What is Paleo?

So, what is Paleo? This is that ‘fad’ diet everyone’s been slagging off celebrity chef Pete Evans for isn’t it?

Well, yes and no. It’s no fad. But the ill-informed gutter media have given him and his followers a good metaphorical kicking. I often wondered why there was so much vitriol towards this seemingly caring individual who was passionate about others being able to lose weight and regain health by eating natural food and cutting out all the modern nasties. He was advocating families get back to basics and start to learn to cook proper meals again from scratch. Nothing out of a packet. Just fresh wholesome ingredients.

What on Earth could be negative about that?

That’s when I started researching things and it was only then that I realised that the big food companies were ruling the planet. Did you know that the word ‘Coke’ is the second most understood word in any language on the planet after ‘OK’? Scary stuff.

These huge multi-national companies need us to eat their products, their cereals, their chocolate bars, their sodas, their baked beans, their ketchup and their potato chips. They all employed their own scientists and paid them to tell the world their products were ‘safe in moderation’.

The big food companies, especially Coca Cola, usually relied on the ‘calories in/calories out’ principle. They preach that if you live an active lifestyle and exercise, you can eat more calories and they’ll tell us it doesn’t matter if the calories come from sugar because all calories are equal. So, eat one of the their foods, get on the treadmill and happy days…

Except it doesn’t work like that… we now know that old science is bunkum.

300 calories worth of almonds is processed entirely differently by the body in comparison to 300 calories worth of Coke.

And this fallacy is why we have a nation of gyms full of fat people clad in lycra on treadmills running nowhere who never seem to get any slimmer.

We’ve been fed a myth for so long now that eating low fat foods and restricting saturated fat in our diet was healthy. We saw the food companies make a plethora of low fat spreads, low fat cheeses, low fat yoghurts and we all bought them thinking we were doing the right thing.

Why did we?

It all started back in the 1950s when an American researcher named Ancel Keys, PhD, was looking for the connection between diet and heart disease.

Keys was convinced that the connection was saturated fat and cholesterol.

Keys, a man who was by all reports a force of nature with enormous influence and power, presented a paper at a World Health Organization (WHO) conference in 1955. He showed data from six countries (Japan, Italy, England, Australia, Canada and the US) that purported to show a direct relationship between the percentage of fat in the diet and the rates of degenerative heart disease.

There was only one problem.

At the time of Keys’ presentation, he actually had data on heart disease and fat consumption for 22 countries. Keys simply ignored the data that didn’t fit into his neat little hypothesis and chose only the countries that supported his theory.

He was met with considerable opposition and skepticism — and reputedly did not take it well. So he set out to prove he was right by designing the first, and most ambitious, study of nutrition and diet ever done: the infamous Seven Countries Study.

To go into much detail about this study would be beyond this article but for anyone interested, I suggest the superb book by investigative reporter Nina Teicholz, The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.

Here’s a link for those who prefer the Internet…

Seven Countries Study

Suffice it to say that, surprise, surprise, the “data” from the Seven Countries Study confirmed Keys’ theory that saturated fat was at the root of all evil.

Keys also had the ear of the then US President Eisenhower. Eisenhower had a heart attack in 1955 and went on a highly publicised low fat, low cholesterol diet. The United States government recommended these dietary guidelines to their people and the world changed their eating habits.

The fact that Eisenhower’s cholesterol continued to rise and he eventually died of heart disease after several heart attacks got conveniently forgotten.

So the western world stopped buying fatty cuts of meat and only ate the lean minced beef and were all brainwashed into thinking a bacon and eggs breakfast would add dietary fat and make us fat.

And ‘clog up’ our arteries…and so many today still believe this…

We now know this to wrong on so many levels.

Sixty years on, eating low fat and increasing the amount of sugar in our diets and Western countries now face an epidemic of obesity, with people suffering from Type 2 diabetes, IBS, Crohn’s Disease, Autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s Disease, Hashimoto’s’ Disease and a host of other illnesses our great grandparents had barely ever heard of.

Something had to give. We cannot carry on eating like this, making ourselves sick and then taking a pill to make us ‘better’.

We need to see why we’re getting ill in the first place!

Pete Evans had issues with his digestion himself and sought to research how he could improve things and came across a book via his partner Nic, called ‘Primal Body, Primal Mind’ by Nora Gedgaudes. It’s a life-changing book and one I recommend everyone starting this journey buys. You might as well just buy it because f you get it from the library you won’t want to take it back and you’ll get fined anyway…

He began to adopt its thinking, felt years younger, lost weight and decided to champion it’s principles. Because of his position in the media he made it mainstream and he definitely brought it to my door and made me aware of the lifestyle. And for that I will be forever grateful.

The idea of all this to try and replicate the human diet before the agricultural era when mankind started to grow their own crops and farm properly. Because that seems to be when it all started to come tumbling down.

So the aim is to eat like a hunter and gatherer in a modern world.

However my main focus was on the not so distant past. I looked at old photographs of great grandparents and noticed none were fat. They all looked strong and healthy and the vast majority lived to a ripe old age, even though quite a few smoked in those days. And most of them enjoyed an ale or too.

Apart from a bit of a waltz and taking the dog for a walk and tending the vegetable patch, I never saw my nan exercise once in her life. I cannot imagine her clad in lycra going for the burn. Yet she stayed slim all her life.

But they grew up on food that was grown and sourced locally often by themselves and during the Second World War had limited access to sugar. They grew vegetables in the garden, had greenhouses and encouraged us kids to nick apples from the orchards (it was called ‘scrumping’ to soften the term ‘theft’) and kept chickens for eggs and eventually meat.

They cooked their own food and made everything from scratch. Nothing came from a jar or a packet apart from the odd ‘Bisto’ stock cube. The meat was from the local butchers and the fish from the fishmonger and the bread from the bakery…you get the picture.

Her ‘exercise’ was mowing the lawns with a hand push mower, cooking, cleaning, walking the dog, sweeping the yard, and digging the vegetable patch and weeding it, ensuring the bugs didn’t eat the crops by picking them off by hand or spraying them with simple washing up liquid or ‘a bit of Fairy’ as it was known.

In school holidays I used to go and stay at my grandparents house in deepest Kent in southern England when I was small and loved every moment. I was taught how to make a go-kart from scrap timber and old pram wheels and how to fire an air rifle and hit tin cans. It was magical. I used to love the smell of my nan’s home made curry, with curry powder and raisins and bits of apple in the minced beef. It filled the house with smells I’d never encountered before.

I remember the first occasion I had ever had a ‘Pot Noodle’ and it was whilst I stayed with them. My granddad thought this new age invention was a marvellous thing… a meal in a pot you just added hot water to! This would have been 1977. The Sex Pistols were being banned from everything on TV, Elvis Presley died, we swapped from a twin tub washing machine that only came out on ‘washing day’ to a front loader and the Pot Noodle was launched. The world was changing.

I was 11.

And that was how I remember the start of it. ‘Complete roast dinners’ in a box you simply put in this new invention called the microwave.

Freezer food shops started to open up that sold these new foods and everyone wanted a new ‘freezer’ or ‘deep freeze’ as they were known back in the day.

In England a store called ‘Iceland’ took over and sold extremely cheap frozen meals and frozen vegetables and… well frozen everything really.

We became part of the ‘Iceland Generation’. And many are still stuck there. Iceland continues to be a processed food one stop shop in the UK and because it’s incredibly cheap, it helps to fuel a nation. Fish fingers, baked beans and chips all from the freezer or tin and dinner’s ready in 15 minutes…

So when I finally got fed up being sick with Crohn’s Disease and GERD and wanted to regain my health, Paleo all seemed to click.

It sort of all worked for me and made sense. I mean, who wants to count calories and add up the bloody food you eat all day long? Or eat stupid meal replacements or drink milkshakes that cost a fortune? And who wants to go to some kind of ‘fat club’ for weekly scales humiliation? Not me, that’s for sure.

And I wanted something that would last forever. Something that I could stick to forever, not just some diet to lose weight and then return to my old ways and put it all back again. I needed a lifestyle change.

I wanted to disassociate myself from the Iceland Generation and via a series of twists and turns, Paleo landed on my doorstep.

So start to look at labels. Any time you pick up a product, see what’s in it. If there’s something in it that you don’t understand, don’t buy it. See if sugar is a top ingredient and remember sugar comes in lots of disguises (high fructose corn syrup, agave, honey, molasses, rice syrup, cane juice, coconut sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, date sugar, dextran, diatase, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucose, golden syrup, maltodextrin and many more…).

Avoid all processed foods.

So Paleo avoids all processed foods, basically anything in a packet if you can. That means no take aways, no ‘TV dinners’, basically anything found in the middle aisles at any supermarket. It’s all rubbish full of sugar or wheat.

Cut out wheat altogether.

No pasta, no bread, no cereal. The wheat we eat today is genetically modified and so far removed for the wheat our ancestors ate. It’s making the world sick.

We simply do not need it in our diets and it contributes greatly to the obesity epidemic the western world faces.

For more on this watch this; you will need a comfy chair, a herbal tea and an hour. It will be one of the best spent hours of your life…

Avoid all sugar and anything that contains sugar.

Palaeolithic man would only ever have tasted sugar in small quantities of seasonal fruit and in things like honey, if they were brave enough to harvest it. It would only ever have been a rare treat.

Avoid dairy.

There is much discussion about why human beings are the only animals on the planet that drink milk into adulthood, let alone milk from another species. Early man did not keep cattle to harvest milk. Many people have allergens to milk and it’s by-products and the aim is to keep this way of eating as close to early man as possible in today’s setting.

The other thing with dairy is this…that cow’s milk is designed by good old Mother Nature to get a 45 kg calf to a 1000 kg cow in a short period of time…so just consider what it’s doing to you…

Now there are many takes on Paleo and people interpret things differently. There are no hard and fast rules. Some people won’t drink milk but will eat grass fed butter or ghee and some will eat some kinds of cheese.

At the end of the day it’s your choice and depends on how YOUR body feels when you eat these things.

Another reason to avoid dairy is the ethical one. These cows are farmed intensively and are probably also fed grains or corn too, which still basically means the product comes from unhealthy animals.

Avoid factory farmed meat.

Try and eat meat from healthy, grass or naturally fed animals that haven’t been force fed wheat which is alien to them and which haven’t been given antibiotics to simply survive until slaughter.

Cows and sheep are meant to eat grass. Not wheat or corn. We only feed them that because it’s cheap and they get fat quick. Hello! That’s’ what’s been happening to us too!

Grass fed meat replicates more realistically the animals our ancestors would have hunted. The animals would be leaner and healthier from eating a natural diet and roaming free. Eat the animal head to toe. Primal man would have eaten the offal and the cheaper cuts which are full of nutrition. Liver is the most nutrient dense food on the planet. So we need to find ways of incorporating these things into our modern Paleo diet.

It also respects the animal more that gave its life so that we can eat. If you don’t like the taste of offal get your butcher to mince it for you and divide it up into tablespoon sized portions and freeze it. Then just add this to stews, Bolognese sauces and curries to get that nutrition into you without noticing.

Only eat chicken or pork that is as close to nature as you can, organic if you can find it and at the very least, free range.

Get to know your butcher and find a decent butcher near you that is on the same page.

Ethically sourced fish from clean waters.

Best way? Catch your own. Failing that, but from local retailers who sell ethically caught fish from clean waters. I will not buy Thai, Chinese or Vietnamese prawns when I can get Australian ones from our cleaner waters. Sure I pay more but I’d rather just have a few less of a much better quality.

Same with all fish. Especially salmon. Sometimes its better to buy wild caught fish from Norway that’s been flash frozen than ‘local’ fish from Tasmania that has been farmed. Some salmon even has a dye added to make it look pink as the farmed ones have a different diet (often wheat) and the flesh doesn’t go pink like wild fish.

Again, develop a rapport with your fishmonger.

Learn their names, let’s get back to basics and give our money to smaller retailers selling better quality products.

Eat vegetables as close to nature as you can.

Only eat vegetables that are home grown or organically grown if possible so we get back to nature and avoid genetically modified produce that have been sprayed with chemicals. Eat as close to the farm as possible. Don’t worry too much about the term’ organic’ as some local producers aren’t big enough to get officially accredited but will display their wares at markets as ‘spray free’ or similar. These are essentially home grown products and are superb.

Eat lots of eggs!
Eat eggs that are organic and free range. Ideally get your own chickens or get to know someone who has their own backyard chooks. Same thing applies regarding organic as the veggies above.

Cut out legumes.

Legumes are pretty hard to digest and would have played no part in early man’s survival. They simply take too long to process in order that we can eat them. We all know what happens to us when we eat baked beans. The nutritional pay off is simply not worth the heartache for your gut.

Increase your healthy fat intake.

So what’s a healthy fat? For years we’ve been told (lied to) by various health watchdogs and doctors that eating fat causes cardiovascular disease and clogs up your arteries. We all bought in to the ‘low-fat-is-good’ mantra and fell for it.

Fat does not make you fat. Carbohydrates and sugar makes you fat.

Dietary fat does not increase cholesterol and does not ‘clog up’ your arteries. The body simply does not process dietary fat in this way.

Learn about healthy fats. We need to fuel our bodies with fats instead of empty carbohydrates. Things like avocados are full of healthy fat. These should be a staple.

Eat the fat on the meat and incorporate cheaper fatty cuts of meat into stews and curries. Cook in coconut oil and animal fats like beef tallow and pork lard and add olive oil to cold food (olive oil can be carcinogenic when it’s hot enough to smoke). Eat like our ancestors.

Nuts (especially macadamias, the King of Nuts) are great and full of good fat.

I say again. Fat doesn’t make you fat.

So to me, it all kind of made sense.

I didn’t want to ‘go on a diet’. I wanted a lifestyle change I could live with forever.

And I’ve definitely found it and I hope you enjoy it too and reap the same rewards I have from eating clean.

Come join the Paleonutter revolution. x