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The Misconception About Eating “Paleo”

by jenny sansouci on October 30, 2014

A couple of months ago I was having a conversation with a friend who’s also in the nutrition world.

“I’m just so sick of seeing all these paleo people posting everywhere,” she said.

I gave her a questioning look. “Hey! Why!?” (I post about paleo stuff quite often on instagram, and at Dr. Lipman’s office where I work as a Health Coach, we put people on a paleo or “paleo-ish” diet all the time for various health concerns, with fantastic results).

“I just don’t think it’s healthy to focus on eating SO much meat all the time,” she said.

I told her, “I just finished a 30-day super strict paleo eating planI ate fish and eggs mostly for protein, maybe chicken a couple of times, grass-fed beef once or twice. But mostly tons of veggies…huge salads, green smoothies/green juices, etc.”

She looked surprised. “You need to write a blog about this. There’s a huge misconception out there that ‘going paleo’ means eating meat all day.”

A little while later, I was talking to my friend who owns a raw vegan restaurant. “Most of our stuff is paleo-friendly,” she said. “It’s gluten free, refined sugar free, grain free and dairy free. Made from fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Nobody would think about raw vegan food being paleo…but a lot of it is!!”

The more people I spoke to about “paleo” eating, the more I realized that when people think about paleo, the image of biting into a huge t-bone steak at every meal comes to mind. Yes, eating “paleo” can often include bacon and burgers, but there is so much more to it than that!

People get so attached to the idea of “eating exactly the way the cavemen ate,” which, honestly, can seem kind of irrelevant when you’re trying to figure out what to eat in the modern world. Trying to decipher whether or not a caveman had the ability to roast a cauliflower or juice a cucumber is not the way most people want to choose their meals. That kind of thinking can make your brain hurt.

For that reason, a lot of people immediately dismiss it when they hear the word “paleo” — but we don’t need to take the caveman thing so literally or be dogmatic about it to have some SERIOUSLY legit health-enhancing results.

The reason I’m so amped up about “paleo” eating is different. It’s not about necessarily adding more meat into your diet, or eating only things that a true caveman could have gotten his hands on. It’s not about hunting and gathering all your food.

It’s what you REMOVE that makes such a huge difference for so many people. And when you do it right it can be extremely healing.

Although a lot of people in the fitness world are seemingly obsessed with paleo for the great body composition results they experience, it’s not all about that either.

Every day at the wellness center we see incredible improvements in digestion, weight, skin, autoimmune issues, sleep, thyroid function, depression/anxiety, and more by putting people on a more “paleo” type of eating plan.

The “paleo” way of eating, when used as a healing elimination diet, means REMOVING:

  • Sugar
  • Gluten
  • Grains/beans
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Processed foods

And focusing on eating:

  • Clean protein (like wild fish, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, pastured eggs)
  • Tons of vegetables
  • Healthy fats (like avocado, coconut, olive oil, nuts, seeds)
  • Some fruit (the amount of fruit depends on the person’s health concerns)
  • Healthy beverages (like water, fresh vegetable juices, coconut water, kombucha, tea, coffee for some people)
  • Natural sweeteners (like raw honey/maple syrup/stevia…in some cases no sweeteners at all, depends on the person’s health concerns)

When I talk about eating paleo, I’m talking about eating whole, unprocessed foods that you could find in nature, and removing the most common allergens and things people often have negative reactions and sensitivities to.

When I say we put some people on a “paleo-ish” plan, we sometimes make exceptions for the following things that aren’t technically “paleo”:

  • Some beans/lentils if you’re a vegan (but still eliminating as many grains as possible)
  • Goat/sheep’s milk dairy products for those who can tolerate it (easier to digest for many people than cow’s milk)
  • Whey protein from grass-fed cows for people who can tolerate it (like this one)
  • Butter from grass-fed cows (read why)

A few examples of “paleo” foods I eat (click each image for details):

kabocha soup

paleo pancakes

green smoothie

paleo egg muffins

salad with egg

paleo meal

breakfast

salmon-veg

See? It ain’t all steaks and bacon. Those things can be involved, and everyone’s gonna do it a little differently, but I just wanted to clear that up a bit. It’s about getting rid of crap that is making you feel bad, and choosing high quality food whenever you can.

A quick note on being “perfect” — I think sticking to an elimination diet like this can be very good if you’re healing a health condition (trying to be as strict as you can for a couple of weeks to see if you feel better can be helpful) — but in general, don’t get caught up in doing anything perfectly 100% of the time – added stress is not good for your health, either. 🙂 Play with your diet, see what feels good. Experiment. Make it fun.

 

The 30-day paleo plan I love (this book has tons of awesome health information)

Follow me on the insta for more paleo-ish fun.

Wanna know more about paleo? Here’s a great guide to the basics of the paleo diet.

If you’re wondering if something is paleo, this paleo app is super helpful.

 

How I got trained as a Health Coach

At the end of the day, eat what makes you feel good, and choose the best quality food possible.

Ok, I love you guys. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments!




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{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

angela October 30, 2014 at 3:14 pm

yes yes yes!!! so glad you wrote this. i love paleo for the health benefits, and it has sooo many fun delicious recipes. but i’m not 100% paleo– i still have a small amount of dairy (usually plain greek yogurt) and ya know.. sometimes i cant resist a little cheese. #cheesedreams. i dont really say i’m stricly on a paleo diet, but i just love eating whole, healthy, unprocessed foods. also i feel like legumes are good for you. sorry ’bout it, paleo gods.

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 3:20 pm

haha! oh buntology i’ve missed you. i agree. in my opinion, cheese is too good to cut out COMPLETELY unless you’re super intolerant to it. 🙂 and legumes are the least of my worries when it comes to paleo. sugar/gluten/grains/alcohol are the biggest culprits for most people, from what i’ve seen. thanks for stopping by!!!

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Briana October 30, 2014 at 3:23 pm

AMEN! The paleo misconception is so frustrating, so I’m glad you wrote this 🙂

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Thanks for reading, Briana!

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Tabitha Mace October 30, 2014 at 3:29 pm

I have MS and have recently stwrted the Wahls protocol. It is a 3 leveled paleo diet. But even in her strictest version of the diey you only eat a max of 12oz of meat. I am hopingto feel better but I’m in week 3 and am still removing toxins from deep down. I will do this for a 3 month period for sure. I’m hoping to hve aa marked improvement. If not I’m going back to eating home made Mac n cheese because I do miss it!!
Thnk You

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Good luck Tabitha — 3 months should be a great amount of time to really clean house and see what’s working for you and what’s not. Wishing you the best!!

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Lori / Adventures of a Sick Chick October 30, 2014 at 3:45 pm

So well said and a great summary of what Paleo really is!!!

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Thanks Lori!!

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Heidi October 30, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Great article Jenny! I’m sort of a paleo-vegan who eats fish (I guess a paleo veg-aquarian?! 🙂 I can’t do dairy/eggs due to allergies, so I do eat beans for some protein sources. But I whole heartedly agree with ditching the sugar, soy, processed foods, and most grains (I do eat some ancient grains like quinoa or wild rice, in moderation.) Keep up the great info!

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Awesome, Heidi! I agree, not all grains are created equal…it’s the gluten that’s the biggest trigger for most. Thanks for reading!

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Anthony October 30, 2014 at 4:10 pm

cavemen only lived till about 30 years old, why would you want to copy their diet? vegan will keep you alive longer than everyone else around you though

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Lots of great things about paleo and vegan, and they intersect in a lot of ways too. 🙂 Keep doing what works for you!

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Paul October 30, 2014 at 4:38 pm

The cavemen living to age 30 is a misconception. You may incorrectly infer this indicated they were less healthy – which is wrong. The maximal age was apparently far higher. The expectancy included a very high infant mortality rate. and the main cause of deaths was not ill health but rather, accidents, injuries, and the total lack of medical aid. A caveman raised here today may well be a superior specimen, health-wise. And a modern man (health-wise).transported to the conditions back then would probably not have made it to puberty.

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Awesome, thanks for the insights Paul. 🙂

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Joel October 30, 2014 at 5:02 pm

> vegan will keep you alive longer than everyone else around you though

Please cite a study showing this.

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Paul October 30, 2014 at 5:16 pm

try this site: it quotes many studies indicating the benefits of vegan diet.
http://www.lef.org/magazine/2006/1/awsi/Page-01

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kirk October 30, 2014 at 7:53 pm

anthony dude – i think your brain isn’t necessarily working well anymore. might want to get some animal protein in there.

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teaformum December 14, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Anthony…that’s not true at all about cavemen……There is no scientific evidence around that says Cavemen only lived till they were 30.

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Kristin October 30, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Thank you for this post! I have been trying to stick to the paleo lifestyle, but find it difficult at times – I am always gluten free and processed foods free no matter what though. I fully believe you can heal your body through good nutrition! Could you please help me clarify something? On the bottle of kombucha (which I LOVE to drink!) it says 2gm’s of sugar. I assumed the sugar content came from the fruits in it, however a friend said that the process of kombucha is made starting with sugar, water and tea. Does dissolving the sugar in hot water decrease the effects of sugar on the body or does some of the 2 gm’s of sugar account for the starting process of the kombucha?

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Hi Kristin! It can be hard to tell with kombucha – from what I’ve heard from some people who make it, the sugar is fermented out — but here’s what the Whole30 folks have to say about it:

“We like the probiotic benefits of ‘booch, and we think it makes a fine addition to your Whole30 menu. Just read your labels carefully—sugar listed in the ingredients generally means that it was added after fermentation, and that’s a no-go. Some varieties, like GT Dave’s Enlightened flavors, have fruits and fruit juices added, which are just fine.”

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Kristin November 3, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Thank you so much!

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Paul October 30, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Dr. Jack Kruse has presented fascinating theories regarding optimal health. He says that the Paleo diet is superior to the Standard American Diet (SAD) but lacks vital ingredients for brain health (He attributes the epidemic emergence of ADHD, Autism, Alzheimers and other degenerative cognitive diseases to this lack of brain nutrition). This includes DHA, which is the principal component of the brain, and which HAS to be obtained by diet – and is to be found in quantity only in Seafood and Sea Vegetables. He advocate the Epi-Paleo diet.

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Interesting. I would think that if you’re eating fish / taking a good quality fish oil supplement, you’re getting everything you need.

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Paul October 30, 2014 at 7:12 pm

Fish is number 3 on the list – Crustaceans, then other seafood, then fish. Then offal, then ordinary meat. Most fish oil supplements are pretty bad and deliver very little omega 3 (e.g. 90% doesn’t make it past the stomach to the intestines, where it is supposed to be absorbed.). And according to Kruse, only in real fish or seafood do you get the proper form of omega 3. (Taking it as a supplement Is the equivalent of trying to pay using a blank cheque – it is a shell, empty of value. ). Omega 3 from most vegan sources (flaxseed) is almost useless – unavailable to the body. The real source of Omega 3 is in the algae – and those animal that eat algae. That is why Sea vegetables are also good.

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judi November 1, 2014 at 11:06 am

I take fish or krill oil every day cause I’m not a big fan of seafood. Are you saying they have little benefits? could you please cite a source? I’ve always thought I was doing something good for me.

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Kate @ SoCal Runner Gal October 30, 2014 at 5:28 pm

I’m really glad to have read this because I WAS one of those people that thought being paleo was all about the bacon and fat but it is truly about CLEAN, healthy eating. Makes me actually want to give it a shot — especially after reading about all of the health benefits.

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Hey Kate, so glad you read it too! My favorite part about paleo is the no sugar/gluten factor, and the focus on getting animal products from good quality sources. I think it really gets people thinking about eating fresh, whole foods instead of processed crap. Thanks for reading. 🙂

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Dustin Jackson October 30, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Great article! I recently cut out carbs or starchy vegetables from my diet because initially I wanted to lean up. But then I noticed a huge improvement in my skin and energy levels. No more brain fog either and my cravings are gone. It’s amazing how one little shift in your diet can make a huge difference.

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Awesome, Dustin! I agree, it’s so crazy, whenever I eat sugar or gluten I can tell in my skin pretty immediately. And definitely my energy levels. Thanks for reading!

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Hina C October 30, 2014 at 7:48 pm

I am so happy to have read this because I very often read bad comments about paleo-diet. I am nursing student and I am focusing a lot on nutrition and I spent much time researching articles about benefits of paleo. I think it is very recommended even when many people who understand about nutrition tryed to tell me -how bad- this diet is. They must study about this and to understand what you explained here. Hope to read more and more about this as soon as possible and introduce it in our diets.

Actually, I am not in a eating paleo plan due to my bad schedule and lack of time for it but I try to accurate it as much as possible. I encourage people to give it a try.

p.s: sorry for my bad english 🙂

Greetings from Spain.

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Hey, Hina! Happy to be able to give a different perspective on this way of eating. I’m not totally paleo either, I just tend towards it, and I feel better when I do. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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Hydee October 30, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Hi Jenny! I’m very interested in the Paleo diet as I’ve been struggling with digestion issues since 2007 and even a strict vegan diet didn’t seem to fix things. A lot of the Paleo recipes seem to include eggs and I am intolerant to eggs. Do you know of a good egg substitute? Thank you!

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Hi Hydee! Here’s a great resource on that. http://www.paleoplan.com/2011/10-14/3-ways-to-cope-with-an-egg-allergy/

Good luck!! <3

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Kelsea October 30, 2014 at 8:13 pm

I just adore you, great post xo

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Thank you Kelsea!!! xx

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JoAnn Rowland October 30, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Thanks for sharing. Nice article. I am paleoish too. I’m just amazed at what I have been learning about food. So glad to kick the processed food diet.

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Yay! Bye processed foods!

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Annie October 30, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Great article and very helpful. I’ve had trouble getting over a plateau I was thinking of eating this way and was wondering if I do if that would help?!? Should I count calories or macros?

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jenny sansouci October 30, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Hi Annie!
If you’re looking for weight loss, I would recommend starting by cutting out sugar and grains and seeing if that helps you break through the plateau. Counting calories/macros isn’t something I focus on, so I can’t really give any advice on that. 🙂 Good luck!!

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Robby October 31, 2014 at 12:22 am

Just one comment: “Kombucha” is not gluten-free!
Be careful with it! 🙂

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jenny sansouci October 31, 2014 at 1:24 am

What part of kombucha isn’t gluten free?

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Tanya G October 31, 2014 at 3:04 am

Part of the misconceptions come from paleo people themselves.
Grains are poison!
Sugar is deadly!
Gluten is so bad for you that everyone needs to avoid it!
Organic is the ONLY way to eat, and anyone can afford it if they really cared about their health!
Carbs are really sugar so eat as little as possible!
..and my own personal favorite,
OMG! I was really bad on (insert any day) and I ate a slice of bread and gained 5lb – I’m sooo fat!

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jenny sansouci October 31, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Haha. To each his own.

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Whitney October 31, 2014 at 4:01 am

Hi Jenny : ) Thank you so much for this! I was vegan for years, but due to food intolerances, it has been harder to maintain. I started eating paleo-ish and being off grains gives me So much energy! Do you think I can get enough protein and nutrients eating only eggs and fish a few days a week? Animals are still off the table for me. I would Truly love your input. xoxo
Thank you for your amazing inspiration!

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jenny sansouci October 31, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Hi Whitney! I think it’s totally cool and fine to just have eggs and fish. If you feel good, that’s the best measure of if your diet is working for you. 🙂 <3 Keep experimenting!! xx

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Whitney October 31, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Thank you Jenny!! XOXO

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johanny October 31, 2014 at 8:46 am

Hola! cual es el problema con consumir granos? porque recomiendan eliminarlos si contienen tanta proteina? Soy resistente a la insulina y actualmente me agrada poco la proteína animal, estoy intentando comer mas vegetales y legumbres. Asi que en los granos consigo solución. Pero estoy algo confundida con la opinión sobre los granos aqui. Espero puedas responderme. Gracias por compartir tus conocimientos. 🙂

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jenny sansouci October 31, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Hola! Le recomiendo que lea los libros “Wheat Belly” y “Grain Brain.” En general, los granos pueden descomponerse en azúcar rápidamente en el cuerpo, especialmente para las personas que tienen más carbohidratos intolerante. Aquí hay otro buen enlace de revisar: http://ultimatepaleoguide.com/are-grains-paleo/

Además, he usado Google Translate para esto, así que mis disculpas si mi español no es perfecto. 😉

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Yvonne October 31, 2014 at 10:52 am

OK I simply don’t understand why the gluten is so evil in the modern world????
Eating grains was quite a tradition since the ancient civilizations . Why is a huge problem only for American health coaches ,doctors,nurses and dieticians ???
In Europe people are healthier and still consume gluten and occasionally wine!
Could be then only a racial geographical DNA issue? Native Americans and other civilizations in South America didn’t cultivate grains but corn so it makes sense that their bodies may develope sensitivities when exposed to gluten,they cannot break it down.
My relatives living in Europe are healthy ,my grand-grand parents died in their 100’s,my grandma is still alive and active living on her farm at 85 years old…These are the people who eat bread 3 times a day or may be 5 if I count the snacks too!
They don’t even know what “diabetes” is or Chrons disease ,food allergies or sensivities ! They aren’t fat not even chubby!
Bread was life for the past civilizations!

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jenny sansouci October 31, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Hey Yvonne! Really great point to bring up. The gluten in America is totally f*cked compared to the gluten in Europe. In fact, a lot of people who are super gluten intolerant in the US say they can eat a plate of pasta in Italy and have no reaction. Insane right? I’m gonna write a separate blog on that because it’s so interesting. Check out this video in the meantime. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-2223/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Gluten.html

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Allison October 31, 2014 at 11:16 am

This is so great! Thanks for simplifying it! The stereotypes I see are all about bacon, which is tasty of course, but there’s so much more to this lifestyle. I’m slowly on my way there, and have been encouraging clients in that direction as well. I really appreciate your approach in this article. Thanks!

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jenny sansouci October 31, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Awesome. Thanks for reading, Allison. 🙂

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Coralie October 31, 2014 at 1:11 pm

I completed my first whole 30 (the plan you used) a couple of weeks ago. I also found it to be enlightening and through the reintroduction process, I have found which food items it is best that I stay away from and what the impacts will be if I add them back into my diet.

I highly recommend that everyone give this a try. It is only 30 days and most people see a huge difference in how they feel during that time. It has changed my outlook on what a good eating plan is for me. The thing is that after going through the 30 days, you find that going back to the old way of eating or dieting is not something that you really want to do.

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Bex October 31, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Wow this was great! Totally realized that I am closer to a paleo diet than I thought. Who knew? 🙂 BTW: The Banna and egg pancakes are phenomenal. My boyfriend and I love those. I still haven’t gotten used to kombucha yet. Do you have any good suggestions on a brand that is good for beginners?

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jenny sansouci October 31, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Yay!! Yeah those pancakes are so legit. I like GT’s brand, the ginger and green are my favorite. Although I admit when I first tried the green one it was suuuuuper weird. My first time.. 🙂 http://healthycrush.com/on-a-magical-mystery-tour-withkombucha/

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Andrea November 3, 2014 at 4:42 pm

I’m so glad to see this! As I always tell people, eating “paleo” is basically “eat real food.”

Aside from that, there are several ways to “do” paleo. There are people to eliminate dairy entirely, others who consume fermented dairy (e.g. kefir, yogurt). Some ditch grains altogether, some eat them soaked and sprouted or fermented (e.g. sourdough). And here I’m reminded that I detest labelling eating habits.

Another misconception: There was no single common “caveman” diet because people did eat what they could get their hands on. Tribes near water speared sea animals. Tribes not near water didn’t. If it was accessible and nutritious, they ate it. As you said, we don’t eat that way. However, it’s certainly inspiration to eat local and fresh.

The meat misconception about paleo is so frustrating. Last year I saw a well-known nutritionist spread incorrect information about paleo and other eating styles on a morning TV show. Her poor research angered me. By being misinformed and spreading false information, she was doing a disservice to her role.

Oh, and your Instagram feed makes me hungry.

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Yvonne November 6, 2014 at 2:20 am

Thank you Jenny for clarifying that!
I think Dr.William Davis might have the answer to our question.Take a look!

In his book, Wheat Belly, cardiologist Dr. William Davis, says we began intense crossbreeding of wheat decades ago in order to produce a higher-yielding crop. Breeders began crossing wheat with non-wheat grasses and induced mutations using chemicals, gamma rays, and high-dose X-rays. Today’s “wheat,” he says, isn’t even wheat. “The wheat products sold to you today are nothing like the wheat products of our grandmother’s age, very different from the wheat of the early 20th Century, and completely transformed from the wheat of the Bible and earlier.”

Dr. Davis says this crossbreeding-on-crack has significantly changed in the amino acids in wheat’s gluten proteins. This, he says, is why we have likely have seen a 400% increase in celiac disease over the past 40 years, an explosion in inflammatory diseases, and an increase in diabetes and obesity. Glia-α9, a gluten peptide nearly absent in older wheats but prevalent in modern wheats, is the most reactive celiac disease epitope.

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Sloan November 9, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Fun and insightful read, (and great photos!).

Everything is a trade-off, right? & the listen and act according (to one’s body) is everything. Conscious!

I gave up meat as of Jan 2014 (minus fish, which I love), and in compensating (and listening), I’ve been crazily hooked on beans.

This brand is a must try: “better bean” (betterbeanco.com). Particular love is for the uncanny refried black beans sautéed with serrano & habenero (for the spice lovers). Vegan, GF, made in Oregon, no preservatives. Give ’em a go! Even good cold when starvation and lack of heat is available 🙂

Food for thought – without diving into too many specifics, though trying to share a favourite semi-paleo-friendly option.

Positive vibes your way (& sunshine), Sloan

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