There is a misconception out there that by eating “primal” or “paleo” you are on this diet that cuts out a “major food group”. First of all, primal eating is lifestyle…it is not a fad diet. Grains are not a food group! Eating primal does not mean eating “low carb.” It is not the same thing as Atkins. In fact, our bodies do need carbohydrates. We just don’t need the excessive amount we consume when we eat processed foods and grains. We need way less than we are accustomed too, and the amount we need varies based on our level of physical activity. So what exactly does primal/paleo/ancestral eating mean? It simply means eating real food. We are so far removed from what real food is in our culture that some of us have no idea where to start. Real food does not come in a box/package or have a label on it. It has not been chemically processed or altered.
Before eating this way I was eating what I *thought was a healthy diet. Almost everyday I ate almond butter and honey sandwiches on 100% sprouted grain bread, pasta, beans, legumes…I avoided most animal products. I also did not feel good. I was having gallbladder attacks. I was anxious. My hair was falling out. I was diagnosed with autoimmune diseases. After a year of slowly converting to primal eating, my autoimmune “markers” are now very low, and I feel amazing! My health has improved dramatically and I will never go back. I’ve discussed my autoimmune thyroid (which is related to grain and soy consumption) and plan to talk more on autoimmunity in subsequent posts. I’m feeling really good these days 🙂
Why do I avoid grains? On top of experiencing all I said above, I was having issues with unstable blood sugar. I was consuming most of my calories from “whole wheat” bread, and I thought I was eating healthy. However, I was having a ton of health issues that were snowballing and I was not in a good place. Something was wrong. When I cut gluten out I started to feel much better, but still dealt with blood sugar spikes and plummets, as well as hormonal issues. Now that I avoid grains, my blood sugar is stable and I feel at my best. It feels great to actually wake up every morning feeling healthy and strong. I no longer have brain fog. I feel happy. My hormones are balanced.
This link and this link were helpful in understanding some of the blood sugar/gluten issues:
“The paleo diet is not Atkins, nor is it zero-carb. The best research I can find shows that modern hunter-gatherers get perhaps 1/3 of their calories from carbohydrate, and Paleolithic hunter-gatherers somewhat less. This means vegetables, including root starches like sweet potatoes: grains were not a meaningful part of the human diet until agriculture, of which the earliest evidence is only 12,000 years ago. (This is a tautology: agriculture defines the transition from Paleolithic to Neolithic.)”
My hope is that people will do their own research and keep an open mind. I am a mom of 2 young boys, and want to feed them real food. I deal with a ton of negativity and questioning from people, but I plow on because I know I am doing what is best for us. One thing I don’t do is “preach to the choir”. I don’t judge other people for their food choices, I don’t try to change what my family or friends eat. If someone asks me or questions me I do my best to explain my choice without being pushy. Here is an article I found helpful when dealing with family/friends who question your choices. What I have learned through the years is to limit your arguing…keep answers short and sweet, change the subject.
It makes such a difference in your life when your body just feels right. I network with many different paleo/primal people and belong to several different groups where we all learn from each other. I learn new things everyday. I’m sure some of it will change, but the basics remain the same. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge, and I really have no other motives.
So what exactly do I eat?
I eat pastured meats. Pastured simply means that the animal is out eating its natural diet. So cows eat grass. Chickens eat bugs. Not only is the animal happier, but the health benefit of pastured meats are huge. The animal is not couped or caged all the time and fed genetically modified feed (soybeans, corn, wheat to name a few). I buy from the local Farmer’s Market. Some farmers will give discounts, and there are cheaper cuts available that are just as nutrient rich as fancy cuts, some even more so. I take my kids to visit the farms and get to know the farmers. Organ meats are very inexpensive and are extremely nutrient dense. Farmers sell all different cuts of meat-heart, liver, tongue, soup bones, you name it! You can also purchase a ¼ cow, ½ cow or a whole cow if you have a deep freezer. Sometimes friends will “split a cow”. It is cost effective and the meat can get you through several months. I also eat applegate farms deli meats, and occasionally buy meats at Trader Joe’s.
I eat grass-fed dairy (I am a sucker for kerrygold cheese). Dairy can be an issue for many people. The protein casein is large in molecular structure and can be hard on the gut. I react to dairy. I make the choice to occasionally eat it and pay the price.
I eat wild caught fish and seafood. I was never a fish person in the past. I actually just started eating and enjoying sardines (I am amazed at how much I enjoy the taste of real food after cleansing my body of processed foods). My kids like salmon so I try to make it for them at least once a week.
I eat pastured eggs- chickens are not vegetarians. They are omnivores-they love bugs! Pastured eggs are not the same as “cage free” or “vegetarian fed” eggs. I had a hard time finding them, and now purchase them at the farmer’s market as well.
This is helpful in understanding eggs!
I eat a ton of vegetables/fruit daily (mostly vegetables): avocados, garlic, herbs, apples, berries, carrots, greens of all sorts, bananas, parsnips, turnips, kale, beets, brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach, salad greens, cauliflower, oranges…it changes based on the season. I stick with “the dirty dozen” when it comes to buying organic.
I don’t fear fat at all. You shouldn’t either.
I cook with coconut oil, ghee (OMGhee is my favorite) grass-fed butter (kerrygold is a good brand), tallow, and lard. I use olive oil for cold uses. I do not limit my fat intake. This chart is helpful in explaining which fats to use and which to avoid.
I bake with coconut flour, coconut oil, tapioca starch, arrowroot flour, and almond meal.
I also snack on nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, healthy meat sticks (not slim jims), seaweed, sardines, lara bars, veggies
There are a bunch of fabulous blogs/FB pages that I follow. Some are educational and others share tons of awesome recipes!
Here are some of my personal favorites:
*Some of the staples I load my pantry with for baking are coconut milk, coconut flour, tapioca starch, arrowroot, coconut oil, almond meal, enjoy life (GF/DF) chocolate chips, bourbon vanilla, frozen blueberries (I go blueberry picking during the summer and freeze pounds of them).
As I’ve said in the past I am not 100% and I am far from perfect. If you try to be, you will drive yourself batty and won’t enjoy your life. We live in a culture that is very much attached to grains, and that makes this lifestyle difficult without support. It’s not impossible…just difficult. It is important to reach out for support and take baby steps. I have good days and bad days. There are days when I stare at the fridge and think “what the heck am I going to make today?” I always figure it out and I am learning how to think outside the box! Scrambled eggs mixed with ground beef and seasonings tossed over salad greens makes an excellent meal. I found that by “liking” primal/paleo FB pages your newsfeed gets filled with awesome recipes to try, tips, and helpful information.
I started out by just cutting out gluten. That to me is a huge step. Then when I noticed the amazing positive changes I slowly converted to eating less and less processed foods. I still get the occasional gluten free sugary treat. I always feel lousy afterward, but once in awhile I do it anyway. I also like to have a gluten free beer in the summertime, and enjoy drinking wine with my friends. My weakness is dark chocolate-I try to find the darkest and lowest in sugar available.
I hope this helps, feel free to ask away if you have questions and I will try to point you in the right direction!
* Please note: This is a personal blog. I am not a Doctor or a Dietician. All data and information provided on this site is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitution for professional medical advice.
Thanks for that article. I’ve been wondering what the specifics of a paleo diet were ever since ‘liking’ a JustEatRealFood post and being inundated, as you said, with recipes, statuses and blogs about paleo and primal eating.
I started a gym and nutritional program in March 2012 (Educogym) which had me switch cold turkey to a grain- and sugar-free diet. I found it very challenging at first, but after a while, I noticed that if I did eat something sugary or carby, I would feel absolutely hungover afterward. I went off the diet in December, as we were going to be guests in my mother’s house over Christmas and New Years, and I also finished my contract with Educogym at the same time. I’ve been struggling to adhere strictly to the diet since Christmas, and I’ve been wondering what was the way forward. I think paleo may be the key. It sounds like it includes everything the Educogym diet does, plus some very healthy veg that I’ve been missing (Educogym excludes all starchy root veg, so no sweet potatoes, plus some other natural-sugar containing veggies like beetroot, as well as cauliflower). I like the idea of pastured meats and eggs, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to find them here in the UK. I think free range is as far as they typically go, but it is worth doing some research and talking to farmers. I’m also hoping to lobby our local “farmer’s” market to include more local produce, instead of just overpriced olive oil, and artisanal breads and quiches!
Anyway, thanks for the most useful article and links. I hope to join you in learning more about a paleo lifestyle. (P.S. If you know any more about your thyroid condition, I’d love to hear about that as well. I’ve known for nearly 12 yrs that I was hypothyroidic, but only learned recently that it’s an autoimmune type. Can the paleo diet have an impact on my [natural] thyroid activity?). Thanks!
glad you found it helpful! Did you read my thyroid post on here? That might be helpful!
Very interesting. I have been trying to eliminate gluten. In our society it is not easy. Thank you for the encouragement.
you’re very welcome!
WOW! Love your plain spoken, honest, personal story. I could just sign my name and recite or send to anyone who asks me “what are you trying to do?” I don’t have health issues, but always trying to feel my best and feed my body rather than fill my belly (and my family’s). Thank you.
Great overview! I live in Atlantic Canada and I’ve been Primal since April 2011. I’m always so surprised to find that so few are aware of the Primal “lifestyle”. I think it’s the best kept secret out there! PS… you should always include a small pic with your post to make it easy for people to “PIN” your info to Pinterest. I have a board called “all things primal” where this would make a great addition!
Where do you find/what brand is gluten free beer? Also, thanks for all of the links!
I buy redbridge brand, but there are several out there!
You should categorize your blog articles so that they’re more likely to come up in searches.
thanks! I am new to this, but know I need to figure it all out!
Fabulous article! Thank you so much!
you’re very welcome!
We have an unsustainable food supply as is, imagine how a trend towards the paleo diet will further those issues…we need to move towards a more plant-based diet for the sake of maintaining a sustainable food supply to feed our 7 billion + if you ask me!!!
one reason I try to buy pasture raised animals.
I enjoyed reading your blog and I do have a few questions. As far as I know, I am not gluten intolerant. What is your opinion of steel cut oats, rice (red, black and brown) and quinoa. These are basically all the grains I eat. I do occasionally eat pasta that I buy from a vendor at the farmers’ market in Covington, La. The lady uses organic, whole grains and mashes them up to make the pasta. It tasts good and is very “primal”, i.e., course. I suffered a bulging, broad-based disc (L4 and 5) in December of 2011. Sciatic nerve strikes that knocked me down. Docs wanted to do surgery. NOT! I began drinking Kombucha made by a lady at farmers market and no grains. Along with exercises to strengthen my core and lower back, Mackenzie push ups every 2 hours in the beginning, I healed myself totally and am feeling great. The Kombucha and gluten free aspect I firmly believe eliminated all the inflammation, causing my back and body to heal itself. I do, as well, “fall off the wagon” occasionally, but my body yells at me. I eat steel cuts, quinoa and rices, along with Ezekiel bread and the pasta from the market. Thus far, they have been nice to my back. Sugar is a no no, tho. It’s not nice to my body!
Have a great day and HAPPY MARDI GRAS! 🙂
here are a couple links I found helpful when it comes to grains….http://www.marksdailyapple.com/keen-wah-what/#axzz2KXELloCz
Help! I’m 68 and changing at this point is more than difficult. I’m finding I have to spend/wast more time cooking than my normal/bad diet according to paleo. My daughter has jumped into it full boar but I just can’t seem to follow suit. She claims I must do this because of health issues. I agree but can’t seem to get on the wagon. What would you suggest to get me there without it taking over my life.
it can be overwhelming at first…I took baby steps and went slowly over the course of a year. Be gentle on yourself, it is a big change! Maybe start by going gluten free and making an attempt to eat more vegetables. Also switch to cooking with coconut oil and butter-try to cut out vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils. Use the resources I posted on here as well. The book Practical Paleo is awesome, I highly recommend it! HTH!
I’ll be 70 in March. Just went from vegan, gluten free to paleo. Believe me, paleo is easier- for home cooking, storing, eating. So is travel and eating out. Ive been dedicated to healthy lifestyle for years but still body aches, autoimmune disorders, energy slumps, brainfog, inflamation. Last year i timidly went to bloodtype diet adding animal protein and much to my horror felt much better!( For ethical & spiritual reasons i’d prefer to not eat animals) This January i went paleo & so far no grains, beans; low carb. Inspired by Beverly Meyer podcasts, et al. I immediately felt better. To date, i feel better than EVER! Clarity, even energy all day, good sleep, enthusiastic, involved, almost painfree. This is back to eating the way it was when i was a youngster- minus the sugar & white flour. Best of blessings to you.
wonderful! Do you mind if I share this on my FB page?
Thank you for sharing. I’m a Type 2 diabetic trying to be better about what I eat. I’m using wheat chex cereal as a snack, few additives, but store bought, any thoughts on simple alternatives?
cereal just breaks down as sugar in your body…hard boiled eggs are a nice quick breakfast food-you can hard boil them the night before!
Being a picky eater in a single-income household with a crazy schedule has made trying something new a challenge. I am realizing how uneducated I am about this but also concerned with how and why grains are seemingly the enemy these days.
I eat Cheerios for breakfast on occasion and don’t eat too much bread (whole wheat or otherwise). I’m a huge fan of black beans and wheat tortillas. Beans are major staple in my household because they’re filling for us (us being my husband and I). Triscuits and cottage cheese with fruit is a common snack for me. I’ve had no problems with the grains I do eat but still wonder if eliminating them would make a difference for me. I also wonder if I absolutely have to eliminate cheese from my diet. That has been the one thing that keeps me sane on a busy day. Add in a piece of fruit with my two snack bars and I feel great.
How would you suggest trying something like paleo without eliminating everything right out of the gate? If I go gung ho I’ll get frustrated and quit so suggestions on how to try it slowly would be a big help.
The biggest step for me was cutting out gluten…I still have oats and rice on occasion. See how you feel when you cut just gluten out. That is the best first step in my opinion.
I believe 100% in “clean eating”. As a RD/LDN, I live, work, and serve fresh foods, wholesome foods daily. What scares me about a Paleolithic Diet is the use of such high Saturated fat foods. Did people of the Paleolithic era ground almonds or coconuts to make brownies? Grains ARE a food group. We should be preaching the use of the recommended amount of WHOLE grains and wheat products. As a society, we do over indulge in the grain group, and unfortunately, we use mostly grains that have been polverised, bleached and refortified. We need to use steel cut, whole grains in moderation, up our fruit and vegetable intake and limit our high fat dairy. Not every food needs over processed cheese! Fresh cheese is a marvelous food! “Cheese food products” need to go! Bacon is a FANTASTIC food, but we should not be using bacon lard for cooking. It is scientific fact that it clogs arteries. High fat meats should be limited to the recommended daily intake. We should be eating lean fats like chicken or sea food. While I fully respect clean eating, I wish the Paleolithic diet would stop teaching people grains are bad! The medical evidence is clear that whole grains reduce risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Few foods can offer such diverse benefits. People who eat whole grains regularly have a lower risk of obesity, as measured by their body mass index and waist-to-hip ratios. They also have lower cholesterol levels. Because of the phytochemicals and antioxidants, people who eat three daily servings of whole grains have been shown to reduce their risk of heart disease by 25-36%, stroke by 37%, Type II diabetes by 21-27%, digestive system cancers by 21-43%, and hormone-related cancers by 10-40%.
– Beth RD/LDN
Re: saturated fats are needed by our bodies for brain function and hormone regulation. Recent studies show that saturated fat is NOT linked to heart disease, and is beneficial to the body. Inflammatory foods lead to heart disease.
RE: ground almonds and coconuts to make brownies-We live in modern times. Sometimes people want a snack but do not want to eat grains (I will touch upon that next). Therefore these alternative flours are used. People who eat primal do so in a modern world. We aren’t in caves chomping on bones.
I disagree that grains are needed in moderation. Humans have been around for 200,000 years. They have only been introduced in our diet in the past 10-12,000 years. We are not adapted to digesting and assimilating grains.
Bacon fat does NOT clog arteries. It is not a scientific fact. These myths are being proven wrong, you will see the tide change!
why no grains?
Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution – The Original Human Diet. Robb is a former research biochemist is one of the world’s leading experts in Paleolithic nutrition answers here:
Thanks for this and all of your posts. You explain things very well and in simple terms. Have you ever thought of self-publishing a book? Read the book 101 Reasons why you must write a book by Bob Burnham. I would by a book from you for sure!
Wow, thank you! I really enjoy writing, and will definitely check out the book! Thank you!
Very very good article. Thanks !!
All this real food, paleo, gaps and primal eating its new for me. I am 32 years old hispanic woman with 3 beautiful kids and a wonderfull middle eastern husband. Like 3 weeks ago I was sitting in the couch and my 6 year old girl. Asked me for food, I offer what I had cook for the day and she said No, just make me a couple of noddles or chips or oreo cookies . I just look it her and said, wait give a second and then I started crying thinking what a bad mother i had been for all this years, what I had done to myself and family ????. My kids didnt know anything alse besides prossesed food !!!!!. I got up, clean my tears and said; enough Im going to be a better mother… since then I had been doing a lot of searching and reading, i had clean my pantry from all the junk food that i had, going organic as much as I can, no more Taco Bell and mcdonals and i had been cooking almost every day !!!!. Its tough, very tough, my husband and my kids are having a really hard time with all the changes, but I have to be strong and stick with it. I have notice I change in my energy level and i feel better . I want to go paleo for the health of my family and myself, but not yet, i am doing baby steps right now and i am sure that maybe and I year well be there. I want to thank people like you that makes this jouney easy for us by having so much information and yum recepies for free !!!! Thank u for making my life so much easier.
That is a very big step to take, be proud of yourself. It takes time so be gentle on yourself, baby steps are good! It is a journey…you will realize one day what huge strides you made!
Hey there it was a joy visting your site.
thank you Wesley!
I have read so many articles or reviews on the topic of
the blogger lovers but this post is truly a pleasant article, keep it up.
I actually was thinking the same thing – that grains are not a food group. At least they weren’t when I was growing up. So I googled it, and was appalled to see that they seem to have dubbed them a food group in the interim – http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains.html
agh! Still not one I’ll be eating.