Paleo

On January 2, 2013, I started following the paleolithic diet. I didn’t read a book about it, but instead followed the advice of the Internet in general. Of course, the internet often disagrees with itself, so I built out something that works for me.

In my investigation, I found a lot of recipes, but it was hard to determine what recipes worked and didn’t work. It was also hard to tell which recipes were truly “paleo” and which ones were merely “primal.” Over time, I developed the table below to define “paleo” for myself and friends and family who were following what I was doing. I also started started tracking my recipes that not only worked for me, but were actually delicious.

This page attempts to document my paleo journey. If you want to follow all my paleo-related posts (mostly recipes), use the paleo category page or the paleo category feed.

The table

When investigating the paleo diet, I had some trouble determining what “paleo” meant. I did some investigation but came up with quite a few variations, some defined (like “primal”) and some undefined. Since switching to paleo, the question of what I do and don’t eat has come up a lot more often. So I’ve made this table to try and generalize what paleo means in its various incarnations.

As with any diet, don’t take this table as a rule, but rather a guideline for how you many people who follow the paleo diet eat. There are quite a few grey areas and I’ll mention some below.

For the record, my target has been normal paleo.

Food Strict Paleo Normal Paleo Primal
Meat, all kinds Yes! Yes! Yes!
Fish, all kinds Yes! Yes! Yes!
Eggs Yes! Yes! Yes!
Fruits, especially berries Yes! Yes! Yes!
Vegetables (excluding nightshades) Yes! Yes! Yes!
Nuts & Seeds Yes! Yes! Yes!
Herbs & Spices Yes! Yes! Yes!
Salt Yes! Natural salts preferred. Yes! Natural salts preferred. Yes! Natural salts preferred.
Nightshades like tomatoes, peppers (capsicum), potatoes Yes, except white potatoes. Yes, except white potatoes. Yes, white potatoes in moderation.
Oils Animal fats, Coconut, Olive, Avocado Animal fats, Coconut, Olive, Avocado, occasionally Ghee Animal fats, Coconut, Olive, Avocado, Ghee, butter
Cocoa 100% only. 100% okay, 70% dark chocolate or higher okay as a treat. 100% okay, 70% dark chocolate or higher okay as a treat.
Alcohol No. Only wine occasionally. Only wine, liquors made from “okay” sources.
Sugar No. Raw honey, maple syrup okay in small amounts. Raw honey, maple syrup okay in small amounts.
Dairy No. Only ghee allowed in small amounts Occasional fermented dairy (yoghurt, sour cream), raw butter, aged cheese, and raw milk/cream (in that order, always full fat).
Grains, including rice, corn, oats No. No. Wild rice, fresh corn occasionally.
Legumes, including all beans, soy, peanuts No. No. Occasionally in small amounts.
Gluten No. No. No.

Everything has caveats. Here is some commentary on the various items listed above.

Meat
If you can find it and afford it, you should do your best to eat grass-fed meat and free range chickens (as well as the comparable for other meats) because they’re much higher in omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, vitamin A, vitamin E, and other antioxidants.
Fish
For the same reasons as meat, you should do your best to eat wild, not farmed fish.
Eggs
Some people limit their egg intake due to high cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, limit your egg intake to start, then add more and frequently check your cholesterol levels. Changes in diet can change how the cholesterol in eggs affects your body. Ideally, you should also eat cage free eggs (or free range or organic; surprisingly, there are differences).
Fruits
Due to their nutritional value (like antioxidants), berries are preferred to other fruits. Additionally, if you’re trying to lose weight, limit your non-berry fruit intake as they are high in carbohydrates. (Berries are low in carbohydrates.)
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds should be eaten in moderation. Here’s why: some raw nuts are high in antinutrients, lectins, enzymes inhibitors and toxic proteins. Specifically, phytic acid can be harmful to our bodies and prevent minerals from being absorbed. Cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, and chestnuts are particularly high in phytic acid. Soaking nuts overnight in salt water (or buying roasted nuts) generally gets rid of most of the badness.Another problem with nuts is that they’re high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fat. See Paleo Diet Lifestyle’s page for more on nuts.
Salt
Too little salt is definitely bad for you. Some say too much salt is bad for you too. Feel free to limit your salt intake, but not considerably. Changing the rest of your diet will automatically limit your salt intake.
Nightshades
When researching the paleo diet, you’ll hear a lot about “nightshades.” Many of the New World (North & South America) vegetables are nightshades including potatoes (regular, not sweet potatoes), tomatoes, purple eggplant, and peppers (capsicum). It’s recommended that you avoid nightshades when you’re first starting paleo because many people have a sensitivity to them and don’t realize it. Avoiding them for 30 days, then reintroducing them will exhibit any problems almost immediately. Why do people have a sensitivity to nightshades specifically? Because they contain alkaloids, lectins, and saponins. I recommend googling for more information.
Oils
In general, the best oils for you are those low in omega-6 poly-unsaturated fats. As a result, most nut oils are considered very bad. The best cooking oils and fats are coconut (1.9%), butter (3.4%), and beef tallow (3.1%), which have low levels of omega-6. On top of those, olive oil (9.9%) and avocado oil (13%) is relatively low in omega-6 and can be used as well. Surprisingly, macadamia nut oil (1.6%) is very low in omega-6, but rather expensive. There are no other nut or vegetable oils low in omega-6, so they rest should be avoided, if at all possible. You should especially avoid all oils from non-paleo sources, like corn, soy, and peanut.
Cocoa
The cocoa bean is inherently paleo (it’s a seed) and full of goodness. However, processed chocolate usually includes sugar (or cane sugar or HFCS or agave nectar) which is bad for you. You can buy cocoa powder and use it in cooking freely and if you can find processed chocolate that uses alternative sweeteners (like honey), those are generally accepted. Otherwise, many paleo and primal dieters will occasionally eat dark chocolate that is 70% or higher as a treat. Cocoa butter is also paleo for the same reasons.
Alcohol
If trying to lose weight, don’t drink alcohol as it’s high in sugar. Generally accepted “okay” sources for those on the primal diet include the agave plant (tequila) and fruit (brandy), among others.
Sugar
Many argue whether any sugars are okay and, specifically if cane sugar and molasses are better for you than honey and maple syrup. Whatever you decide, sugar consumption should be limited. And no, agave nectar (syrup) is not considered paleo.
Dairy
If you’re going to ingest dairy, make sure it’s full fat and raw, or fermented (and full fat). For cheese specifically, it should be aged not fresh.
Grains/Gluten
If you’re okay with the high level of carbohydrates, white rice can be okay to eat, especially if you’re burning a lot of calories in the day. Glutenous grains, however, should never be ingested.
Legumes
Legumes, including peanuts and soy beans, have a lot of anti-nutrients which can negatively affect your body and immune system. Specifically, phytic acid, which keeps our bodies from absorbing minerals. Outside of that, peanuts contain lectin, which you’ll note is also present in nuts. However, the lectin in peanuts is not destroyed by heat and cannot be digested. This makes it particularly bad.

And of course, as I said above, as with any diet, eat various foods at your discretion. Diets are meant to be moulded to your lifestyle.

Recipes

What follows is a collection of recipes I’ve made and generally approve of. Some I’ve modified to be paleo, others I’ve compiled from already-paleo sources. And still others were paleo to start with! Enjoy!

P.S. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend signing up for Graze.

African Recipes

Asian Recipes

Beef Recipes

Bison/Buffalo Recipes

Bread Recipes

Breakfast Recipes

Caribbean Recipes

Chicken recipes

European Recipes

Fish Recipes

Indian Recipes

Italian Recipes

Lamb Recipes

Mexican Recipes

Middle Eastern

North African

Salad Recipes

Slow Cooker Recipes

Snack Recipes

Soup/Stew Recipes

Turkey Recipes

Vegetable Recipes

 

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