Updated: May 13, 2018
Have you looked at Paleo but felt lost in the details?
Have you read (or tried to read) well-intended books--or blogs--about ancestral dieting, only to be swamped by whys and wherefores?
Do oxalic acid issues (spinach, kale), omega fatty acid ratios, macro vs. micronutrient concerns, dairy and wine controversies, Atlantic vs. Pacific seaweed (not kidding), conventional vs. organic, digestive chemistry minutia, endocrine disruptors, cellular vs acellular carbs, and all the rest...make your eyes glaze over?
Do you feel like you have to go back to school for that degree in biology just to follow all the studies and chemistry and deconstruction of "conventional wisdom?"
There is a TON of information out there, most of it good, but you don't need to memorize all of it, or even think much about it, to experience healthy Paleo aging...or just get healthy on Paleo.
Why, then, does the Paleoid community seem so...geeky?
Good science vs. bad science
Paleo authors and advocates have good reasons for backing up their claims with hard facts.
For almost 100 years, conventional wisdom about the SAD (Standard American Diet) has dominated public thinking. Sophisticated advertising, bad or bought science, and industry-influenced public policy have established, and continue to perpetuate wildly unhealthy misconceptions about food.
Going against this grain (Paleo pun) requires solid, fact-based arguments--backed up by heavy nutritional chemistry.
Once I discovered Paleo, and enjoyed the benefits (weight loss, way more energy, vastly reduced illness) I became curious and willingly studied the facts--and their huge implications for healthy aging.
And there ARE facts, a whole body of science including numerous and ongoing studies (and, sadly, older studies that have been ignored, spun or misrepresented for decades) that validate Paleo and ancestral dietary practices.
But that doesn't mean you have to get a degree in Paleo just to try it.
Basic Paleo: mostly common sense
Paleo is a lot easier than most people think--almost too easy. It often amounts to what your grandma might have told you:
"Sweets are bad for you."
"Eat your vegetables."
"Eat meat to grow strong."
"Newfangled processed foods will make you sick."
Most Paleoids do the following pretty much every day:
Avoid grains in any form, period.
Avoid legumes including SOY and peanuts.
Avoid ALL PROCESSED OR MANUFACTURED FOODS and FOOD ADDITIVES. This is HUGE.
Avoid mass-produced seed and corn oils. (Substitute olive, coconut, avocado and other healthy oils.) Also HUGE.
Avoid SUGAR in any form. (Pure maple syrup, raw honey, stevia--all in moderation--are often substituted.)
Include meat (PREFERABLY humanely raised/harvested and grass-fed), eggs and seafood. Liberally. At first don't get hung up on sourcing, just eat whatever protein works best.
Include as many vegetables and squashes as possible. Shoot for bright or vivid colors--dark green, red, yellow, orange, purple. Leafy is awesome. Go easy on potatoes (I lost 30 lbs switching to squash.) Vegetables should cover 2/3 of any plate, vs. your protein selection. For weight loss, control nut intake and overall carbs.
Exercise at least a half hour most days. You choose how. I lift weights 25%, hike (weighted vest, optional) 75%.
That's it. That's all.
This is the backbone of Paleo. It's that simple. Try this for 30 days.
Details and viewpoints abound--if you care
Yes, boutique controversies rage over wine, coffee, supplements, dairy, chocolate, certain tubers, blah blah blah. My personal experience is that just doing the above will get you 95% of the way there.
If you can adjust to life according to these broad guidelines, you will have plenty of time to agonize over how much cheese to eat, if "potatoes are really paleo," or whether you need to take fish oil or vitamin K or resveratrol.
If you're worried about "fiber and carbohydrate needs" being met (without resorting to bread, pasta, soybeans or granola, etc.) please see this post.
Paleo doesn't feel boring or restrictive, either. My wife and I successfully reintroduced eggs, cheese, wine, and some high-cacao-count chocolate after our "Whole 30" shakeout month.
Beware Paleo personality cults or one-size-fits-all
If you need more info before you start, or want to dig deeper into Paleo concept "backstories," welcome to the club. I never get tired of reading about it.
Please see our resources page for great jumping-off points. There is a lot of information in those books and websites.
But remember--you're the boss. If you're reading this, the odds are you have begun to question the dietary status quo. PLEASE CONTINUE TO QUESTION things as you read up on Paleo. Most authorities agree on the points above, but not everyone agrees on the details.
You should mull (if you feel like it) the different viewpoints on gray-area items, which can include whole subsets of vegetables (nightshades, "FODMAPS"), eggs, cooking oils, alcohol, seafood and seaweed, sweeteners, and a galaxy of supplements. (At this writing I often use creatine to support my workouts, but take no other supplements.)
Sure, you can nominate a Paleo personality as your "guru", but you're better off picking at least two or three and seeing what each one says about hot button issues.
Not all resources strive for clarity. Some offhandedly bury priceless knowledge in posts that read like junior college chemistry papers. Feel free to discard advice you can't follow...because you can't understand the advice.
Live your own version of Paleo
Your goal is to follow the basic template and still enjoy life. See what works for you.
There are (they say) even Paleo-vegans and Paleo-vegetarians. Other Paleoids avoid beef and pork, in favor of chicken and seafood--or even eggs and raw cheese.
(Many people ARE allergic to eggs, and it's worth it to figure this out. Eggs are great sources of protein, healthy fats and micronutrients--but there are plenty of alternatives.)
Not everyone "does Paleo" identically, and that's fine. If you wind up living on eggs, nuts and sweet potatoes and feel great, that's success. If you vigorously subsist on beef, salmon and greens (more like me), that's outstanding too.
Us older folks (everyone, really) win biggest by ditching refined (even whole) grain, soy and legume products, processed foods and industrial seed oils, ALL of which are strongly linked to chronic, debilitating disease--especially in post-retirement age groups.
It's so easy, even a caveperson can do it.
And don't forget:
DAVID WHITESIDE IS NOT A DOCTOR and does not give medical advice or treatment. He offers information and personal experience only. Nothing you read on this website or blog should be construed as medical advice or as intended to supersede information you get from your medical professional. Following the advice given here or on any recommended resource site does not create a doctor-patient relationship or create liability for David or anyone else. David is not liable for any loss or complication you experience from following any diet or taking any action. You should check with your properly accredited medical professional if you think you are injured or ill.