What Is Paleo?

What is Paleo? The short answer is this: Paleo is the diet humans were designed to eat.

If you ran a zoo and an unfamiliar animal arrived that needed to be fed, you’d want to know what this creature’s natural diet was. But, of course, humans have a natural diet, too: The paleo diet is what humans were meant to eat in the wild, and we’ve strayed very far away from this ideal. So paleo looks to the Paleolithic era for insight into what the natural diet of human beings is.

The history behind the Paleo diet

Homo sapiens have been evolving for a couple of million years. Agriculture is believed to have originated some 10,000 years ago, not a long time, in comparison. In some ways, the advent of agriculture was a good thing. The cultivation of grains and the domestication of animals made it possible for humans to settle down in one place. This created the conditions for the development of civilization – music, art, architecture, reality TV … all of it.

What did the change from a Paleolithic diet to a Neolithic one do in terms of health?
We can learn a lot from analyzing the bones of our ancestors. The average height of Paleolithic men (and women) was greater than that of their grain-eating descendants. Significantly and surprisingly, their lifespan was also longer. This indicates that our bodies were designed for a diet similar to that of Paleolithic man and woman, not that of the Neolithic diet that followed.

Eating paleo today is not about re-enacting the caveman lifestyle. No one in the paleo community is saying you can’t have a cup of coffee because cavemen weren’t sitting in their caves sipping a strong espresso from a demitasse. Information about the Paleolithic era diet provides guidelines, not a rigid prescription of what to eat. As Mark Sisson puts it,

We’re not cavemen. This isn’t about reenactment, and it has never been. We’re all here because we recognize the value of viewing our health, food, exercise, and everyday behaviors through an evolutionary lens. Evolutionary is simply a helpful way to generate hypotheses, which can then be tested and integrated if successful. At the very least, it’s interesting to think about what might be the “right” or “biologically appropriate” way to do something.

It looks pretty simple, right? But paleo goes beyond a simple swap: wheat and dairy out, meat and healthy fat in. The quality of those meats, vegetables, fats etc., is vitally important. Our friendly Paleolithic cave dweller certainly wasn’t eating chicken full of antibiotics or grapes coated in pesticides and pumped with growth hormones, and we shouldn’t be either.

How is Paleo different from Primal, The Perfect Health Diet, or the recommendations of the Weston A. Price Foundation?

These four diets have a lot more in common with each other than with the typical, modern diet. All are based on real food, not manufactured food-like products. Both Weston A. Price, on one end of the spectrum, both Weston A. Price and Loran Cordain’s version of paleo, on the other, recognize that the grain products and dairy commonly sold in supermarkets are highly problematic. The Price people believe that these foods can be healthy if grown and prepared correctly, while the paleo answer is to steer clear of them altogether. Here’s a summary of what each of these diets recommends.

Cordain was the only one to favor low-fat. However, his stance has shifted on this issue since the publication of The Paleo Diet in 2002 (the book that set the paleo diet movement in motion).

Your decisions – including or excluding dairy, opting for a low carbohydrate diet, or allowing yourself “safe starches” a la Perfect Health Diet – should have more to do with whether you as an individual thrive with these foods or not. In the end, it’s less important to find the ideal label to put on your diet than to find the optimal diet for you.

The Paleo diet

When it comes to diet and exercise, a successful future is often attained by looking to the past. This is the case with the Paleo Diet, which recommends that we restyle our eating habits to resemble our ancient hunting and gathering ancestors more closely. This dietary practice operates under the assumption that our contemporary diet and lifestyle cause modern diseases. The scientific study had proven that many diseases that are common today, such as heart disease and diabetes, were nonexistent when humans worked more closely within the rhythms and cycles of nature. This diet offers the practitioner increased health and well-being while being simple to follow without major life changes. In popular media, this way of eating is also referred to as the Primal Lifestyle, the Hunter-Gatherer Diet, the Stone Age Diet or simply the Caveman Diet.

The idea for this eating style grew into prominence in the 1970s when researchers discovered that while human eating habits have changed drastically over the years, the genetic makeup of humans has changed very little. Upon this discovery, nutritionists concluded that optimal health could be achieved if we more closely followed the diet of our ancient ancestors. This diet was in effect and widely practiced until the advent of agriculture. While agricultural practices have existed for 10,000 years, the Paleolithic way of eating existed for nearly 2.5 million years. Studies of modern humans that live a lifestyle resembling our ancient ancestors have demonstrated that diseases of affluence are practically nonexistent within these societies.

While the diet strives to mimic that of the Paleolithic people, it has incorporated the modern practices by which today’s humans attain their food. In this way, the diet includes meat traditionally hunted and fished for while allowing that this meat and fish would likely be purchased today. Also included are fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables that were foraged and gathered and eggs, mushrooms, herbs and spices. The diet avoids grains, dairy products, legumes, processed oils, salts and refined sugars. Within the Paleolithic camp, some strive to consume only raw foods from the Paleo period because humans have not properly adapted to eating cooked foods. This belief has caused some controversy and is widely challenged by some of the practitioners of the diet.

Eating like our Paleolithic ancestors makes us more closely aligned with the millions of years of evolution that prepared our bodies for consumption. This view of nutrition finds its basis in both evolutionary biology and evolutionary medicine. By not introducing the foods that became commonplace with the rise of agriculture and industrialization, the modern epidemics of cancer, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and the ailments associated with obesity are avoided. We can discover a healthy future by looking at what worked for literally millions of years. We can avoid disease by shying away from more recent practices that have delivered us abundance and convenience at the cost of our health.

The Paleo diet on a budget

Even if you are on a budget, you can still eat a healthy paleo diet. My goal is to help you consume nutritious paleo food on a budget.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can save money and still eat paleo foods. With some commitment, planning and preparation, your food expenses can be lower than your previous food expenses. Of course, this article is written with everyone on a tight budget in mind without compromising on food quality.

Save on paleo diet with planning

If you want to save money on food, planning is critical. Once or twice a month, you should take time to plan your meals for the upcoming weeks. Based on the paleo meals you want to prepare, you should create a shopping list. Before you head to the grocery store, scan your refrigerator and cabinets to avoid buying stuff you already have at home. In a couple of minutes, you could find food items that can be used for your paleo meals. When you only buy what you need, you are more likely to save money on food.

Grow your own food a save big bucks

Gardening is not only an excellent exercise, but it will also help you save money. What’s more, you don’t need a huge garden to produce healthy and inexpensive food.

Even if you don’t have a backyard, you could still have an indoor herb garden. Growing your herbs could help you save quite a bit off your yearly grocery budget.

You could also save on your food costs by starting a container garden. There are many benefits of growing your fruits and veggies. It does take time, but a garden will undoubtedly reduce your grocery budget if you have more of that than cash. Fruit trees are a simple way to grow your food. Think beyond fruit trees. If you live in the right climate, you could even grow your own almonds. I’ve never planted one myself, but I am going to soon.

Only buy what you need

Once at the grocery store only buy the food you need. Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked. You can save a lot of money if you stick to your shopping list.

Buy in bulk

Sometimes it makes sense to buy in bulk. For example, you could save a lot of money by buying olive oil in bulk. When you buy olive oil in bulk buy it in a container that doesn’t allow the oil to get oxidized such as a metal container. You can also save big bucks when buying meat in bulk.

What are the best foods to buy in bulk to save money on a paleo-friendly diet?

  • Meat
  • Nuts – almonds, walnuts, pecans
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil

If you can’t store large quantities of paleo-friendly food items, you can partner with a friend. By buying with a friend or two, you can all save on your food costs.

Cut out the middle man

You can save money when you buy direct. Buying produce, meat, chicken, fish, direct can save you a lot of money. It may take some time to make connections with local producers, but you will consume high-quality food at a lower cost.

Buy online

One of the easiest ways to cut out the middle man is by buying online. Buying online is a favorite of many because of the savings and the freedom it offers.

Buy whole and turn it into parts to save money

One of the best ways to save on your paleo meals is by using every last bit of what you buy. For example, you can save a lot of money when you buy the whole chicken. It’s too expensive to only buy chicken breasts. To save money buy the whole bird and prepare all parts for different meals.

Save money when buying cheap cuts

Many people think that only the most expensive cuts taste the best. But, more expensive doesn’t mean tastier. It’s true that cheap cuts require more skill and time to prepare, but they can be delicious. You save money buying the cheaper cuts, but you have to invest more time to prepare a Paleo meal.

Buy in season

In-season produce is the least expensive. When you buy in season, you will save money because produce is plentiful. You can freeze or dry large quantities of in-season produce.

Save money by eating less

Eating less is healthier, and it will also save you money. Most people believe that eating three times a day is the most optimal. However, you could skip the first meal of the day or the last meal to save money. Skipping a meal is a natural extension of a Paleo diet. The Paleo diet makes intermittent fasting easy. If you avoid refined carbs, your energy levels won’t spike and crash.

What is Paleo?

A Paleo diet uses the evolutionary history of homo sapiens. It builds on modern science for guiding daily choices about diet. At its core, Paleo is about diet: it avoids sugars, modern vegetable oils, and grains in favor of vegetables, eggs, quality meat, and fish. The principles below offer further details.

Notably, the paleo approach is an ever-evolving framework of principles for living well, not dogma written in stone by any supposed authority. Experts and laypersons in the paleo community differ in some of their recommendations, as well as in their personal choices. Such debate is healthy, particularly while our knowledge of the principles of robust health remains in its infancy. Moreover, individuals differ in their tolerances and preferences. Each individual must experiment to discover what works best for him.

The following recommendations represent my grasp of the best practices of the paleo approach on a budget. However, I am a layperson: I’m a blogger, not a scientist. Therefore, these principles represent my personal opinions. They should not substitute for your research, thinking, and experience — or for the advice of your doctor.

Paleo diet – Is it a caveman diet?

Having spent years in marketing and advertising, I’ve come to identify a drawback in how people perceive and are introduced to the Paleo Diet and its derivatives. It’s something that unfortunately detracts from its worth because it distracts from its grounding in the truth and science of human evolution.

It starts with the way the human mind is structured. Humans do well with identity; we can quickly and efficiently attach an identity to an idea, regardless of whether that idea is animate. Of course, I’m talking about brands that permeate the business world and leak outside of it. Brands are useful precisely because they take advantage of the natural way that humans perceive identity. For commercial purposes, ‘Diets’ are introduced as brands because this method is the most easily digested by the market, and therefore the most economically viable. Think about The Atkins Diet, The Cabbage Soup Diet, The Juice Diet, The Hollywood Diet, The South Beach Diet — and holy $hit — The Paleo Diet.

This is part of the reason that the Paleo Diet is belittled and trumped by the caveman mystique. It’s much easier for people to latch onto ‘eat like your caveman ancestors with the Paleo diet’ than ‘discover the appropriate species-specific diet for the human-animal.’ Likewise, if you wrote a book titled An Analysis of Appropriate Human Foods Informed by Evolution, it would be a publisher’s nightmare because there is no brand, no meme, no idea to make the book’s information easily consumable or identifiable. This has positioned the Paleo Diet between a rock and a hard place because the brand identity is ultimately what may limit the power of its message.