Humans and their relatives have eaten fowl, fish, meat and the fruits, roots, and leaves of many plants for millions of years. Unfortunately, many plants are inedible in their raw form, so the problem of not being able to get enough calories from the environment had always been quite a problematic obstacle.
Of course there are grains, beans, and potatoes which are all full of energy, but these foods contain many toxins in their raw form, so it wasn’t until about 10,000 years ago until humans started incorporating these kinds of food into their diet after the discovery that applying heat to these foods would destroy enough of the toxins to make them edible.
The cooking of foods such as wheat, corn, barley, rice and other related grains provided many benefits for people in terms of convenience and accessibility. For example, these foods are dense in calories which make them easy to transport and they can be stored for relatively long periods during times when refrigeration was unavailable. We were rapidly sacrificing our natural eating habits for the sake of convenience.
Now, in evolutionary terms, 10,000 years is really not a long time at all; in fact, if anything, it only offers minimal changes and adaptions for humans. So, despite the convenient benefits of these kinds of relatively new foods, our genes never properly developed to be able to safely tolerate beans, grains and potatoes, so our bodies never had enough time to adapt to the point that we can safely digest them without fear of developing health related problems.
As our collective diets continue to be more non-paleo based, we are starting to find more correlations between our new diets and an increase in health problems such as autoimmune diseases. To counteract this, the Paleo diet has been introduced (or reintroduced) which offers a great opportunity for people to ‘go back to their roots’ and treat our bodies how we naturally are supposed to.
The Basic Essential Foods of the Paleolithic Diet
The main foods that should be avoided:
- Grains- including pasta, noodles, and bread
- Beans –peas, snow-peas, peanuts, lentils, kidney beans, and string beans
- Dairy products
- Any food high in sugar
Best foods to eat:
- Meat, Fish, and Chicken
- Berries – blueberries, raspberries, strawberries etc.
- Nuts – almond, macadamia, brazil nuts, walnuts, etc. (No peanuts or legumes)
- Vegetables (root vegetables especially)
Many people use meat as their staple food for the paleo diet as they are some of the best foods to eat. Fortunately, there are really no restrictions here, but it is highly preferable that the meat comes from grass fed animals. Realistically, this is of course not always possible or practical for many of us, but always try your best. Beef, chicken, lamb, pork, etc. are all suitable foods for anyone who has incorporated the paleo diet into their lifestyle.
Fish should especially be eaten, not only because they have a high content of vitamins and minerals, but also because they are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids. Halibut is one of the healthiest fish available and goes great with many paleo recipes out there. Other great types of fish include Salmon, which is a great source of high quality protein as well as a respectable amount of omega-3s; Sardines, which contribute greatly to heart and bone health and are also high in Vitamin D, which is often one of the vitamins that are hard to find in high amounts. Similar to how you want to aim for grass-fed animal meat products, it is always best to try to get wild caught fish if possible. Though if you have to resort to farmed store-bought fish, it is far from the end of the world.
Root vegetables such as rutabagas, parsnips, swedes, and carrots (among others) should be eaten as much as possible. Try to increase your intake of these vegetables as well as organ meats such as kidneys and livers. Understandably, many people do not enjoy the organ meats, but those out there that do find them palatable should definitely take advantage of their benefits and the role they play in the paleo diet.
Cutting out grains, beans, potatoes, and dairy products from your diet as you transition to a paleo-based way of eating may seem like a daunting task at first, and due to how ingrained these foods are in our society.
You should not look at the ‘Paleo Diet’ as simply another way of eating or a bland diet like all the rest. The paleo diet is more of a lifestyle change, and because of this, anyone who decides to incorporate it into their life must keep in mind that it takes true commitment if they want to reap all of the great rewards and benefits that the paleo diet offers.