Before I get started on Day 2, I thought I’d give a little background info on the word “paleo” which I’ve been throwing around a lot and which requires some explanation for those who have never heard of it, or kinda sorta know what it means, and are pretty sure it has something to do with translucent skin tone…
“Paleo” is the shortened form of paleolithic. Think cavemen, big spears, lots of grunting. My first lessons on the Paleo Diet came from Dr. Loren Cordain’s book entitled “The Paleo Diet,” in which she explains how our hunter-gatherer lifestyle changed drastically with the rise of the Agricultural Revolution, which introduced grains as the main staple of the human diet. What Dr. Cordain emphasizes is that the Paleo Diet isn’t really a diet at all – it’s how we’re genetically designed to eat. The Paleo way of eating (which I will outline very soon) is the way that our Stone-Age ancestors, from whom we evolved, ate.
“This diet has been built into our genes,” writes Cordain.
Hunter-gatherers were lean, strong, physically fit beings who, from what researchers have been able to find, showed no signs of the chronic diseases we’re faced with today. So what happened? We started farming. We realized that we could grow a lot of grain and corn, and those products could be turned into a bazillion different foods that could be produced in mass quantity, and most importantly, cheaply. But, our bodies really aren’t genetically designed to process those foods. Dr. Cordain puts it simply:
“Your car is designed to run on gasoline. When you put diesel fuel into its tank, the results are disastrous for the engine.”
We are genetically designed to eat what can be hunted and gathered, but instead, what the farming and agricultural industries have created are cheap cereals, dairy products, and processed sugars. These foods are like diesel to us, our engines can’t run on them and they just make us sick.
If you are really interested in the details of the Paleo Diet, I highly recommend Dr. Cordain’s book. However, as a college student I totally get wanting a quick spark-notes version of the whole thing, which is why I also recommend checking out Steve Kamb’s Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet on his website Nerd Fitness (also an awesome blog to check out).
Here’s a quick breakdown of the rules of the Paleo diet:
- Eat plenty of lean meat, fish, and seafood
- Eat all the fruits and non-starchy, leafy vegetables you can
- No cereals
- No legumes
- No dairy products
- No processed foods
Hold up – what’s a legume? It’s okay, I had to Google it too. A legume is basically all your beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts. Though these foods certainly aren’t going to kill you and are a better alternative to grains, the reason they can’t come to our Paleo party is because they are pretty tough for our body to break down and digest, which is no-bueno for strict Paleo eaters. However, though legumes aren’t ideal, they do provide a great source of protein and are high in fiber. So am I still gonna say yes to black beans on my Chipotle bowl? You sure bet I am.
So what can I eat on the Paleo diet?
In addition to lean beef, fowl, fish, and fruits and veggies…
- oils (think olive, coconut, natural)
- nuts (almond, walnut, pecan, NOT peanut)
- tubers (sweet potatoes and yams, but nothing starchy like white potatoes)
Obviously you can modify this diet to be as strict or open as you want. If you’ve really got a hankering for snap peas, by all means, if you’re eating that over cheese puffs, I’m not gonna stop you.