Paleo Diet – Or What Cavemen Can Teach You About Eating

This is a guest post by Andrew Childs at PaleoMunch.com – a blog dedicated to paleo diet and lifestyle. Paleo is one of the latest ‘diets’ to hit the awareness of health conscious people.

And while I don’t agree with every aspect and restriction in paleo diet, I think it’s one of the best diets for acne patients to start with. In this post Andrew gives you a good overview of paleo diet and how to get started with it.

What is the paleo diet?

The paleo diet is a diet paradigm which focuses on the basic foods required to ensure that the body gets the most and best nutrients. This includes eating more of certain foods and the complete removal of others. The diet originated through the study of our ancestors and the foods that they may have eaten. Simply put, imagine what cavemen would have been eating and you are in the right frame of thought.

Followers, particularly new ones, should be prepared to completely change the way they view and eat food.This understanding is largely attributed to the knowledge of food learned through participating in the diet, and perhaps the easiest way to outline what is and isn’t acceptable is to provide a foods list:

Foods allowed:

  • Meats: All high quality meats are allowed. No meats such as polony or vienna’s should be eaten. Fish is particularly encouraged.
  • Animal fats: Fats are required for efficient and healthy body function. Where other diets frown upon animal fats, the paleo diet requires them. A good source of fats are fish oils, which are also rich sources of omega essential fatty acids.
  • Vegetables: Most vegetables are allowed on the paleo diet, except those which fall under the legume family. So no green beans or beans.
  • Fruits: Fruits when seasonal, would have been available to our paleo ancestors. However, fructose is absorbed directly into the bloodstream so eat sparingly to avoid fat gain.

Foods not allowed:

  • Food which is white or can be white: This group affects foods which are made with grains such as breads and pasta. However it extends further than that to foods like potatoes and maize/corn. This includes potatoes, because of their high glycemic index, but does not include cauliflower and fish.
  • Legumes: Because of their large lectin content, legumes aren’t allowed in the paleo diet.
  • Sugar: This means no soft drinks or sweets.
  • Milk and dairy products: While milk would have certainly been available every once in a while to our paleolithic ancestors, they would have treated it as a delicacy and most certainly would not have had access to cheese, yoghurt and butter.

For more information on which foods are allowed and what is involved when applying the paleo diet to your lifestyle, take a look at Paleomunch’s “What is the paleo diet” articles.

Benefits of the paleo diet?

The paleo diet will probably, in some way or another, iron out many problems related to nutrition and “common” diets. Because of the low carbohydrate intake, your body will strip fat and burn it for fuel. Due to the fact that the paleo diet plays a big role in your overall lifestyle, you will in effect be creating a passive form of fat loss and good nutrition. One of the keys to make this automatic fat burning occur is consistency.

Consistency is paramount when applying any diet. Fortunately for you, the paleo diet is structured in such a way that most of the “administrative” work is done for you. Another key component is enjoyment. There is no point in eating great food if it isn’t enjoyable, after all, the actual act of eating leads many people down a road of bad food choices resulting in weight gain, digestive system instability and other problems. The paleo diet aims to aggressively remove foods which aren’t easily digested and introduce or increase the intake of foods which are great for the body.

Calorie counting, a common practice in other diets, particularly of the temporary kind, is not required when applying paleo principles. You can basically eat as much as you like as long as it ticks paleo check boxes.

Whether your end goal is to lose weight safely and healthily, or to optimize your nutrient intake to be the best athlete you can be, the paleo diet has a solution for you.

How to get started

Getting started really begins with a shift in the way you buy foods. This is really where everything begins, and as you start seeing the benefits of paleo in your life you’ll naturally start wanting to eat the good stuff. After a while, you probably won’t even see the unhealthy stuff anymore. Think of the buying process like you are looking at the supermarket through a lense, where bad foods aren’t even visible to you.

Once the buying process has been handled, the next step is combining those foods into energy and nutrient rich meals with the aim of balancing your body and treating it as best you can. For starters, the positive change generated from simply removing sugar, dairy and grains from your diet will be obvious and measurable. Keep track of your body weight on the scale and watch as your body works out its own balance, all while stripping fat and building muscle.

For reasons as to why the paleo diet is an effective, safe and healthy take a read through this article.

Who were our paleolithic ancestors

Our ancestors were healthier, stronger and leaner than most people on Earth today. They ate large amounts of protein in the form of meats and for the most part had no access to grains and legumes. Grains, for those who don’t know, are foodstuffs such as wheat, corn and rice, and are removed from the paleo diet largely because they contain lectins and gluten. Additionally, grains and legumes also need to be cooked before they can be eaten, and because our ancestors would have relied on primarily raw foods such as fruits and meat, grains would not have been viable.

Gluten is a binding protein which is used in cooking and baking to give foods such as bread texture and help them rise. The problem with gluten is that it can negatively affect those who eat it, and includes effects such as diarrhea, bloating, celiac disease and general inflammation of the intestines. (Editor’s note: Gluten may cause acne in portion of acne patients. However it’s not an issue for everybody. And the wholesale restriction of grains and legumes is where I don’t fully agree with paleo principles.)

The other offender in grains are lectins. Lectins are like gluten, also proteins derived from grains and legumes. They are dangerous because they are able to penetrate and inflame the intestinal walls. As grains and legumes are part of many people’s diets, its safe to say that many people are in a constant state of chronic inflammation. The simplest way of treating this inflammation of the gut is to remove the cause. Because lectins are virtually indigestible in humans, they must be removed from the diet. This means no more grains or legumes.

What to expect when starting

Getting started with the paleo diet is not difficult, and should be approached as a permanent change and not a trial or temporary fix for weight, health or other problems. The simplest way to change to a paleo lifestyle is to change the foods you buy. For more information on changing your lifestyle when it comes to food and what food does for you, check out this page.

With the paleo diet, you should expect your ideas of what healthy eating is, and commit to the change. The initial stages of full blown paleo adoption may be difficult because of the radical decrease in carbohydrate intake. This adoption period may be peppered with various adaptation phases of your body.

For example, for the first two weeks or so you should expect to feel a slump in energy. This occurs because your body’s energy sources are changing and it needs to adapt in order to correctly utilise whatever sources are available to it. Other than that one small bump in your paleo enlightenment, the rest of the effects of the diet are incredible and will make you feel better than you ever have before.

Conclusion and take-aways

The paleo diet aims to rectify imbalances in your body through simple but effective nutrition. These imbalances have been brought about by insufficient nutrient sources, bad diet advice and a web of misconceptions by the media.

The diet is simple, effective and easy to apply to any person’s life and ultimately lays down the right building blocks to form a solid, healthy lifestyle and relationship with food.

About the guest author

 Andrew Childs is a paleo diet fanatic who aims to optimise his nutrient intake, build a better body and live a healthy lifestyle, all while getting back to his caveman roots. Paleomunch.com is a blog for those interested in alternate, effective lifestyle choices related to the paleo diet. Give paleomunch a try and if you like what you read, why not subscribe!

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About Me

Hi, I am Acne Einstein(a.k.a. Seppo Puusa). I'm a bit of a science nerd who is also passionate about health. I enjoy digging through medical journals for acne treatment gems I can share here. You can read more about my journey through acne and how I eventually ended up creating this.

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12 thoughts on “Paleo Diet – Or What Cavemen Can Teach You About Eating

  1. Paleo Diet indeed can improve over all health not just from the inside but also the outside. If I may add, adapting to a Paleo diet decreases the foreign indigestible materials in the body which decreases the likelihood of developing other diseases and may include skin problems. But basically, the Paleo Diet is all about listening to the body and feeling what food makes it better.

  2. I just wonder if there is any possibility that I won´t lose weight if I adapt to this diet? I am already skinny and to become even thinner would be devastating. My complex is that I am too small but I can´t see any point in getting bigger if it means that I will develop more acne.

    • I don’t pretend to know all there is to know about gaining and losing weight, but as far as ‘diets’ go paleo isn’t that bad. You have plenty of access to high calorie foods. So in theory it shouldn’t lead to further weight loss, but I can’t be sure of it because I really don’t know that area so well.

  3. Going off on a tangent but keeping to the Caveman theme, what are your views on the Caveman washing regime? That is only using water on your face. I’m assuming anyone embarking on this has made all the relevant oligatory changes to their lifestyle: wholefood diet, conversion to Buddhism (only joking) etc.

    • I don’t think it’s a great idea. I think that the reason some people see good results with it is because they stop irritating their skin with harsh products. But you can do the same by using gentle topical antioxidants. That way you don’t irritate your skin but do get the benefits from antioxidants.

  4. Seppo,

    Thanks for the quick reply.

    I would agree. For some lucky ones this regime may work if the source of their acne is chiefly skin irritation. There is also the bonus that you will not be checking out the mirror as often, cranking up the stress levels and low esteem. For most I think break outs would ensue, especially if there are no other changes in lifestyle or regime to deal with the acne.
    In my own case, after many years of BP use (and trying to eat healthily) I suddenly developed a major reaction to BP, causing my face to flare up as if badly sun burned. Subsequent use of AHA also had the same effect. It’s as if my skin suddenly decided it had had enough. I’m now trying the Madre Labs Green Tea Skin cream, hoping that will do the job. My skin has always been a bit sensitive, easily irritated, easy to burn etc. It highlights the fact that even with acne, the texture of your general skin can change as you get older and you should be prepared to adapt your regime.
    Anyway this thread is meant to be about the paleo diet and not skin care
    MichaelC

  5. Honestly, I’m not sure Paleo is really supported by science. Paleo proponents claim that everything they say is scientific but they sometimes contradict themselves and even give false information. It honestly looks more like a dogma to me. Two of the most popular Paleo writers – Chris Kresser and Mark Sisson claim to know about everything – from diabetes, heart desease, cancer to flu, thyroid desease, birth control, pregnancy, digestive issues, insomnia, even mental health problems such as depression, autism, ADHD (they of course think ADHD doesn’t exist). Maybe they will soon say (if they haven’t already) that you can cure Alzheimer and schizophrenia with a paleo diet. And they even write open messages to doctors! I have learned some things from them (they link to interesting research) but I can’t take them seriously when they claim that they know it all better than people who studied real medicine for years. They are more marketors than anything else (Mark Sisson is a brilliant one). I like it that you, Seppo, don’t claim to know more than doctors and advise people to consult with their doctor when they ask a medical question. I only think you should always add and make it clear that if a woman is pregnant, trying to be pregnant or breastfeeding she should DEFINITELY ask her REAL doctor before trying ANY topical treatment or supplement because they might not be safe. I know salycilic acid and retinol (two products you recommend) should not be used during pregnancy. Many women break out during pregnancy or after giving birth and they come to your site for a natural solution and think it’s safe when it is not.

    • I also have my doubts about some things paleo proponents say. For example, I don’t believe that grains are universally harmful to people. Some people have problems with them and those will gravitate towards paleo. I also don’t agree with their demonization of omega-6 fats. While I do think it’s a good idea to moderate them, I have yet to see convincing evidence of all the harm they are supposed to cause.

      That said, I like to point people towards paleo not because it’s 100% scientific but because it works for acne. There’s a lot of recipes and information freely available, so it’s easy for people to get started. And overall the diet is very healthy.

      I don’t really follow Chris and Mark anymore. I used to read what Chris puts out but not anymore because I can’t really trust him.

      • I also think the Paleo diet is relatively healthy but not the magic it’s made out to be. Ditching oils was actually helpful for me and I thought Paleo was right but when I think about it maybe it was soy I have problems with (I always break out after eating soybean sprouts) so maybe I just have a problem with soy and soy oil.
        Mark’s articles helped me with some of my sleeping issues, limiting blue light in the evening does make a difference. However, I still don’t trust him.
        And yes, recipes are always welcome as long as you are lazy to cook 🙂

        • I was looking at Chris’ site today. I have to say his newer articles are much better. Seems like he has lost a lot of the ‘paleo dogma’ he used to have.

          Agree that paleo is not magic, but it’s pretty good as far as diet and lifestyle templates go.

          Re soy. I started taking a lot of soy when I started going to the gym again a few months back. I found that soy caused quite bad constipation and gut issues to me. Have since switched to whey protein which is much better in that regard.

  6. I’m a veggie so paleo is not an option for me. Which is a shame because I’ve got a nice crossbow in the cupboard. Only joking-shades of the Walking Dead there!
    The general message is to cut back on carbohydrates but not to the extent where you get stressed out and “food obsessed”.
    The United Kingdom Government is thinking about upping their fruit and veg recommendation from 5 to 7 a day. Any trend to healthier eating is for the better and that’s what everyone should aim for – acne and non acne sufferers. Healthy body means a healthy mind or is it the other way round? I’ll leave that one to the philoosophers.

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