If you’re new to Paleo, you’ve probably already read up on what you can and can’t eat—but you may not yet understand why the Paleo diet food list is set up the way it is. Before you can start whipping up gourmet Paleo recipes, here are a few Frequently Asked Questions that can help you understand what you can eat, what you can’t eat, and why.
Paleo diet food list: What can I eat on Paleo?
Paleo can get tricky, but here’s a simple run-down. On the Paleo diet, you can eat:
- Meat (grass-fed only)
- Fish (wild-caught only)
- All vegetables, except legumes
- Fruits, especially berries
- Most nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia)
- Tubers (sweet potatoes and yams)
- Coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and macadamia oil
Okay. What can’t I eat on Paleo?
- Cereal grains (wheat, oats, barley, rye)
- Dairy, except butter
- All legumes, including soy
- Canola oils
- Partly-hydrogenated oils
- All sugars and sugary drinks/juices
- All processed foods
- Wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages
Why can’t Paleo dieters eat grains?
Paleo dieters don’t eat grains because they’re composed of carbohydrates, which the body converts into glucose. Glucose is essentially a type of sugar, and any glucose that isn’t used as energy is stored as fat.
Most grains also contain gluten and lectins. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, wheat, and barley, has received a hefty share of criticism recently, and has been accused of contributing to medical conditions like dermatitis and joint pain. Lectins are natural toxins which exist within grains to defend against animal consumption. According to Paleo enthusiasts, lectins are harmful and damage the gastrointestinal tract.
Why does the Paleo diet exclude sugars?
No matter which diet plan you follow, sugar is well-known to be extremely unhealthy. Sugar causes your energy to spike and then crash, making it bad for your overall well-being. It also quickly turns to fat if it isn’t used immediately, making it a definite Paleo no-no.
Why are vegetables so important in a Paleo diet?
So, you’re not allowed to eat carbs—fine. Where are you supposed to get your fuel from? Not to worry: your body can easily obtain carbohydrates from vegetables, tubers, and fruit. Vegetables are so nutrient-dense and calorie-light that one can essentially eat as many as one wants without any negative health risks. For example, 6 servings of broccoli has 180 calories—and almost nobody will eat 6 whole servings. By contrast, a single serving of pasta has 200 calories—and almost nobody will limit themselves to just one serving. That’s why vegetables are a crucial feature of any healthy diet, not just Paleo.
Can Paleo dieters eat dairy?
Dairy is a Paleo gray area. Most Paleo enthusiasts will shy away from it, citing that no other animal in the animal kingdom drinks milk beyond infancy. Many Paleo dieters claim that a large portion of the world is lactose-intolerant because human bodies weren’t designed for massive dairy consumption, and hunter-gatherers did not have domestic animals any more than they had wheat fields. However, the Paleo diet is accepting of butter.
What meat does a Paleo diet include?
The Paleo diet is accepting of all meats, as long as they are wild-caught or grass-fed. Paleo dieters believe that grain is just as damaging to animals as it is to humans, and discourage consuming animals that have eaten it. Pasture-raised animals from local farms are preferred, if possible. Some Paleo dieters encourage lean cuts of meat only, but others insist that fatty cuts are fine, as one of the tenets of Paleo is subsisting off of “natural” fats instead of glucose.
What are healthy fats? Why does a Paleo diet include fats?
Since the 1990’s, companies have been doing everything possible to eliminate fat from foods. They’ve accomplished this, in large part, by adding all sorts of preservatives, chemicals, and sugars. Paleo dieters support a diet full of healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and “healthy” oils. Olive oil, avocado oil, and macadamia oil are all permitted on salads, but they should not be cooked with. Animal fats such as beef tallow, lard, and duck fat are permitted, as long as they come from grass-fed animals.
Which fruits and nuts can Paleo dieters eat?
Nuts and fruits are both semi-gray Paleo areas. Most fruits tend to be high in sugar, so if you’re switching to Paleo, it is recommended that you favor fruits which are high in antioxidants, like blueberries. As for nuts, they tend to be very high-calorie. It is recommended that you chose those which are low in polyunsaturated fat, such as almonds, pistachios, chestnuts, walnuts, and macadamia nuts. If you’re trying to lose weight in a very short amount of time, you might consider cutting out nuts and fruits completely.
So now what?
Now that you understand the ins and outs of Paleo, you might want to give it a try! Many people claim that switching to a Paleo diet has helped them lower inflammation and joint pain, lower their blood pressure, overcome dangerous medical conditions, and lose weight. You might want to read up on some healthy meal ideas or even hit the track—after all, if you’re going to eat like a caveman, you ought to exercise like one, too.
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