Paleo or primal eating is becoming the next big trend in the way of structuring meals and a healthy lifestyle. Whilst I am not a complete Paleo convert (I am 95% of the way there, however I still enjoy goat’s cheese here and there as well as use 100% organic grass fed butter or ghee in my cooking), I love the Paleo principles – cut out the processed stuff and just eat real food.
With more and more people taking on the 30 day Paleo challenge, and more and more marketing getting behind the new trend, I thought it would be a great idea to understand this concept a little better so I called on the help of an expert. To help explain the ins and outs of Paleo and provide some insight into a Paleo journey, I would like to introduce you all to Stephanie Wasylyk, Wellness Coach and broadcasting member of “That Paleo Show” team.
Hi Stephanie, thanks so much for taking the time to help us all understand Paleo. First of all I would like to ask you about your Paleo journey, how did this come about?
I moved to Australia just over 2 years ago, and for the first half of that I worked in the mines. During the day I was able to listen to podcasts, and that’s how I found “The Wellness Guys”. Their second episode was about the problems with the food pyramid, and it blew my mind! After that I became very curious about food, so I went to see Wellness Guys host Dr. Brett Hill for Wellness Coaching and Chiropractic care, and I’ve been hooked on Paleo ever since. Now I’m a Wellness Coach myself, I co-host “That Paleo Show”, and I run a local Adelaide Paleo meet-up group. I just love it!
So how would you describe Paleo to our readers?
The number one thing is to eat real food; eat food that our bodies have evolved eating over millions of years. People can get stuck in the details, but real food is the key. After that, it’s essentially lots of veggies, some fruit, nuts, and seeds, good quality meat, and lots of good quality fats. Food quality is very important, in addition to eating local, sustainable, seasonal, and organic as much as possible.
Many people would associate Paleo with caveman eating. Does Paleo simply mean eating loads of protein with each meal?
This is by far the biggest misconception with Paleo. In fact, it is best to only eat a moderate amount of protein, focusing on pasture-raised, organic meat, and some wild caught fish. Remember you are what you eat, but also what you eat, eats! In addition to protein, we include lots of delicious vegetables and good quality fats in our diet, like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, and yes, animal fat also.
So no grains? We know Quinoa is a seed, rather than a grain, as is Buckwheat. Do these fall outside the Paleo parameters?
We’re hearing more and more about the dangers of gluten these days, and Paleo is strictly gluten-free. Unfortunately even though quinoa and buckwheat are gluten-free, they’re still considered “pseudo-grains” which can mimic gluten in our damaged bodies. The only grain I sometimes eat is rice, but even that causes me bloating and fatigue. A good guideline is to look at the nutrient density of food, and you get more bang for your buck with veggies! As a replacement, give cauliflower “rice” or zucchini “pasta” a try.
And no Dairy? What about Raw Milk? What about Goat’s milk products?
Your typical grocery store milk is so processed and refined that it’s definitely not a real food. Raw milk and goat’s milk are a completely different story. Paleo is a bit divided on this subject, and it’s a complicated topic, so I would suggest listening to our episode on dairy. http://thewellnesscouch.com/tps/tps-8-is-milk-ok
Personally I avoid dairy, except for the odd snack of delicious, good quality cheese.
Many people would be concerned that without any carbohydrates, where do the Paleo peeps get their energy from?
The idea that we need so many carbs for energy is a myth. In fact, the body, and especially the brain, prefer to run on fat! Nora Gedgaudas (author of Primal Body, Primal Mind) explains it perfectly with a “stoking the fire” analogy. Carbs and sugars are like putting paper and twigs on the fire, and you constantly have to be adding more because it’s a short term fuel source. Fat is like a log, which can take hours to burn and gives off more heat and energy.
Remember there are carbs in veggies and fruit, so we’re not suggesting you don’t eat any carbs, but you will definitely eat a lot less carbs on Paleo.
Athletes are told to carb-load before a game. Would a Paleo diet be suitable for an athlete?
Athletes can certainly benefit from eating real food as opposed to energy drinks, protein powders, and artificial gels, so yes! Really, though, Paleo is just a framework that can be adapted to any lifestyle. Robb Wolf (http://robbwolf.com/2013/01/02/thoughts-carb-paleo-part-deux/) talks a lot about Paleo and athletic performance, so you can check out his stuff for more details. Again, it’s about making a real food diet work for your lifestyle.
Cross-fitters tend to me associated with Paleo. Is it essential to follow that lifestyle to be a Paleo convert? Are there any other Paleo yogi’s out there?
My rule is that as long as you’re moving, and having fun doing it, then it’s Paleo! That said, a caveman didn’t need an elliptical to stay fit, which is why the cross-fit philosophy works so well with Paleo. Cavemen (and women) squatted, lunged, sprinted, threw, and more, so our bodies work best when we mimic those movements. But having fun is key, so go dance, surf, play tennis, or do yoga – just make sure you smile!
So no grains, no dairy, processed foods and sugars? What do you get to eat on a Paleo diet?
Colourful foods! There is lots of variety once you forget about the white foods. Just go to a farmer’s market and buy whatever veggies and fruit are in season. Then get the best quality, fatty meat you can find from a local farmer, and voila! Delicious! Food doesn’t have to be complicated.
Paleo seems easy for Lunch and Dinner, but what would you say breakfast and snacks should comprise of?
The Western World has made up this fancy concept of “breakfast”, but really it can be whatever you want! Eggs are typical and versatile, but you can also try veggies, fruit and nuts, smoothies, or a steak and salad. The sky’s the limit when you think outside of the cereal box. Try some avocado, tomato, kale, zucchini, or any number of other fresh fruit and veggies, and just add in some fat and protein. And the bonus is that if you eat a nice protein and fat filled breakfast and lunch, then you won’t even need snacks.
The all important question. Does the Paleo lifestyle allow for Alcohol consumption?
The real question to ask is “Does this bring me closer to health and support my body?” There are lots of hot topics like alcohol, coffee, and chocolate that fit into this category. Personally, I’m not religious about it all. Most of the time I avoid these things because there are better choices out there, but once in a while is fine for most people. Remember, beating yourself up over a “bad” choice or feeling “deprived” is probably worse for your health than the choice itself.
What are the many criticisms of this diet and how would you address them?
First, any critics need to come to my house for dinner – Paleo is delicious! Unfortunately many people see Paleo as restrictive, but it depends on how you look at it. Personally I find it liberating. I used to rely on my next meal like a drug, because if I didn’t eat some sugar I would get feint, grumpy, and shaky. Now I can enjoy food instead of desperately eating it.
Really though, I think it’s hard to criticize the concept of “eat real food”. Our grandparents and great grandparents didn’t have access to all of the processed junk we have now, and I don’t think they were missing out on anything.
What are some of the positive or negative side-effects you have witnessed from those transitioning across to a Paleo diet?
Often people experience sugar cravings and withdrawal in the first week or so, but if you can stick with it past that then things improve. You name it and I’ve heard of it improving. My mom, for example, got off of her cholesterol medication, lost weight, doesn’t have arthritis anymore, and her dentist says her gums are improving! Others get clarity of through, better moods, it helps leaky gut and autoimmune conditions, skin conditions, and SO much more. Your body is designed to heal itself when it’s given the right building blocks.
If someone wanted to start a Paleo journey, where would you recommend they begin?
Our podcast! The first 12 episodes are an introduction to Paleo where we cover these topics and more in greater detail. http://www.thatpaleoshow.com/ If you’re really into it, check out our upcoming Cave Camp retreat for the ultimate Paleo experience.
Thanks so much for your time Stephanie, we really appreciate it! If a Paleo journey is something you would like to embark on, both Stephanie and myself specialise in Paleo coaching. Be sure to check out our websites and book a consultation for more information.