What is Paleo?

The notion of “Paleo” as a diet and lifestyle descriptor developed from the study of evolutionary biology, and the assimilation of ancestral foodways from around the globe. With a commitment to good science, rigorous research, epidemiological studies and plenty of anecdotal evidence to boot, “Paleo” has evolved from a little-known nickname for a prehistoric era to a diet and lifestyle template that is sweeping the nutrition scene, helping to reinvigorate the health and happiness of millions of people.

But what, many ask, is Paleo?

Photo by Hans Splinter

Quite simply, Paleo provides a model for holistically healthy living. The Paleo diet recommends whole, nutrient-dense foods, and is at its most basic an elimination diet.

By removing many of the causes of allergies and autoimmune disorders, as well as the processed food-like products brought about by modern manufacturing, the human body is able to detox from foreign substances and naturally reset those basic functions that make eating, breathing and moving so effortless in a healthy system.

Paleo looks to ancestral wisdom—whether from cave-dwelling Paleolithic ancestors or remote native populations untouched by Western disease—for guidance on what to eat and how to live. The foods that our great, great grandparents wouldn’t have recognized in our modern supermarkets shouldn’t be food for us in the first place, and Paleo offers guidance in avoiding those products that do more harm than good.

As it is, the modern human body is assaulted on all sides by environmental pollutants that are toxic to our basic chemical processes; avoiding these contaminants, in addition to the many additives found in foods, assists our body to reach vibrant wellness on its own, often without the help of medicine or invasive surgery.

The Paleo diet advises the avoidance of grains, gluten, legumes, low-fat pasteurized and homogenized dairy, corn, soy and sugar. Instead, fill up on grass-fed meat from ruminants like cattle, bison, goats, lamb or wild game. Seek out pastured chicken, eggs and pork, and prioritize wild-caught fish and seafood whenever possible.

Photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis

Do your part to support your local economy and agricultural system by consuming local, organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible, or grow your own to be even more sustainable. Try your hardest to limit your exposure to rancid seed oils like canola, corn, soy, sunflower or safflower oils, and instead use pastured animal fats like lard, tallow or schmaltz, coconut oil, grass-fed ghee or cold-pressed olive oil for your cooking, baking and drizzling needs. Nuts and seeds are also included in a Paleo diet, and offer a healthy alternative in a diet devoid of conventional snacks.

Many people find that chocolate, some dairy, some alcohol or other such items fit nicely into their personal Paleo template—and this is fine. The Paleo diet offers an evolutionary framework for the most nutritious way of eating, but the fact remains that everybody—and every body—is different. Try the Paleo template at its most basic before adding or subtracting. You may discover food intolerances, reactions, or new favorite ingredients along the way that could shape how you eat for the rest of your life.

Along with the diet component, Paleo seeks to address serious ailments caused by modern living. With a focus on stress reduction, community engagement and support, fitness and play, exposure to nature and honoring the body’s circadian rhythms, Paleo encompasses so much more than just food:

FITNESS

Smart exercise is an important component of Paleo. With a focus on weight-bearing loads, mobility and lots of slow, sustained movement, we can model the fitness patterns of our ancestors to promote both peak physical performance and longevity with minimal effort.

No longer are health-conscious folk relegated to the cardio machines at the gym; rather, Paleo recommends combining pleasure with prescription, and taking exercise outdoors whenever possible. Compete in a sport or play with the kids, go for a walk downtown or a hike through the woods, kayak, sprint, deadlift or swing kettlebells. Whatever you do, do it with joy and with a focus on long-term results.

SLEEP

Photo by Relaxing Music

Sleep is an integral part of fitness, as recovery makes up a significant proportion of the body’s overall performance level. To improve sleep, limit exposure to artificial light after sundown to reduce disruption of the circadian rhythm, and sleep for at least eight hours whenever possible in a dark, cool room. Whenever possible, align sleep patterns with the cycles of the sun.

SUN

Photo by Andrezza Haddaway

The sun is not only useful as an alarm clock—smart sun exposure boosts production of vitamin D, a hormone crucial to most of the body’s chemical pathways. It is a relief to no longer fear the sun as something harmful; in fact, when harnessed for good and managed responsibly, a little sun every day boosts mood, hormonal regulation and overall health.

 

 

COMMUNITY

Photo by U.S. Navy

The human journey is not an isolated one—no man is an island. In social circles, seek meaningful relationships rather than hundreds of online “friends,” and cultivate those relationships through the sharing of food, activities and significant life events. Face-to-face conversations, physical touch and emotional exchange are all valuable aspects of human relationships. Plus, the support of a community helps to mitigate stress in times of need, as well as to improve quality of life.

TECHNOLOGY

When it comes to a Paleo lifestyle, use the most natural products and accoutrements available, but also know that modern life does make it difficult to walk barefoot or shun all electronics for the sake of historical reenactment. Use the gadgets and employ social media enough to enhance your life, but establish boundaries such that technology does not rule your life. Make a point to regularly “unplug” and reconnect with nature, with yourself and with your community.

Stress

Photo by Nickolai Kashirin

Stress management is a key factor in mitigating the onset of disease, and an important aspect of Paleo living. As with much of Paleo, stress reduction calls for personalization—whether you require deep meditation, a yoga practice, a church service or the embrace of a loved one, the end result is improved neurology and cortisol response, thereby contributing to a healthier, happier you.

 

Simply put:

We believe there are three equally important components that make up the Paleo lifestyle – Diet, Movement and Lifestyle. If it sounds simple, it’s because it is. There may seem like a lot of complicated information to take in at the beginning, but once you start your Paleo journey, it’s easy to see how our bodies, minds and spirits quickly adapt to the changes.
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Why? It’s because we are created to move often and with joy and a sense of playfulness. We are meant to eat whole foods found in nature, properly raised and free of additives and chemicals. We evolved to live in close community with others, to share our resources and experiences with close friends and family. All the rest falls into place as we learn to listen to our bodies for what they really are: intelligent, finely tuned machines that require the right fuel for optimum performance.

Paleo Resources

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