The Paleo Diet: a beginner's guide

The back-to-basics approach prescribed by the Paleo Diet means lots of fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, and other staples common to the caveman. Here's what you need to know to follow the plan.

By Dr. Joey Shulman

The Paleo Diet: a beginner's guide
©istockphoto.com/Crisp fotografie
The Paleo Diet – also known as "the caveman diet" – is based on the ancient diet of the Paleolithic era, a period that lasted about 2.5 million years and that ended approximately 10,000 years ago.

There was no agriculture during this time period, so people based their diets on what they could hunt and gather. As such, this dietary approach includes animals such as poultry, fish and other lean meats, wild plants and little to no grain, dairy, starch, refined sugar or salt. Fifty per cent of the Paleo Diet’s daily caloric intake consists of animal protein, with fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds accounting for the rest.

Although the Paleo Diet has been criticized as being a fad, it has also been found to have health benefits, including weight loss, decreased inflammation, reduction of allergies and reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

The following five food categories are accepted on the Paleo Diet.

1. Vegetables
The Paleo Diet recommends that the majority of your fibre intake should be derived from vegetables, as well as from fruit (in moderation). All vegetables – with the exception of white and sweet potatoes – are allowed, including sea vegetables, which have tremendous health benefits and are full of antioxidants and nutrients.

2. Fruits
The Paleo Diet incorporates all fruits, but encourages you to choose fresh fruits over dried fruits, as dried fruits are higher in carbohydrates and fat. The diet also limits the amount of fruit you should eat. Fruits with lower quantities of sugar, such as blueberries, grapefruit and apples, are considered ideal choices.

3. Nuts and seeds
Eating nuts and seeds is encouraged as they provide healthy fats. The Paleo Diet also incorporates nut and seed butters – such as walnut butter or sunflower seed butter – as alternatives for peanut butter, which is not accepted because peanuts are legumes.

4. Healthy fats
Fats are commonly misunderstood – but they are, in fact, a required component to achieve weight loss. The Paleo Diet recommends sticking with clean, healthy fats, such as extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil, as they are less saturated, which helps your cellular membranes stay healthy. When cooking with oil, make sure to choose one with a higher smoke point, such as coconut oil. This ensures that the oil will not go rancid during the cooking process.

5. Meat and seafood
Since meat was one of the main food sources during the hunter-gatherer era, it is absolutely accepted in this diet. A variety of flesh meats, including beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, pork and eggs, are acceptable. However, organic and grass-fed meats are favoured as they help keep toxin levels down.

Seafood and fish – such as shrimp, cod and salmon – are also all Paleo-friendly foods and are an excellent source of nutrients – especially salmon, which is chock-full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

 Foods to avoid on the Paleo Diet include:
• processed foods;
• dairy;
• grains;
• legumes;
• refined sugars and carbs;
• added salt (tip: keep the salt shaker off the table);
• potatoes and sweet potatoes;
• sodas and other carbonated beverages; and
• artificial sweeteners such as Splenda and Sweet'N Low.
 
Joey Shulman is the founder of the Shulman Weight Loss Clinics and the founder of Skinnychews. Visit drjoey.com for more information.

All rights reserved. Transcontinental Media G.P. © 2014