What is the Paleo Diet?

what is the paleo diet

Your Manual for the Paleo Diet

If someone told you to eat lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meats and poultry, wild fish, and natural, unprocessed fats in order to nourish your body with healthy foods, you probably wouldn’t be all that surprised… Right?

What is the Paleo Diet?

If they continued on and suggested cutting out sugar and refined grains, you still would likely already have some sense that those are not really all that healthy and shouldn’t be thought of as such.

Are you with me?

If that same person then added the idea that you should omit ALL grains, ALL dairy and ALL legumes, then you might start to wonder…WHY?

I did, too.

What is the Paleo DietBut then I read The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain.

Basically, we humans are not meant to be eating grains, legumes (this includes soy and peanuts), or dairy (unless you’re an infant and you’re ingesting dairy…from the same species).

How can such a broad statement be made?

Well, it’s not something I, or anyone, just made up on a whim.  One of the beautiful things about this way of eating is that it’s actually based on science.

If you think in terms of what people ate during the Paleolithic era, and you do NOT need to be savvy in the sciences to guess, it would have been food that could either have been picked or foraged and eaten AS IS or an animal that either ran across the land or swam in the sea.

Why Choose Paleo?

Both grains and legumes contain anti-nutrient properties. While growing from the ground, these very components serve to protect them from pesticides and predators, but when we ingest them, they work against us by adhering to many of the vitamins and minerals in our food, preventing us from properly absorbing them and causing microscopic tearing in the intestines, thus increasing intestinal permeability.

Over time, ‘leaky gut syndrome ensues, whereby proteins are able to leak into the peritoneum causing inflammation, infection and subsequently a whole host of maladies throughout the body, NOT just in the GI tract but also in the body as a whole.

What is the Paleo Diet?This helps set the stage for acne, joint pain, exacerbation of the autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, IBS, colitis, Crohn’s disease, cancers, and so on and so on and so on.

As far as dairy products are concerned, they’re the most acidic items we can consume. Dairy products create an acidic pH in the body and in an attempt to buffer the pH back to alkalinity, the body leaches calcium from the bones. Over time, this leads to osteopenia and osteoporosis.

The most important thing to look at here is actually calcium BALANCE over Calcium intake. You’re actually better off eating a cup of kale with 37mg of Calcium than a 300 mg Calcium-containing cup of cow’s milk!

By cutting these out, Paleo can help you achieve the health and weight loss goals you want.

These are the basics fundamentals of Paleo, and when people begin to implement them, they make some common mistakes that need to be avoided. Some are these common mistakes are:

  • Not eating enough veggies. Veggies should comprise at least 40 – 50% of every single meal. Yes, even breakfast, and even snacks.
  • Not balancing macronutrients.  Each meal should have that 40% veg, but also equal amounts of wild protein and natural fats. Two bananas on their own or a quarter pound of bacon don’t cut it.
  • Eating too many ‘Paleo snacks or treats’. Once in a while, sure. For a birthday or an anniversary, but please don’t start every day with “Paleo Pancakes, Muffins or Waffles, topped with honey”.  Again, not Paleo.
  • Going too long without eating. Unless you really understand how to implement intermittent fasting, don’t make a botched attempt at it by randomly skipping meals only to gorge on the wrong types of food later. That’s not Paleo; it’s a fad-diet.
  • Not sleeping enough. Regularly getting less than five and a half hours sleep, minimum (but even that is the very bare minimum!) prevents your body from releasing growth hormone which is essential in the recovery and repair process.  It also creates unbalanced cortisol levels which disrupt your metabolism. Hit the sheets!
  • Not moving.  Find the type of activity you love and go for it.  If you enjoy it, you’ll do it much more often than if it feels like a punishment.
  • Not being 100% for at least a month. If you have sensitivities to gluten or soy or dairy (just to name a few) and you reduce the amount you eat but still eat some, it’s enough to keep your body inflamed and prevent you from reaping all the Paleo benefits you’d otherwise see.


When Paleo is followed properly, it’s really difficult to not reach one’s ideal lean weight when all is in order.

If you can truly say you are implementing it properly but are not seeing weight loss, it wouldn’t hurt to visit your doc and have some lab work done.

They may want to test your thyroid function, vitamin D levels, and overall hormonal profile, all of which can significantly impact one’s ability to lose weight.

Nell Stephenson has been an avid Paleoista since she began following it in 2005, after learning that an intolerance to gluten was the cause of years of sickness. Recently featured on The Dr Oz Show as Paleo Expert with her mentor, Dr. Loren Cordain, PhD, the 'father' of Paleo, she is the author of two books, Paleoista: Gain Energy, Lose Weight and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat (Touchstone, 2012) and The Paleo Diet Cookbook with Dr. Loren Cordain, PhD (Wiley & Sons, 2010) and has a third book, which is a cookbook, in the works. Check her out at www.paleoista.com
Nell Stephenson
Latest posts by Nell Stephenson (see all)
What is the Paleo Diet?