Beginner’s Guide To The Paleo Diet

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Before I begin, let me say this: I am not a nutritionist, nor am I qualified to advise anyone on their diet or health. What I am is a human being who reads a lot about food and health and subsequently blogs about it. I eat a paleo diet and have seen, first-hand, the benefits of eating this way. If you’re interested in finding out more I’d suggest you do some good, old-fashioned googling. There are plenty of guides out there more comprehensive than mine, including websites that review the latest research into this way of eating. Marks Daily Apple is a great place to start.

 

Ok, so what’s paleo?

The worst thing about the paleo diet is its name, which comes from the term “paleolithic” (i.e. hunter-gatherers), and conjures up images of unwashed, spear-totting cave dwellers high-fiving each other as they chow down on endless florets of broccoli. It sounds a bit ridiculous, I know, but just hear me out, because the argument for eating this way is sound: namely that the optimal diet for humans is the one to which we are genetically adapted. That makes sense, right?

 

So what should we eat?

We should eat the kinds of foods that our bodies are naturally designed to digest: whole foods, unprocessed foods, foods without additives, sugars or unpronounceable chemicals. More specifically, we should eat vegetables (including potatoes), meat, fish, eggs, and small amounts of fruit, nuts, seeds and oils. We shouldn’t eat grains, refined sugars, legumes, processed oils and dairy products. Some of us who have tested our tolerance to dairy products do consume small amounts of greek yoghurt, cream and butter, but generally speaking they’re excluded from the paleo diet because most people have a reaction to them.

 

We shouldn’t be scared of fat

We should eat healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, fish oil and meat. We shouldn’t eat weird trans-fats or low-fat products. I realise that this is a break from conventional thinking but consider this: why is it that there are more low-fat products on the shelves than ever before and yet humanity is facing an ever-increasing obesity problem? There is so much to say on this subject but for brevity I’ll stick with this: low-fat is an absolute con; it’s making things worse. Read more about it here.

 

What’s wrong with grains?

Grains contain gluten and lectins, both of which cause inflammation and toxic reactions in most people. They destroy gut bacteria and cause a multitude of gastrointestinal problems. We don’t need to eat them to be healthy. I’ll put it simply: my salad for lunch contains far more nutrients and digestible plant fibre than your poxy ham sandwich. Sorry.

 

Didn’t most cave people die before they were 30?

Yes, lots of them did, but not from heart disease or cancer. Luckily we’ve got soap, antibiotics and concrete, so mimicking their whole food diets and active lifestyles should be just fine, but thanks for asking.

 

Which celebrities endorse paleo?

Seriously? Does it even matter? Ok fine, here’s a list of some cool celebrities who are vocal about eating a paleo diet: Jessica Biel, Megan Fox, Matthew McConaughey, Jack Osbourne and Tom Jones. And there’s also Miley Cyrus. Ahem.

 

What are the health benefits?

Eating clean, unprocessed foods can clear up a multitude of health problems. Most people see an increase in energy levels and an improvement in autoimmunity and gastrointestinal issues. If you have acne or skin issues, eating this way has been shown to help. And yes, of course, eating paleo can help you lose excess weight. You should bear in mind that some of that tummy fat may actually be bloating due to inflammation caused by foods which you’re intolerant to. Even a few days of cutting out grains and/or dairy can give you a flatter belly.

 

In reality

I discovered paleo eating over 18 months ago and it has honestly changed my relationship with food. Since I started, my focus has shifted away from my endless battle with being the “right” weight and instead I’m interested in health. I believe that the wrong foods cause illness and the right ones can cure. I am in tune with my body and when I eat something that doesn’t agree with me, I know it immediately. I’ve educated myself about food and I know that the way I feed my family is the best thing for us. My cooking has improved. We eat tasty, satisfying food every day of the week. Are we slaves to it? No. Do we eat dessert? Yes, sometimes. Life’s too short to never have cake, but the difference is this: I want to eat the right foods most of the time because they make me feel and look better.

 

It’s not a fad, we don’t live in caves, but we do eat a lot of broccoli.

 

And pancakes!

 

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So easy, a child can make them!

 

 

Coconut Pancakes

 

Makes 3-4 servings

 

Ingredients

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 tbsp raw honey

5 eggs

120ml (1/2 cup) coconut milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

65 g (1/2 cup) coconut flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 pinches salt

 

Method

  1. Microwave the coconut oil in a large bowl to melt it, then whisk in the honey.
  2. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time.
  3. Add the coconut milk and vanilla extract.
  4. Add the coconut flour, then the baking powder and salt.
  5. Melt some ghee (or coconut oil or butter) in a pan on a medium heat. Ladle in some mixture. Keep them small so they’re easy to turn.
  6. After a few minutes, flip the pancake and cook on the other side.
  7. Serve with honey and blueberries.

 

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Suzy Addis

 

 

 

Suzy Addis is a graphic designer turned mother and blogger. She lives in Dublin with her South African husband and their wild-haired toddler. She blogs about life and parenting at The Airing Cupboard and drones on about paleo food and recipes at Mrs H Goes Paleo. If you stick around long enough she’ll probably say something which offends you. Not that sorry.

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