A guide to getting started
The Paleo Diet is all about getting back to basics. Also known as the caveman, stone-age or primal diet, it’s all about eating wholesome food that our hunter-gatherer ancestors would’ve eaten in the Paleolithic era. Irena Macri from Eat Drink Paleo shares the 10 ways you can embrace the Paleo Diet in your life. You’ll be eating, drinking and loving paleo before you know it.
Have protein with every meal
Proteins, found in animal and fish based products as well as legumes and certain seeds, are the building blocks of the body helping us to build muscles and keep our immune system in tip top condition. Having protein with every meal, especially breakfast, helps to stabilise insulin production and ensures a long-lasting, slow release of energy keeping you full for longer.
Are low-fat margarine and fat-free salad dressing regular on your shopping list? It might be time to re-evaluate your knowledge of dietary fats. The mainstream claims that saturated fat and cholesterol are evil don’t paint the full picture and have been misleading our society for many decades. The fact is that our bodies need fat for many of its functions.
‘Eating good healthy fats in your diet will not make you fat. Fats are highly beneficial in the diet and also aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E and K.’ says clinical nutritionist Claire Yates.
Yates also notes that saturated fats such as coconut oil have antibacterial and antiviral properties and cholesterol, one of the most abundant and important steroids in your body, plays a role in cell membrane and nerve tissue repair amongst other body functions. However one must not confuse the good fats with the bad fats. Trans fats found in products using hydrogenated oils such as margarine, baked foods and chips as well as rancid and oxidized mono-unsaturated oils and too much Omega-6 fatty acids found in soybean, canola and vegetable oil can be harmful and cause inflammation, atherosclerosis, high triglyceride levels and are strongly linked with an increased risk of heart disease.
Stop fearing fat and embrace foods like grass fed butter, coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, oily fish and free range eggs and your body will thank you for it.
Nurture your gut flora
You would be surprised how many symptoms and conditions, such as poor sleep, headaches, poor digestion and even your mood, are associated with the health of your gut flora. Keeping the gut healthy and in good condition is not just about a daily dose of probiotics such as yogurt, kimchi or sauerkraut. It’s also about eliminating or avoiding (as much as possible) the sources that cause the imbalance and introduce the damaging bacteria in the first place: antibiotics (they should still must be taken when necessary and advised by your physician), physical and psychological stress and environmental toxins such as pesticides and chemicals. A diet high in processed sugars, alcohol and gut irritating grains and legumes will also contribute to an unbalanced gut flora.
To assist with the healing of the damaged gut, nutritionist Claire Yates also recommends to opt for foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, zinc, curcumin (turmeric), quercetin (capers, sorrel, dill, red onion, watercress, kale) and glycine (bone broth). Supplementation with L-gutamine or bitter herbs can also be of benefit, but Claire recommends consulting your primary health care practitioner first.
Get your Omega balance
There are two types of essential fatty acids that our bodies cannot produce but need to stay in good shape: the good, anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids and the not always good, often pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids. We need both but in a healthy ratio of 1 to 2 Omega-6s for every Omega-3, which is what our ancestors consumed. In today’s Western society we consume as much as 15 times more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3s. This imbalance leads to continuous state of systemic inflammation, which is believed to be one of the causes behind many of the modern diseases, allergies, asthma and other immunity related conditions.
To improve this ratio you need to consume more Omega-3 rich foods (oily fish, leafy greens, flaxeed, Omega-3 enriched eggs) and reduce the consumption of foods containing too much Omega-6s (processed and seed oils such as soybean, canola, sunflower and corn and packaged foods that contain them, grain fed meat, excess nuts and seeds). Taking Omega-3 fatty acid supplements such as fish or cod liver oil is also beneficial if you’re not consuming enough fish. Algae supplement is advised for those allergic to fish.
Swap beer for red wine
Unless you’re suffering from gut issues or trying to improve the health of your gut flora, an occasional drink can help to relax and compliments the dining experience. Stay away from beer or other drinks containing gluten or excess sugar. Red wine is your best option as it’s lower in sugar and contains heart friendly antioxidant reservatol. On a hot day go for dry white wine, reduced sugar cider or vodka, fresh lime and soda.
Make friends with your butcher
One of the great things about the Paleo approach to eating is that it advocates a healthier, and in many ways a more sustainable, meat consumption. Getting a variety of protein from grass fed cattle and pasture-raised poultry is healthier and tastier but is not always accessible or affordable. Getting to know your butcher means that you can learn where the meat comes from and you can place specific bulk orders for a variety of meat you can share with friends and family.
For many people, one of the hurdles when transitioning into Paleo is breakfast. The struggle comes from our preconditioned knowledge of what breakfast should look like and how quickly we should be able to shove it down our mouths. It should, however, be the most important meal of the day setting your energy levels and regulating your hunger for the day ahead. Your morning meal should include protein, fat and some carbohydrates and it doesn’t have to look, smell or taste like a typical breakfast. Reset your thinking and remember that chicken or salmon and salad for breakfast are just as good as they are for dinner or lunch.
Entertain at home
Depending on where you live, eating Paleo while out is not as difficult as it may seem however there are certain things you just can’t control: the oils in which the foods are cooked, the seasoning or sauces that are used to flavour the food and the source of the food itself. It’s much easier to stick to a healthier way of eating if you can prepare and cook your own meals. Instead of going out to an often over priced restaurant, invite a few friends for dinner or lunch. They bring the wine and you whip up a great meal. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Don’t be too strict on yourself
One of the most important points about the Paleo Diet is that it’s not actually a diet. It’s a lifestyle and long-term investment in your health that is easily maintainable if you’re not too strict and fanatical about it. As long as you listen to your body and you stay within a healthy framework of the paleo guidelines, having an occasional ice-cream, corn tortillas or French cheese is going to do more good than harm and will ensure the longevity of your new healthy eating habits.
As well as sleeping better, moving around more and stressing less, meal planning and preparation are the other two important habits you will pick up when transitioning into paleo lifestyle. It’s important to stock up your fridge and pantry with good, healthy staples and plan some meals ahead to make sure you’re not caught out with no options but the take away French fries or the office vending machine. Prioritise your time to cook more and shop at your local food markets, butcher and fishmonger.