What is the Paleo Diet?
THE PALEO DIET: THE BASICS
Answering the popular question: what is the Paleo diet? A quick guide to the Paleo Diet: how it works, how grass-fed beef fits in, Paleo recipes and resources. Check out our original Paleo recipe at the end of the post!
Popularized by best-selling books and numerous websites, you’ve undoubtedly heard of it – but what exactly is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleolithic Diet – aka the caveman diet – is based on foods readily available to our ancestors in pre-agricultural days. Advocates of the diet base their claims on evolutionary medicine; theoretically, humans were genetically adapted to eat foods that were readily available in the Paleo period, and not those introduced following the agricultural revolution.
The transition from hunter-gatherer to settled agriculture introduced a massive change in food production and lifestyle. Paleo proponents cite this change as contributing to the soaring rates of disease and obesity in modern culture.
At its essence, the Paleo diet advocates eating whole, unprocessed foods and eliminating foods that were introduced in the Neolithic era. Paleo diets are high in nutritionally-dense foods and maintain a different ratio of protein, fat, and carbohydrates than other popular health regimens. Processed foods (and a whole lot more) are not allowed. While the Paleo diet can be broadly interpreted, we outline the core tenets later in the post.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF EATING PALEO
Our country is in the midst of a health crisis: more than 2 in 3 adults and 1 in 3 children are considered overweight; 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 6 children qualify as obese. Diseases like hypertension, fatty-liver disease, and type-2 diabetes have dramatically increased.
Paleo experts claim a Western diet is at the root of these health issues. Among the health benefits of eating Paleo, they include: stabilized blood sugar; reduced allergies; reduced inflammation; better sleep patterns; improvements in body composition and metabolic effects.
There is some research backing these claims, but hard data is is limited. However, it’s logical that a diet of plant foods and healthy fats and proteins like those from grass-fed beef, in addition to eliminating processed foods and sugars results in an improvement in general health.
THE GOOD NEWS: GRASS-FED BEEF IS A-OK ON THE PALEO DIET.
The good news is that grass-fed beef is a key ingredient to the Paleo diet. As you know, grass-fed beef is significantly healthier than grain-fed, conventional beef. Grass-fed beef contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), with cancer-fighting properties and linked to prevention of weight gain; better fat quality, with significantly more anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats and a better ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 composition; more vitamin K2, important for heart and bone health; and significantly more antioxidants, including Vitamin E.
Moreover, grass-fed beef aligns with the Paleo lifestyle principles that promote sustainability and animal welfare.
OKAY, BUT REALLY… WHAT CAN I EAT ON THE PALEO DIET?
The Paleo diet is generous in healthy fats and vegetables; moderate in animal proteins; and low to moderate in carbohydrates, fruits, and nuts. Details vary by the expert and for the individual. For example, grass-fed butter, fermented dairy, honey, and nuts are all contentious items.
On the yes list:
Grass-fed and pasture-raised meats: Healthy fats, including coconut oil, olive, avocado, and macadamia oil, and fats from pasture-raised meat and wild seafood
Wild fish and seafood: Nuts and seeds (generally)
Vegetables of all types: Fruits, preferably those low in sugar like berries
However, the Paleo diet is in many ways more about what you can’t eat than what you can.
On the no list:
Processed food & sugars: Vegetable, hydrogenated, and partly-hydrogenated oils, like canola oil and margarine
Dairy (grass-fed butter and fermented products may be okay): Alcohol and caffeine
Grains, including: wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, brown rice, and soy: Legumes, including: lentils, peanuts, kidney, pinto, and navy beans
OTHER PALEO PRINCIPLES
Although many adopt a Paleo diet to lose weight, the Paleo diet is not about counting calories. Advocates maintain one should eat when hungry.
Exercise is a major component of the Paleo lifestyle. Although the Paleo diet is popular among the Cross-fit community, for example, most any exercise is deemed a positive. Many of our chronic diseases are likely caused by an imbalance between the energy we consumer vs. the energy we expend.
Other tenets are important, but hardly revolutionary: reducing stress and sleeping 8 hours a night are part of a generally healthy lifestyle.
For many, the Paleo diet has evolved to a lifestyle. Extremists include barefoot running, blackout curtains, primal parenting, and even a Paleo hygiene regimen.
MAKING THE TRANSITION: PALEO RESOURCES
If you’re eating a modern, Westernized diet, transitioning to Paleo can be a major shift. You’ll undoubtedly have to cook more for yourself. This is, however, a good thing for your health: one Public Health Nutrition study found that people who cook at least five times a week are 47% more likely to be alive 10 years later compared to those who rely more on processed foods.
Undoubtedly, it is a commitment. We recommend using the numerous Paleo resources in the library and online to help shop and meal plan. Good, delicious Paleo recipes are critical to keeping you happy and motivated as you make the change.
The pivotal book is Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Diet. Paleo Magazine is another great resource, including cookbooks.
Some of our favorite Paleo blogs:
PALEO DIET: OUR TAKE
Now you know the answer: what is the Paleo diet? But is it right for you?
We believe that any lifestyle committed to eating more nutritionally-dense, real, and whole foods – including grass-fed beef like Verde Farms – and fewer processed foods will positively influence your health. Every individual has different health and energy considerations. Only you can determine if something like Paleo is the right choice.
For many of us, the middle path is the right path. See if you can incorporate some of the Paleo principles into your diet and see how you feel. Or jump in with both feet and go whole hog. Let us know how it goes!
A VERDE FARMS PALEO RECIPE ORIGINAL
As mentioned, you need to enjoy your food to stick to any kind of healthy shift. If it’s not fun, it likely won’t last.
To start, take this Paleo-approved recipe for a spin. Featuring grass-fed beef and a mosaic of spices, we use cauliflower instead of rice. We don’t call it “Paleo,” we simply call it grass-fed deliciousness.
Paleo Spicy Thai Beef Basil w/Lime Cauliflower Rice: Pad Graw Prow
Thai Beef Basil:
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 lb ground 93/7 grass-fed beef
- 1 thai chili, chopped (without seeds for less spice)
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 cup fresh thai or holy basil leaf
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1⁄2 tablespoon sugar
- 1⁄8 teaspoon white (or black) pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon of salt
Lime Cauliflower “Rice”:
- 1 large head cauliflower broken into 1-inch florets
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilnatro leaves, finely chopped
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- Trim cauliflower florets, removing most stems
- Pulse cauliflower in food processor to roughly the size of rice
- Heat oil in large pan and add cauliflower mix
- Cook for 3-5 minutes or until cauliflower has softened
- Remove from heat, add salt, lime juice and chopped cilantro in bowl
- Heat wok or pan with oil, add garlic and chiles, sweat out for 2-3 minutes
- Add grass-fed ground beef and cook for 1 minute
- Add onions, red pepper and thai basil, stir for 1 minute
- Add remaining sauce: fish sauce, sugar, white pepper and salt
- Stir fry until onions and peppers are soft but not mushy and basil has wilted
Serve immediately with steamed cauliflower rice and lime wedge garnish. Enjoy the healthy benefits of being a caveman.