WHAT FOODS SHOULD YOU EAT ON THE CAVEMAN DIET?
If you choose to start on the caveman diet, what foods are OK to eat and which are not? Well, as a rule of thumb if you can find the food as it exists in nature and its something our caveman ancestors would have perceived as food (ie not poisonous) then its probably OK. If a food has been refined, processed or unnaturally modified then you should probably avoid it. If you follow that general concept then you’re eating Paleo , plain and simple. Now that’s not to say that you can’t mix foods together, bake them and cook them to improve their taste and properly enjoy your food, and with that in mind we’ve provided a list of tasty paleo recipes that we hope you’ll try. As for what combinations and how you balance your diet, that’s very dependant on what your goals are within the paleo diet. Firstly though, lets list exactly what foods you can eat and why.
Foods Allowed on the Paleo Diet
Meat and Eggs: All meats are fine to eat, and the leaner the better. This includes beef, lamb, pork, ham, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs are great too. If money isn’t an issue then buy organic if you can, but the diet will work just fine with non organic meats. Eggs did receive some bad press in the medical media in recent years, but unless you have a specific problem with metabolising cholesterol, its generally considered that eggs are good for you and an important part of the paleo diet. If you’re at all concerned about the effects of eating more meat and eggs on your health, then see your Doctor for some baseline lipid tests, then get them checked again when you’re properly established on the caveman diet. You should be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Fruits and Vegetables: Veggies are another real staple on the Paleo Diet. Some plans recommend that you avoid white potatoes, corn and beans. White potatoes are controversial within the Paleo world, as some believe they can cause insulin spikes due to their high starch content, but they are edible as found in nature which essentially makes them paleo and I personally include them in my diet but try not to overdo them. Corn and beans are also high in starch and most strict paleo plans will recommend you avoid them. Most other veggies are fine and should be eaten and enjoyed in abundance. If your main goal on the caveman diet is weight loss and muscle toning, then you should make vegetables your main source of carbohydrates, and eat a little less fruit to compensate. As far as fruit is concerned all whole fresh fruit is fine and as I’m sure you know very good for you. Avoid juices, as they can cause insulin spikes due to the higher levels of sugars. Again if your main goal is weight loss then limit intake of fruit to one or two servings per day.
Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are an important part of the paleo diet and particularly useful to have on hand for snacks. Any nuts and seeds are ok (exceptpeanuts) and can be eaten raw, or lightly roasted, preferably unsalted. Nut butters are great too and are easy to make at home if you’re concerned about additives in store bought products. Try to avoid branded roasted nuts, as these are often roasted in processed oils and may also be heavily salted.
Fats and Oils: There is some disagreement on which fats and oils are ok on the Paleo Diet, but coconut oil is generally considered fine, and is great for most cooking (even stir fries) as it doesn’t go rancid at high temperatures. Olive oil is also fine, but is more suited for use in salads and lower temperature cooking. Almond oil and flaxseed/ grape seed oil are also promoted in some plans and avocados (and avocado oil) are also an excellent source of good fats.
Herbs and Spices: Most herbs and spices are fine, in fact the list is extensive but here’s just a few which are fine to use: Basil, cardamom, chilli, cocoa powder, cumin seed, dill, garlic, ginger, ground cinnamon, lemon zest, nutmeg, Oregano, paprika, rosemary, thyme and tumeric. Try to restrict salt intake and use unprocessed whole salt if possible. If you like pepper, use whole black peppercorns in a pepper grinder if possible.
Drinks: Juices and soft drinks are off the table on the Paleo Diet. These are full of sugars and will cause insulin spikes and undo all of your other hard work. Try to stick with water as much as possible and drink lots of it. Black coffee is considered ok on most plans and some teas also. There are also a range of paleo friendly smoothies that you can make. If you want to follow strict paleo then milk and other dairy products should be avoided for reasons I have listed below.
Foods to Avoid
Sugar: This is absolutely off limits if you want to reap the full benefits of the caveman diet. Refined sugar causes rapid rises in blood glucose, insulin spikes and a resulting low blood glucose level. The insulin surge produced also promotes formation of body fat. Sugar intake is also linked to the proliferation of intestinal yeast which can have a number of ill effects on your overall health.
Artificial sweeteners: Unfortunately, substituting sugar with artificial sweeteners is not a good option either. Some of these can still produce insulin spikes and as they are heavily processed, they make extra work for your liver and are on the whole not good for your health. There are still plenty of ways to sweeten your food on the caveman diet. Raw unfiltered honey has lots of health benefits and tastes great. Some paleo plans also recommend Stevia as a natural sweetening agent to use in baking and otherwise.
Grains: Sorry, but refined wheat products are definitely off the menu. This includes most store bought breads, cakes, pasta and a whole range of foods made from refined wheat flour. Grains have limited nutritional value, promote insulin spikes leading to insulin resistance and diabetes, cause a range of intestinal issues, promote the growth of intestinal yeast, are addictive and are ultimately going to undo most of your weight loss efforts. There are breads that can be baked using paleo friendly ingredients and some (but not all) paleo plans suggest eating Sprouted Whole Grain (SWG) breads if you really need your bread fix.
Legumes / Beans / Peanuts: If you want to follow strict Paleo, then legumes should be avoided. Legumes weren’t eaten by our caveman ancestors as they required cooking in order to be eaten. They contain phytates which bind to and reduce bone minerals and lectin which increases intestinal permeability and increases passage of gut bacteria into the blood stream. Legumes also have a negative effect on your immune system and can promote the development of some auto-immune diseases. While not as troublesome as grains , peanuts and beans should be avoided if possible on the paleolithic diet. In particular, soy beans and especially manufactured and processed soy products should be kept off the table on the caveman diet.
Dairy: Milk products are not Paleo. Our caveman ancestors did not milk cows, churn butter or make cheese and as such our bodies are not properly suited to them. If you don’t believe this then ask yourself why so many people are lactose intolerant, quite simply we haven’t yet evolved sufficiently to tolerate it. Dairy products spike insulin levels, have poor nutritional value and have been linked to the development of some cancers. Modern dairy farms feed their cows on grains and add antibiotics and growth hormones to their cows feed. If you’re not looking for strict paleo, then a little dairy is ok, but definitely buy organic if at all possible.
Alcohol: I have seen some Paleo Diet Plans, which allow a little alcohol, but if you’re following strict paleo then all alcohol should be avoided. This includes all beers, wines, liquors and spirits. If you’re not following strict Paleo then try to choose red wine (preferably organic) over other drinks. Beer should be avoided as its loaded with grains and yeast. Organic red wine, has a rich full taste, so you tend to drink less, has none of the harmful additives you may find in non organic wine and there are in fact some studies which show health benefits from drinking red wine in moderation.
Putting it all together
By sticking to the above do’s and don’ts of the Paleo Diet, you will certainly lose weight and feel better. If you’re curious about exactly which foods on the Paleo food list are right for you, then keep it simple. Try out as many as you can, mix and match with different combinations and within different paleo recipes, and eat the foods which you like the most and in the amounts which help you to feel your best. Eating Paleo is a very healthy way to live and your body will tell you which paleo foods are best for it, you just need to take notice of how different foods ultimately affect you. Try my free metabolism type test for more info on which foods and in what combinations are best for you. Also for the very best results on the right way to incorporate the caveman diet into your own lifestyle, seek expert advice from a nutritionist or follow a reputable Paleo Diet Plan.