMuffin and hash brown?

What to eat:

Whole Foods

Meat, Seafood, Eggs, Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts and Seeds, Fats and Oils.

  • Fats and oils include but are not limited to: Avocado oil, Bacon fat/lard, Butter, Coconut milk, Coconut oil, Olive oil and Ghee.
  • Nuts and Seeds include but are not limited to: Almonds, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Sesame seeds, Pistachios, Pine nuts, Pecans, Macadamia and Brazil nuts.
  • Liquids: Almond milk, Coconut water, Tea, Water, Herbal water, Coffee
  • Fruit in moderation, as it is high in sugar and if eaten in large quantities can lead to weight gain.

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What not to eat:

Grains, Soy, Corn, most Vegetable oils, Gluten, Packaged snacks, Sweetened beverages {Sweet tea, diet or regular Soda}, Sweeteners, Legumes, and overly Processed foods.

  • Legumes including soy, are really difficult for your body to process; and they are anti-nutrients which can lead to immune system dysfunction, which can lead to that leaky gut we talked about earlier {trust me it’s not fun}.
  • Grains and gluten can also lead to these issues because they are so inflammatory to the body {which also isn’t fun}.Fruit.jpg

Maybe you can eat, depending on your body:

Dairy, White potatoes, Chocolate/Paleo sweets, White rice, Peanuts/Peanut butter

  • This is where controversy comes in and people start throwing rules around. Do what is best for your body, If you eat one of these maybe foods and your body reacts well,then great, if not, maybe that food isn’t for you.
  • Try one food at a time so you know which one is giving you issues after you have been eating clean for at-least a month.
  • Dairy products are best in full fat, they will keep you full longer and you will reap their health benefits.
  • White rice and white potatoes for the most part wont help OR hinder you, use your judgement on how you want to spend your calories, for your body.

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Now What?

Remember this is a lifestyle, not a short-term diet. Start with small changes, research recipes {I have some included in my site too}, read material on the subject, find some Paleo blogs or Instagram accounts for inspiration. Even if your whole family isn’t on board, you can still eat better and make small changes for you and your family. Make a decision today that you are going to take control of your health and not conform to the ways of the world, and eat what everyone else is eating just because its cheaper or easier. You can get rid of your pain, restore your health, look healthier, have energy again and lose weight.

Recommended Readings:

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 “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13

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