What is Paleo? Healthy Diet or Just a Fad

by chefmancave

Heard about the Paleo diet? Want to know what is Paleo all about? Fascinating article about the basics of the Paleo diet. Discover the benefits of the healthy Paleo diet.

We live in a society of processed, fabricated food products. Most of what we eat comes in a box or a bag. We consume it without a second thought to what social and dietary evils might lurk therein. We are told to buy this food by the marketers and we happily listen. But a growing number of people have decided to break away from the artificiality of “box” food and take a page from the book of our ancestors. They roughly follow the Primal Diet, commonly known as the Paleo diet.

A World of Processed Food

What is Paleo? An Alternative to Processed Food
What is Paleo? An Alternative to Processed Food
Public Domain Images from Wikipedia Commons - Modified by Carl Dunn
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What is Paleo in a Nutshell

The Paleo philosophy begins with a simple thought. Humans, on the whole, were physically healthier when our species was still in its infancy. Many of today’s life-threatening diseases (like heart disease and cancer) didn't exist. Humans were generally leaner, more muscular and physically fit. Part of this is because exercise was a daily requirement for survival. Exercise was not an activity we had to “find the time for”. However, another major factor was the lack of processed foods; we ate what was fresh, local and hunted or foraged by our own hands.

The Paleo diet seeks to return – as much as possible – to these ways. Most of us don't have the time or wherewithal to hunt and forage our own food. However, we can buy food produced in a more natural way; grass-fed meat, fresh organic produce, and products that are processed responsibly by food producers with the health of their consumers and the Earth in mind.

The mission of Paleo is easy to see; increased health, more energy, and rapid weight loss for those who need it. The Paleo lifestyle also has a positive effect on the earth as a whole; encouraging responsible food practices that leave out harmful chemicals and promote sustainable food production.

So what is Paleo? For now, Paleo means anything that humans could have hunted or foraged in the days before civilized history. If you can imagine a caveman eating it, chances are it's Paleo.

Paleo Diet Shopping List

The "Yes" List
  • Fresh Veggies
  • Natural Meat
  • Fish & Mussels
  • Nuts & Berries
  • Eggs (cage free)
  • Fruit
  • Coconut or Almond Milk
  • Natural Oils
  • Pickles & Cucumbers

Paleo Diet Shopping List

The "No" List
  • Processed Foods
  • Sugar and Sugary Treats
  • Dairy & Cheese
  • Grains & Breads
  • Pasta & Noodles
  • Fruit Juice & Soft Drinks
  • Processed Oils
  • Beans (Dried or canned)
  • Mayonnaise & Salad Dressing
  • Alcohol
Reflections on the Paleo Diet Shopping List

The "Yes" list is straightforward. In fact, it has many of the items preached in other diet plans. Nutritionists tell us more fruits, more vegetables, less dairy and lighter oils. The Paleo diet seems to have the same message.

However, the “No” list is tough to swallow for most people. Dairy, cheese, bread, pasta, rice, fruit juice, alcohol and soda pop are gone! Fast food and pizza are gone! As people think about their favorite foods and recipes, they realize how much they rely on non-Paleo ingredients. The more people analyze “what is paleo”, the more they understand exactly how restrictive this diet is.

See Detailed List of Paleo Food
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Cleaning Out the Pantry: Non-Paleo Food
Cleaning Out the Pantry: Non-Paleo Food
Courtesy of Carl Dunn

Accepting the Paleo Challenge

Most people start out making food that is plain and unadorned. Cavemen didn’t have a nice spice rack or a well-stocked pantry. While adhering to a strict Paleo lifestyle is admirable, this can get boring fast. You can only eat plain meat or veggies so many times before you're tempted to forsake your Paleo ideals and order that deep dish, stuffed crust, double cheese pizza!

Luckily, Paleo advocates have a solution. They create Paleo-approved sauces and marinades. As most cooks know a good sauce can change the character of the entire dish. Take the same beef, chicken, or pork, and make uniquely flavored meals with just a simple sauce.

  • Chicken is chicken, but top it with fresh Paleo salsa and it becomes a Mexican treat.
  • Marinate your meat with a primal BBQ sauce and suddenly you're a Paleo Grill Master.
  • Add some homemade raspberry vinaigrette to a boring bowl of lettuce and you have a refreshing, healthy Paleo lunch.

The ideas are endless.

Updated: 03/02/2014, chefmancave
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frankbeswick on 03/18/2014

I hardly drink any coffee, and not drinking it has done no harm to my energy levels, but it has helped my hypertension.

chefmancave on 03/17/2014

@frankbeswick - These are great questions. I am by no means the top authority on the subject of Paleo diets. The Dr Oz video in the article mentions a couple of books that appear to be the authority. I can only relay my personal experience. Yes, I have lost 15 pounds. Eventhough I have cut way down on my Coffee consumption, I actually have more sustained energy throughout the day.

For me, I like the challenge of replacing many ingredients with healthier choices. I made a chicken avocado sandwich tonight (used romaine leafs for bread) that was out of this world.

frankbeswick on 03/15/2014

If I eat a palaeo-diet,which involves giving up bread, cheese,butter and alcohol, what will be the benefits to me in terms of health; and if I have any increase in life expectancy, how do I evaluate this gain in terms of loss of the pleasures of eating the aforesaid substances.

chefmancave on 03/15/2014

@Rose - For me it was Cheese. How in the hell can I cook without cheese? Bread, grain and pasta were #2 on the "I cannot live without" list. I am managing though. I made some tacos the other night. Used Organic Romaine Hearts for the Taco shell. Top it with fresh made guacamole and homemade taco sauce. I was shocked with how good the tacos tasted. I ate 5 of them in one sitting.

Other Paleo advocates suggest keeping "one favorite" food as part of the Paleo diet. I have explored Paleo bread recipes. They feature Almond flour mostly. However, the recipes are pretty exacting and take a lot of effort. I am still trying to master some of the basics of Paleo cooking so I will wait before tackling bread.

One tip I can give you is get the Paleo Sauces cookbook. Replace all your condiments with Paleo versions. I was shocked to find the number of condiments that had "High Fructose Corn Syrup" in them. Make your own salad dressings, marinades, and sauces. They are easy to make, taste great, and are naturally healthy.

Rose on 03/07/2014

The Paleo food list looks really appetizing. The only problem is that I quite like my bread and would be loathe to give it up.

teddletonmr on 03/03/2014

@chefmancave, I have often wondered the same thing, for instance.
How hungry would, a person need be to try puffer fish, after witnessing someone else suffer the ill effects of improper preparation.
:) Mike

chefmancave on 03/03/2014

@teddletonmr - I have often pondered about different foods. Like who was the first person to look at a pineapple and say "That looks good to eat". Ginger root, asparagus, eggplant, and many more...I keep thinking "Who was the brilliant idiot to taste it first"?

teddletonmr on 03/03/2014

Chefmancave, you managed to captivate my imagination with the Paleo a healthy diet or just a fad quandary.
What must have it been like as a hungry hunter-gatherer, scrounging every waking moment for something good to eat that wouldn’t make someone sick, or contain toxins that will kill immediately and/or over time.
I guess the more things change, the more things stay the same.

:) teddletonmr

chefmancave on 03/03/2014

@Mira - I read someplace that we are the only species on the planet that drinks milk after the Nursing stage. I don't know if it is true. As far as restrictive goes, did you see the photo of the stuff I pulled from my pantry? I was shocked.

@ologsinquinto - What is the "angle" of your article? The benefits of Paleo? Paleo recipes? The downside of Paleo?

Mira on 03/03/2014

I'm surprised to learn from the video that there's no dairy in the Paleo diet. So it isn't what our ancestors ate, after all. But the fact that there aren't any inflammatory foods is a big plus. Still, as you say, it's rather restrictive.

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