You’ve probably heard of the paleo diet before, but maybe you’re not sure exactly what it is or why you should consider making the transition to this type of lifestyle. Here, we’re going to break it down for you.
What paleo is
Switching to the paleo diet isn’t just about what foods you put into your body – it’s also about how your thinking and actions impact your body and behavior. We want to stress that by changing how you think about eating and act towards food, you’re also changing how you feel, how you think, how you sleep, and your focus. Sure, paleo is about nutrition and eating the ancestrally aligned foods to fuel your body. But the ultimate goal is building structure and taking control to increase your productivity and achieve what you want from life.
How does the paleo lifestyle do this? Let us take a look.
You’ll sleep better.
Under normal, healthy circumstances, the body is regulated by a cycle of two hormones: cortisol and melatonin — cortisol stimulates wakefulness, and melatonin causes sleep. Both of these hormones naturally fluctuate throughout the day to control our circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle). In an ideal situation, cortisol should be high in the morning and steadily decline throughout the day, while melatonin does the opposite. However, when our bodies are in a constant state of stress, worry, fear, or any other negative emotion, cortisol levels stay elevated.
Why should you care? High cortisol levels at night will have you lying awake staring at the ceiling wondering why on earth you can’t fall asleep. By cutting out inflammatory foods, lowering stress levels, becoming more active, and taking care of yourself, we balance out cortisol levels which leads to a better, more restful and rejuvenating sleep.
You’ll think clearer.
Brain fog — quite possibly one of the most frustrating side effects of inflammatory diet and a lack of sleep.
Why will you think more clearly by following paleo? It’s because you remove harmful substances such as gluten and sugar from your diet, your hormones and blood sugar levels become more balanced, inflammation is reduced in every area of the body, and, importantly, you move more. All of these, when lacking, are contributors to why we get brain fog – so when we clean up our lifestyle, we gain more clarity and our productivity increases.
You’ll be bursting with energy.
Let’s go back to cortisol for a minute to discuss why the paleo lifestyle works wonders on your energy levels.
Cortisol is one of the major stressors on our body. It robs the digestive system, the immune system, the endocrine system, and pretty much every other system we have, putting out body into a slight state of panic. In this case, the adrenals get the blunt end of the stick, and they are one of the major controls of your energy levels.
When cortisol levels are constantly high, your adrenals go into overdrive trying to pump out hormones to keep your energy levels up. But at a point, they’ll stop functioning as they should and eventually you’ll be in a state of constant low energy or exhaustion.
By going paleo, you eliminate many triggers for high cortisol, you experience more balanced hormones, and thus more balanced (and higher!) energy levels that sustain you throughout the day. You’ll also keep your blood sugar in check which helps balance energy levels too.
…But is it easy?
Food wise, eating paleo isn’t as complex as you might think. In fact, it’s actually quite simple. It’s based on the premise of eating whole, natural foods — fruits, vegetables, meats and poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats. In doing so, you avoid things like dairy, grains, vegetable oils, processed food and sugars, legumes, starches, and alcohol.
Why? Our bodies weren’t meant to consume processed foods and grains. Simply put, when we consume artificially made foods, our bodies do not recognize them, which produces inflammation.
Carbohydrates in paleo come from starchy and non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, sweet potatoes, yams, rutabaga, etc. and fruit. Eliminating refined and/or empty carbohydrates means more room for more nutrient dense foods. With this style of eating, the bulk of meals should be comprised of vegetables (mostly non-starchy but moderate quantities of starchy root vegetables is permitted), with moderate amounts of high quality protein and healthy non-inflammatory fats.
Of course, it’s easy to say this is how you should eat and much harder to actually stick to it at the beginning. In a world filled with sugar-laden, processed foods, it can be daunting to make the right choice.
But paleo isn’t just a diet or a way of eating – it’s a lifestyle. There’s no need to count calories or focus on whether or not you’re hitting your macros. With paleo, we focus on how the foods we consume are nourishing and fueling our bodies.
… And what paleo isn’t…
While the paleo way of eating technically permits you to eat all the bacon and “healthy” desserts you want, don’t get carried away. Most people think that when they go paleo, a plate of chicken or beef can suffice for a meal. But like everything in life, you have to find a balance. We need to consume enough plants to support our potassium, vitamins and micronutrients levels.
There are a few other areas you’re bound to come across with respect to issues with the paleo diet.
Yes, buying healthy can sometimes be expensive, especially when you are looking for local and organic.
While paleo does favor organic and grass-fed proteins, sometimes that just isn’t an option. When farmers markets are open, there is a bounty of meats and produce for sale that may not be organic, but are local, fresh, and incredibly healthy — a much better alternative than digging into a bowl of pasta or pre-made noodles.
But what am I supposed to do when I go out to a restaurant?
The age old question about eating out when on a diet. Remember, paleo doesn’t eliminate everything — it simply removes processed and other foods that our bodies weren’t meant to consume. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Opt for simple dishes that combine a starchy vegetable (potato, sweet potato, etc.), grilled vegetables or salad, with a protein. And if there’s nothing on the menu that works for you, ask your server what can be modified. With the paleo diet becoming more popular, you’re sure to find options.
Restrictive? But not really.
It seems like when grains, dairy, sugar, and everything else goes, there’s not much left to eat, right? Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on what you can. A huge component of the paleo diet is fruit and vegetables, and there’s so much variety in those two food groups. Make it a goal to load up your plate with as much colour as possible at every meal — the more colour, the more nutrients!
So why go paleo? Here’s why:
Diversity of foods
- Proteins: grass-fed meats (beef, venison, etc.), pastured chicken and turkey, duck, lamb, eggs
- Remember that eating the whole animal is important — try to consume organ meats (heart, kidney, liver, etc.) and marrow, as they are loaded with nutrients and healthy fats
- Healthy fats: coconut oil, ghee, avocado oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter
- Fruits: grapefruit, oranges, bananas, apples, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, melon (try to opt for low glycemic fruits to avoid blood sugar spikes, and see the difference in how you feel!)
- Vegetables: greens (spinach, chard, kale, romaine, arugula, etc.), carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, turnip, rutabaga, sweet potato, yams, plantains (any vegetable you like)
- Herbs: dill, parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro, rosemary, thyme….the list goes on.
- Nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds. Note that some people may be intolerant to some nuts.
- Proteins: grass-fed meats (beef, venison, etc.), pastured chicken and turkey, duck, lamb, eggs
By eliminating processed foods from the diet and increasing the intake of whole, fresh foods, we also drastically increase the intake of macro- and micronutrients. Fresh food contains significantly higher amounts of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function optimally, like fibre, electrolytes (potassium, sodium, magnesium) — all of which come from fresh fruits and vegetables. Combine that with better gut health and increased absorption and you have a recipe for success!
Optimize your body composition
The paleo diet helps to improve metabolic processes, gut health, sleep patterns, stress management, vitamin D intake (and nutrient intake in general), and essential fatty acid balance (the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6), which all help to burn stored body fat and improve body composition.
Additionally, paleo also promotes getting out and being more active. Living a more active lifestyle also contributes to sustained weight loss.
Improved blood work
Studies have showed that compared to the typical ‘
heart healthy whole grains diet,’ paleo is significantly better at improving cholesterol profiles — lowering LDL (“bad” cholesterol), lowering blood triglycerides, and raising HDL (“good” cholesterol). Additionally, the paleo diet also helped to lower blood pressure, improve markers of type 2 diabetes, and improve blood glucose levels.
If that’s not enough to convince you to give paleo a try, here’s a few more reasons:
- Anti-inflammatory diet
- Clear skin
- Better teeth
- Balanced energy levels
- Reduced allergies
- Improved workouts
- Better gut health
- Increased nutrient absorption
- Balanced cortisol levels
- Less bloating and gas
- Fewer cravings
- Improved sleep
- Less toxins
- and MORE ENERGY
It’s important to remember that every individual is unique, and therefore their nutrient requirements and eating style will be unique as well. Experiment and have fun. Go ahead and try it for 30 days — see how you feel, how you think, how you sleep. We think you’ll feel amazing, be more productive, and be hooked for life!
Would you like support and a tailor made plan specifically for you to make the change? Contact our Certified Primal Health Coach.
Want to learn more about how easy it is to bring paleo into your lifestyle? Simply subscribe to our weekly Cool Paleo Newsletter!
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