The Paleo Diet
These wonderful Paleo diet foods are used to treat many health condition. Using them will optimize your health! This is the ultimate diet for either health or weight loss.
So-called Paleo nutrition really is the best bar none.
This type of diet has been used successfully in the treatment of diabetes type 2, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), allergies, acne, menopause, asthma, inflammation, arthritis, joint pains, food addictions, carbohydrate cravings, binge eating, mood disorders and other health conditions.
This way of eating has many names, including 'the Stone Age diet,' 'the Paleolithic diet,' 'the Paleo diet,' 'the caveman diet,' 'the warrior diet,' and so on.
Don't be confused! All are attempts to describe what our prehistoric, hunter-gatherer (forager) human ancestors ate.
On the natural weight loss diet page, we looked at the kind of low carb foods our ancestors ate, which are natural for us to eat. We also looked at what we should eat for weight loss that lasts. If you have not read that page, you may wish to read it. (Its link awaiting you near the bottom of this page.)
With respect to eating as they ate, it's no longer possible to eat exactly the same kinds of wild animals and plants. However, it's a good idea to aim to get as close to it as possible.
Our bodies have barely changed since the days of our ancient ancestors, but, because of us, the plants and animals we eat have changed significantly. However, we have the option of losing body fat in a lasting way and becoming healthier if we:
The Paleo low carbohydrate foods
The plants and animals they ate were all wild. Except for relatively recently (several hundred thousand years ago) after they tamed fire, all Paleo diet foods were eaten raw and unprocessed.
If you adopt a Paleo diet, your foods don't all need to be raw but they do need to be either unprocessed or minimally processed. So, to eat Paleo diet foods, avoid domesticated plants and animals as well as processed foods.
Eating Paleo diet foods means eating fresh lean meats, fresh fish and shellfish, fresh vegetables, and, perhaps, some fresh fruits.
The carbs to avoid on the Paleo Diet
Our hunting-gathering ancestors never (or almost never) ate cereal grains or products made from cereal grains, dairy products or products made using dairy products, or legumes (such as peanuts) or products made from legumes (such as peanut butter or tofu). Similarly, they ate few or no potatoes.
So none of those are Paleo foods.
Because there were none, they didn't eat grain-fed cattle (or any other ungulates like buffalo that fed on grains). Similarly, they didn't eat farm-raised fish. With the sole exception of using fire to cook foods, the Paleo foods were all fresh and unprocessed.
They did not have any beer, wine, or spirits to consume. They didn't add salt to their foods. They didn't use any refined processed carbohydrates. These are not Paleo foods. (They did occasionally enjoy honey, but it wasn't regularly available.)
They didn't have yeast or yeast-containing foods such as baked goods, vinegar, and pickled foods. Again, these are not Paleo foods.
We modern humans are the only species left.
The hominins split from the great apes about six million years ago, which gives us about 12 million years of evolutionary divergence between us and our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees. There is only about a 1.6 percent difference between the chimpanzee genome and ours.
By about 2.6 million years ago, hominins were using stone tools to carve up carcasses. Perhaps the most interesting puzzle in evolutionary anthropology is the explosion in the size of hominin brains in the last million years. Your brain is your most metabolically active organ. At rest, it uses 9 times more energy than any other organ!
Early hominins weren't any larger than chimpanzees. However, the average brain size of chimpanzees is only about one-third of our average brain size.
Loren Cordain asks a great question: Are our metabolisms very much faster (when adjusted for our now larger body size) than theirs, or did some other organ shrink in terms of size and metabolic needs?
Since our metabolic rate is exactly what would be predicted, something else shrank. What? It was our guts, which are about half the size they should be when compared with chimpanzees.
Producing one pound of flesh requires ten to twenty pounds of plants. In effect, our hominin ancestors took advantage of this fact. They ate a lot of flesh foods, which were the primary Paleo foods.
Hominins have been butchering animal carcasses and eating organs (including brains and tongues), marrow, and muscle (meat) for over two and one-half million years. Unlike plant foods, energy dense flesh foods don't require as long and metabolically active a gut like the great apes have.
The shrinking of the hominin gut allowed the expanding of the hominin brain.
Bigger brains were very useful in terms of hunting and sexual selection. Chimpanzees forage and will kill and eat monkeys and small deer they happen to encounter (flesh foods can account for over 20% of the calories in a male chimpanzee's diet during the dry season in Africa). By way of contrast, our ancestors learned how to hunt and use tools to kill prey. Why?
Although sufficient protein is critical, too much protein is toxic. If we get more than about 40% (and certainly more than 50%) of our calories from protein, we become ill and eventually die. So we should regularly obtain at least 50% or 60% of our calories (energy)from either fats or carbohydrates.
Particularly for those of our ancestors who lived at higher latitudes, there was no reliable, year-round source of carbohydrates. In such circumstances, in order to survive they had to eat fats in addition to proteins.
Unlike the carcasses of small animals such as rabbits, the carcasses of large animals have lots of fats. In addition to scavenging large carcasses, our ancestors created a good way to get them, namely, by hunting in organized packs using weapons such as stone spear tips. Eventually, gestures and sounds for coordinating activities were enhanced by language.
Fats and proteins from animal carcasses could provide all the nutrients necessary for survival. Dietary carbohydrates are not necessary. Typically, however, when they were available, about one-third of the calories in their diets came from plant foods.
When scientists such as Loren Cordain examine the fossil record and written records of initial encounters with hunter-gatherers as well as other primates and how we process nutrients biochemically, it's a reasonable guess that the ranges of the combination of macro-nutrients in the average diet of our foraging ancestors were about: 22-40% carbs, 19-35% proteins, 28-47% fats.
Compared to sedentary Americans, they were, of course, much more active. Unless you are very active, you may want to get considerably less than 40% of your calories from carbs. Calories from carbs should only come from unprocessed sources such as fresh vegetables and fresh fruits.
Remember, too, that the fats in their diet were good fats -- never trans fats.
Also, though this is useful, realize that it's just an abstraction. Our hominin ancestors were sometimes of different species, and they were all opportunists who lived in different locations. In other words, there's no such thing as the diet of our Old Stone Age ancestors. So there's no single, definitive list of Paleo diet foods.
The foods and the carb count
We recommend no more than one or two 'cheat' meals on only one day per week. If you decide to have one or two cheat meals on a weekly, you may eat whatever foods you want for those meals even if they are not Paleo foods. That's the time to have plenty of carbs and fats as well as calories.
Even then, however, please stop eating when your hunger disappears. Do not eat until you feel stuffed.
On all other days other than cheat days, please restrict your carb intake to 25 grams or less. Why? When digested, all carbs become sugar. If you eat both carbs and fats, your body will tend to burn the sugar and store the fats. To get your body to burn fats instead of sugar, reduce your consumption of carbs on most days.
However, if you always keep it low, your production of leptin will decrease by about one-half after a week. That will signal your body to reduce your metabolism and decrease your fat burning. Having one cheat day weekly is sufficient to restore your leptin levels in order to keep burning fat. (However, since it will also cause an insulin spike, don't have a cheat day if you are diabetic or if your physician doesn't approve of it in advance.)
Unfortunately, eating carbs can create cravings for them. So, for a while after your weekly cheat day, you may have carb cravings. To minimize or eliminate them, ensure that you are consuming plenty of fats and proteins from natural sources. With this type of diet, there's no frequent recording of calories, carbs, or other food counts. That's a great advantage of sticking to Paleo diet foods. Keep it as simple as possible!
For a few weeks, you may need to track your carb intake on most days, but, once your learn carb counts, that won't be a long term bother.
The basic meal plan for Paleo diet recipes is fish, shellfish, or lean meat or offal in conjunction with whatever fresh vegetables and/or fresh fruits you want from the following list of acceptable Paleo foods.
There are a number of readily available books that offer recipes for preparing Paleo foods.
Two final points:
(1) You are unique. You may have intolerances or even addictions to certain kinds of foods. Consume only foods that work well for you.
(2) If you want lasting weight loss (and not merely weight loss), it's important to move (exercise) more like our Paleolithic ancestors as well as to eat more like them.
The acceptable low carbs or no carbs
Primarily Proteins and Fats:
Fish (except for farm-raised fish, any commercially available fish is fine, but [i] fatty deep sea fish such as salmon, herring, and mackerel are the best, and [ii] because of mercury contamination do not have large fish such as tuna or shark more than once a week).
Shellfish (such as crab, shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams, and lobster).
Lean, grass-fed buffalo meat with all visible fat trimmed.
Lean, grass-fed beef with all visible fat trimmed (such as flank steak, chuck steak, or top sirloin steak).
Lean pork with all visible fat trimmed (such as pork loin or chops).
White meat from poultry with skin removed (such as chicken breasts, turkey breasts, or game hen breasts).
Enriched omega-3 eggs from uncaged chickens, but not more than 1 daily (as well as eggs from ducks or geese).
Game meat (such as elk, pheasant, quail, reindeer, caribou, emu, or wild turkey).
Organ meats (such as livers, tongues, marrow, and "sweetbreads").
Nuts and seeds (since nuts and seeds are high in calories and nuts, except for walnuts, are high in omega 6 fats, limit daily consumption to 2 to 4 ounces).
Fresh fruits (any kind of fruit is fine including apples, apricots, bananas, berries of all kinds, cantaloupe, cherries, figs, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, limes, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, plums, pomegranate, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelons)if you can afford the carbs.
Fresh vegetables (except for starchy root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, or yams), any kind of vegetable is fine including asparagus.
Beets and beet greens, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, green onions, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, parsley, peppers, pumpkin, radish, spinach, turnips and turnip greens, and watercress).
The carbs allowed in moderation on the Paleo Diet
Avocado, flaxseed, olive, or walnut oil [daily maximum: 4 T].
Beer [daily maximum: 2 for males, 1 for females].
Coffee [daily maximum: 2 regular-sized mugs or 4 tea cups].
Spirits [daily maximum: 4 ounces for males, 2 ounces for females].
Tea (preferably green) [no limit but don't drink any in the evening].
Wine [daily maximum: 8 ounces for males, 4 ounces for females].
In addition, if you do intense physical training such as the strength training recommended here at lasting-weight-loss.com, you may use special shakes before, during, and after workouts.
Unacceptable carbs on this diet
Except for 1 or 2 cheat meals on one day only per week:
Starchy root vegetables such as: potatoes and products made from them like french fries or potato chips, yams, sweet potatoes, tapioca pudding, cassava root, and manioc.
Legumes such as: peanuts and products made from them like peanut butter, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, peas, miso, snowpeas and sugar snap peas, and soybeans and all products made from them including tofu.
Dairy products and all products made from them such as: butter, cheese, cream and ice cream, dairy spreads, ice milk, milk (including powdered, skim, low fat, and whole), and yogurt and frozen yogurt.
Cereal grains and all processed foods made with them such as barley, corn (including corn on the cob, tortillas, corn chips, corn starch, and corn syrup), millet, oats (including rolled oats and steel-cut oats), rice (including basmati rice, brown rice, white rice, rice cakes, rice flour, rice pudding, and rice noodles), rye (including rye break and rye crackers), sorghum, wheat (including bread, crackers, rolls, muffins, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, pancakes, waffles, pasta of all kinds including spaghetti and linguini, pizza, pita bread, flat bread, and tortillas) and wild rice.
Cereal seeds that are like grain (such as amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa).
Fatty meats including grain-fed cattle, grain fed buffalo, bacon, beef or pork ribs, dark poultry meat (from wings or legs), poultry skin, fatty cuts and roasts of beef (such as T-bone steak), fatty cuts and roasts of pork, fatty cuts and roasts from lamb (including lamb chops and leg of lamb), sausage, and deli meats.
Salt-containing processed foods such as nearly all commercial salad dressings; cheese; hot dogs; ketchup; pickled foods; pork rinds; processed meats such as bologna and salami; salted nuts; salted spices; all fish or meat that has been smoked, dried, and salted; nearly all canned meats and fish (except when they are not salted or you soak or drain them); and nearly all commercial condiments.
Junk foods such as sugary sodas, fruit drinks, candy, honey, and sugars.
Brains (which are too dangerous ever to eat these days).
Two important questions answered
(1) Is the low carb Paleo diet the one that you recommend for everyone? No. There is not one diet suitable for everyone.
We are only claiming that, if you are not eating only acceptable Paleo foods, you are not eating in the way that our species evolved to eat. If you want to enjoy lasting weight loss as well as improved health, then you should consider using a low carb Paleo diet. It's your choice.
If it makes sense to you, why don't you try it strictly for 30 days? Since it will probably take your body and taste buds a week or two to adjust to it, 30 days is sufficiently long for a serious test. Our bet is that you'll like the results you obtain.
If you are too heavy and permanently improve your diet to make it much closer to your ancestors' low carb Paleo diet, you'll begin to lose weight in 30 days and the weight loss will continue gradually until your percentage of body fat is about where it should be.
If your present diet is anything close to typical and you don't cheat too much on your Paleo diet, in just a few weeks you'll have begun to lose fat and be healthier. You'll also feel better.
(2) Is there a less extreme low carb diet for fat loss?
Yes. If you prefer, you may use other low carb diets for fat loss.
Pages to take you further in relation to Paleo eating
If you are ready to get started, learn about
Recommended books for this subject
Here are our reading suggestions for the Paleo diet:
An informative video about Paleo nutrition
Link to the YouTube video above, for those who might want to save it for their YouTube video list
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