Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: Where can I start learning more about the paleo diet? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
The most efficient way to sum it up is that eating paleo basically means eating whole foods almost exclusively, with minimal processing. Cooking and blending fit that requirement, it doesn’t have to be raw.
Anything that requires a lot of processing from its original whole food source is *not* paleo. If it comes in a box and has a long shelf life, it isn’t paleo. If it has a long list of ingredients that don’t sound like food, it isn’t paleo.
If it comes from the farmers market, the deli, or the produce section, it probably *is* paleo. If you grew it yourself, it’s paleo.
A stricter version of paleo involves cutting out all foods that didn’t exist/ that humans didn’t eat 10,000 years ago in the paleolithic age; hence the name “paleo”. Foods such as “nightshades”, legumes, dairy products, and grains fit this category.
The theory is that we haven’t been eating these foods long enough to have evolved the ability to digest and make use of them properly.
The practical application is that foods in these categories to avoid have potential allergens in them that some people react to. When people react to food allergens, it causes inflammation. Systemic inflammation causes multiple health problems of varying degrees in many people over the long term.
Regardless of whether you think the theory behind it is relevant, the idea of the Whole 30 Challenge is to eliminate all potential allergens (ie. all non-paleo food) from your diet first, then gradually reintroduce the less offensive foods (ie. nightshades, legumes, dairy, grains) one at a time to see if you can notice a difference. If you don’t notice a difference, then you might be OK with those foods, and you can decide whether to reintroduce them or not.
“Eat five times a day” is completely irrelevant to the paleo lifestyle diet. However, some people might choose to do both; eat paleo, five times a day. You can eat paleo on any schedule you want and it’s still paleo.
Another common misconception is that paleo is low carb and/or mostly meat. This is a common misconception because the two diets are very compatible, and many people have had a lot of success losing weight this way without hunger, while feeling great. The most obvious paleo choices are meat and vegetables, and the most obvious foods to cut are sugar and bread -> result: low carb.
In reality, you can eat any macronutrient balance you want with paleo. Paleo just means it all comes from whole foods. There is a tendency for it to end up low carb after cutting bread and sugar, but you can replace those carbs with starchy root veggies for starchy carbs, and with fruits for natural sugars. Protein usually comes from meat, but it can come from nuts and greens for vegetarians, or even beans for those doing a less strict version of paleo who don’t react to beans (beans are legumes). Fats can come from cold pressed olive oil, various minimally processed coconut products, avocado, and nuts, among others.
Most people who follow the paleo lifestyle use the 80/20 rule, and allow some non-paleo choices here and there. It can be difficult to keep it strictly paleo in our society. Personally, I keep it at about 90% paleo because I’ve been doing it long enough to have found so many delicious paleo alternatives that it gets easier and easier to follow, and I have less and less desire to go back to a standard American diet. When I want to excel at the gym, I keep it closer to 95% paleo.