Are you like me and wondering if the Paleo diet is worth all the hype? As someone who has sort of followed a Paleo, otherwise known as Caveman, diet (because I like the recipes in this one cookbook), I confess the definition to me has been muddy at best.
It’s said Paleo is similar to the Keto diet. OK. All these terms being thrown around – guess it’s time I got a clue!
And then there is the hybrid PKD. So apparently the two can get along?
If you are curious about the Paleo/Keto lifestyle, here is a break down of what they are, what the rules are, and why so many people swear by their benefits.
We will be focusing most in-depth on the Paleo trend overall.
The main commonality between the Paleo and Keto diets is that both limit the intake of carbohydrates, sugar, and legumes and focus on consuming high amounts of animal protein and healthy fats.
Carb restriction is a method of putting your body into a state of ketosis which means, instead of burning sugar as fuel, your system learns to burn stored fat (where Ketones are found).
When in a state of ketosis most enjoy pretty rapid weight loss, among other positive things!
Here is Where Paleo and Keto Part Ways …
Tho both diets promote weight loss, a paleo diet is helpful in reducing inflammation by eliminating processed foods, and dairy products. Keto dieters, on the other hand, are encouraged to eat dairy products in their full-fat form.
Where the Keto Diet was originally created to address Epilepsy and other specific medical conditions by keeping the body in a state of ketosis, the Paleo Diet was patterned after man’s paleolithic hunter-gatherer diet and intended to promote general overall health. Its focus on consuming whole foods, healthy fats, and quality animal protein is a natural for those of us suffering from maladies caused by inflammation.
On the whole, it seems the Paleo diet may be more approachable, serving as a guideline to a healthy way of eating, in comparison to the counting and calculating a more exacting Keto diet appears to require.
Not being nutty about numbers, I know what I would prefer … ha!
Arguments Against Paleo
The Paleo Diet is not without its critics, however. For instance, those concerned with osteoporosis and overall bone strength may find the diet deficient in calcium and vitamin D.
Others decry the prohibition of legumes, citing beans and grains as foundational to the diets of people groups throughout time who have enjoyed tremendous health and longevity.
There is also concern among some that the increase in fats and protein and possible decrease in plant-based fiber going the Paleo route could contribute to the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Let’s hear it for the pluses! Here’s a basic list:
- Healthy cells require both saturated and unsaturated fat, well balanced in a Paleo diet
- Healthy brain and mental clarity thanks in part to a greater amount of omega 3 fatty acids consumed through seafood, especially wild-caught salmon
- A high protein diet feeds muscle and starves fat
- Pasture-raised meat and eggs = happy animals and healthier proteins
- When consuming Paleo’s “Rainbow” of veggies you have a greater chance of getting all necessary daily amounts of nutrients
- Fewer allergens
- Reduced inflammation
- Increased energy
- Weight loss and decreased waist circumference
- Eliminates insulin spikes because blood sugars are regulated evenly
- Reduced risk factors for diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes
- Heart health: could significantly reduce blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoproteins
The Paleo diet aids digestion, healing what has fondly become known as “leaky gut” syndrome because preservatives and sugars are eliminated. This means food enters the bloodstream and nourishes cells at the proper time, not when it comes to a compromised point in the intestines and leaks out.
Here are the “Thou Shalts” for a Paleo way of eating …
Foods You Should Eat
Low or no starch vegetables and herbs — carrots, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, onions, peppers, etc.
Low-glycemic fruits — avocados, blueberries, lemons, limes, strawberries.
Nuts, seeds, and spices — unless suffering from nut allergies, feel free to consume hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, and a variety of seeds. Peanuts, however, are a legume and not included in the Paleo diet.
Healthy fats — coconut, extra virgin olive, avocado, flaxseed and walnut oils. Ghee may also be used if tolerated as most of the dairy solids have been cooked away.
Fish and seafood —wild-caught lake trout, shrimp, salmon, shellfish, haddock, tuna, cod, etc.
Eggs — pasture-raised and cage-free eggs that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Meat — lean and antibiotic-free meat from grass-fed and pasture-raised beef, lamb, pork or poultry, and wild game
And now for the “Thou Shalt Nots” …
What To Avoid: Grains, legumes, dairy products, processed fats and vegetable oils, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, soft drinks, margarine, trans fats, and vegetable oils.
You would think all alcohol would be off the table but, because hard ciders are gluten-free, they may be an option in limited quantities. Also, resveratrol makes red wine guardedly acceptable.
Sweet news: dark chocolate is ok!!! Make sure it is organic. It’s antioxidant qualities and nutrients make it a safe (and heavenly) bet!
The prospect of having to buy all organic fruits and veg can be overwhelming if you are not already in the habit. They are usually much more expensive than what typical grocery store produce will cost.
The good news is you can be selective about it with the help of these lists.
The first is what is known as the Dirty Dozen. Foods in this list are notorious for being treated with chemical pesticides and should be bought organically:
The second list is called the Clean Fifteen. You can be reasonably sure you are getting produce from this list without harmful pesticide residue from any reputable grocery store.
See complete details on both lists here.
There are other ways to assure the produce on your table is organic. My favorite is to start a garden of your own!
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Raised beds create a controlled environment to grow your harvest in and take the least amount of space. For a super-efficient and space-saving method of edible gardening, check out the concept of Square Foot Gardening here.
Love the idea of the slow food trend (think opposite of fast food: locally grown, organic, in-season produce) but don’t want to break a sweat? Think about supporting a farm near you by joining a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture).
When you buy an annual share in a CSA, you receive a box of produce each week of what is available and in season. You usually don’t know exactly what will be in that box from week to week, but you will know it is fresh, local, and sustainably grown. It’s an economical way of getting healthy, in-season, organic produce on a regular basis.
If you travel a lot or would have a hard time keeping up with that much veg, you may have the option of simply visiting the farm stand of your local CSA.
To see what the availability is in your area, visit localharvest.org.
Let’s Get Cooking!
Eating a diet of whole foods will take a bit more work than you may be used to. Here are some methods to streamline the process and make meal prep more enjoyable.
Worked to the bone …
Save bones to make bone broth. A whole roasted chicken is a weekly staple at our house. It’s simple, there’s usually plenty left over for the rest of the week, and the carcass goes right into the crockpot or freezer after dinner.
Grandma’s chicken soup curing what ails ya is not just an old wives’ tale. If you haven’t heard about the incredible health benefits of homemade bone broth, here is a quote from Food Revolution Network:
Bone broth advocates say it can relieve joint pain and osteoarthritis, detoxify the liver, aid in wound healing, prevent aging skin, support digestive health, balance hormones, increase energy, strengthen bones, improve quality of sleep, alleviate symptoms from certain autoimmune conditions, and boost immune function.
Read the whole article here.
Coming home to Thanksgiving-like aromas is a delicious side benefit when the crockpot is working its broth-simmering magic. You can keep it going for 72 hours or more by simply adding water to replenish it when you ladle out your desired amount.
The first batch, according to this recipe, is going to be the most flavorful and is wonderful as a snack or light meal (my favorite quick lunch). The next couple are perfect for using wherever broth is called for in a recipe or as a base for a more substantial soup or stew, and is a quantum leap from the flavor and nutritional value you will ever find on a store shelf!
More efficiency hacks
Processed dressings and sauces almost always contain sugar. Sad Face. When planning your meals for the week, prepare needed dressings and sauces all at once to save yourself some time.
Here is a recipe for a dynamite sugar-free Paleo Barbecue Sauce.
It’s all a part of the plan …
I actually like to plan menus a month at a time. Planning for more than 3 or 4 dinners a week is counter-productive because my husband likes to cook, we eat out a bunch, and I’m counting on leftovers when there is just the two of us. I also keep breakfast and lunch options extremely simple.
Even tho it almost never works out this way in real time, it makes planning easier to plot seafood on Mondays, chicken on Tuesdays, pork on Wednesdays, and beef on Thursdays. You could also organize your menus around themes like the ubiquitous (gluten-free) Taco Tuesday and Thank God Its Fry-Day (making use of the popular and healthier Air Fryer, of course!!)
Morning Prep …
… makes assembling dinner easy and stress-free.
Here is a quick and efficient method for meal prep:
Go through your recipe and group together ingredients that are added at the same time. I like to use post-it notes for this, one for each grouping, to list quantities and stay organized. It’s helpful to put an asterisk next to each ingredient that needs to be chopped, peeled, grated, or sliced.
Choose an appropriately sized storage container for each grouping.
Wash and prepare all produce and put in their respective containers.
If meat needs to be sliced or chopped, do that next and store.
Measure all dry ingredients. You may want to store this in a container separate from wet veggies or liquid ingredients.
Measure all liquid ingredients and store.
Now you can stick the post-it notes on their respective containers and place all in the fridge. When it’s cooking time, you’ve got an assembly lineup of all your ingredients at your disposal. Just like the cooking shows on tv. Tada!
I hope this post has heightened your curiosity and not your confusion! If the benefits of a Paleo diet are interesting to you and you would like to try your hand at a few recipes, I’ve got some great resources for you below!
PS: Here are some great cookbooks to get you started:
My first introduction into the delicious world of Paleo cooking!
Because I couldn’t get enough with the first one!!
And, thus began my love affair with the family Instant Pot!!
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