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Given that you’ve found yourself on this page, you’ve probably heard about Paleo (Paleolithic), Primal, the Caveman diet – or even the Stone Age diet.  Call it what you will, what exactly does this lifestyle involve?

What is Paleo?

As I see it, there are three crucial and interwoven elements to Paleo:  Nutrition, Fitness and Lifestyle.  Individually, they are all very important, but personally I feel you have to focus on all three elements to achieve optimum health.

1.       Nutrition.

The basic philosophy behind Paleo nutrition is to eat as we have evolved to eat.  We have been eating meat and vegetables for millions of years.  Grain was only introduced to our diets 10,000 years ago.  Whilst that sounds like a long time, it is only about 333 generations.  Evolution doesn’t happen that quickly.  Over the three or four generations our diet has probably had more changes than ever before.  We have new foods which we’ve just never eaten before.  New foods which are not optimum for our bodies.  New foods which have undesirable results in our bodies.  In the same time period we have significantly increased rates of modern disease and obesity.  Coincidence?

Paleo nutrition completely omits these “foods”.  No grains or legumes.  Dairy is also often omitted.  On the menu: lots of good quality meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, eggs and a little fruit.  Simple!  So, what’s wrong with grains and legumes?

The Paleo Recipe Book

Grains

The short word “Grains” covers a lot of common foods.  In fact, for a lot of people on a SAD* diet, it seems to encompass the greater majority of their consumption.  Grains include wheat, corn, rye, rice, barley, oats, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and sorghum – and many others. These grains are used in many, many products.  Bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits, pastries, crackers – they are all made with grains.  The grain is the reproductive part of plant; it therefore needs to protect itself to enable future generations (Contrast this with fruit; which is designed to be eaten.  It’s digested seeds are consumed, then spread further to ensure future generations).  As protective mechanisms grains contain antinutrients i.e. phytates, lectins, and proteins.  This is our problem with grains.  Phytates bind to minerals, vitamins and enzymes preventing them from being absorbed in your body.  The Lectins found in grains have a significant impact in the gut, resulting in inflammation and poor absorption of nutrients – as well as insulin & leptin resistance.  Inflammation appears to be the cause of many modern diseases.  Gluten is another protein that causes a lot of problems and is found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, and oats (other grains have similar, troublesome proteins).  Whilst a lot of people may test negative for the autoimmune disease Celiac, there is evidence to suggest most people do not handle this protein well.  Gluten causes gut irritation and inflammation – a lot of people won’t even realise that their problems are caused by gluten.  Gluten has been linked to many conditions, such as osteoporosis, irritable bowel, cancer, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, migraines, autism and dementia.  Grains are converted to sugar, which requires insulin to bring down the blood sugar level in the blood.  High insulin levels result in inflammation and insulin resistance – which can lead to diabetes.  Consuming such a high carb load with every meal results in unstable, fluctuating blood sugar levels – this results in hunger which is satisfied by consuming another high carb meal.

Legumes

Lentils, beans (i.e. kidney, pinto, broad etc), peanuts (they aren’t nuts, despite the name), soy beans, garbanzos and chickpeas are all legumes.  Like grains, legumes too contain harmful substances such as lectins and phytates, inhibiting nutrient absorption and causing inflammation.  Raw legumes are toxic, so they need to be prepared (by soaking, rising, cooking, sprouting or fermenting) – however, preparation doesn’t entirely negate the harmful effects of the lectins.  Soy is particularly bad, since the phytoestrogens content acts like the female sex hormone estrogen.    This has been shown to have some damaging effects with healthy hormone functions.

Isn’t fat bad for us?

Fat is an essential part of our diet, from the right sources.  The completely wrong low fat, high carb message couldn’t have been more incorrect and damaging.  Fat should come from foods like avocado, nuts and coconut.  It is the refined SAD carbohydrates that cause problems, not the healthy fats.

If you’re wondering whether a food is a Paleo choice, as a general guide, the fact you have to ask usually means it isn’t.  Eat whole, local, organic food where you can.  Ideally meat should be grass fed, it’s more expensive, but well worth it.  Choose to make meals yourself instead of buying readymade food.  Avoid processed foods; real food doesn’t need ingredients.  If you go out for dinner, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and ask for them to tweak your meal.  It’s too important to be embarrassed to ask.  Make sure you know exactly what you’re eating, ask questions and educate yourself.

If you haven’t already, try it!

Everyone should try eating Paleo for 30 days.  After trying it for 30 days you’ll see and compare how different you feel, how your appearance has changed and how your energy levels have changed.  In the grand scheme of things, 30 days is such a small commitment – which could lead to amazing things.  There really is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

2.       Fitness

Fitness is something everyone should encompass as part of a normal, healthy life.  Paleo actively discourages chronic cardio.  Instead we should move as much as we can, every day.  Walk to work (throw in the occasional sprint), take the stairs, move!  Strength is really important, but this doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the gym every day, or acquire a body builder’s physique.  High Intensity Interval Training is great for increasing fitness and something I do regularly.  Hunter Gatherers would be perplexed to see modern man on a machine indoors, exercising for hours on end.  They wouldn’t perform any “exercise” for the sake of exercise.  Their exercise would all be as part of their lives – hunting animals, gathering food, perhaps even dancing as a social event.  They’d have certainly been doing this barefoot too!

3.       Lifestyle

Without getting the lifestyle factors right, it is extremely hard to get the nutrition and fitness right.  I think there is an argument that lifestyle factors may be the most important factor to leading a long healthy life.

Sleep is crucial, without regular, quality, sufficient sleep the body will not repair and rest.  Exercise will be harder and less beneficial.  Without sleep avoiding un-Paleo foods, is so much harder.

Stress is another big topic.  We evolved with stress prompting a flight of fight reaction (imminent danger from an animal perhaps).  Our stress now however is related to factors such as work or money.  The stress lingers – our cortisol is indefinitely raised resulting in many detrimental health implications.

Other lifestyle factors such as community, connectivity with outdoors and nature are also very important and can be undertaken from a Paleo perspective.

Most of the Paleo resources come from America and many are fantastic.  However, here in Australia and next door in New Zealand we have very few resources.  The aim of the Paleo Network is to bridge this gap and provide the resources to help Australia and New Zealand go Paleo.

You can find out more about me here

 *SAD is a commonly used acronym in the Paleo community used to refer to the “Standard American Diet”.  You know the diet; cereal for breakfast with skimmed milk, sandwich for lunch with low fat margarine on wholegrain bread, pasta bake for dinner made with a jar of reduced fat and salt sauce.  Yum.  I like to interchange the “American” in SAD for “Australian” or “Anglo”, as from my experience living in Australia and the UK; the typical diet is just as bad as America.






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What does Paleo mean to you?  How has it changed your life?  I’d love to hear your comments, below.


{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

kahiba October 26, 2011 at 9:06 pm

It’s been an amazing journey so far ( 3 months). I feel energized as though I had been suffering depression which has suddenly lifted. Love the food and the exercise. Never thought I would say that about exercise but my husband has joined me on this journey and we love walking together and just feeling so much better.

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Suz October 27, 2011 at 11:23 am

That’s great Kahiba! I read Nora Gedgaudas suffered with depression for years until she started a Primal diet. That’s great that the exercise is good too. Just think how you’ll feel in another 3-months!

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Rene January 27, 2012 at 9:35 am

For the past four months I have been doing the paleo diet, and to be honest at first it was really hard since (just like everyone else) to balance school, work and cooking. It, however, being repaid by feeling better and actually not liking the processed food such as cookies that at one point loved and would eat a package, now the sugar bothers me. :)

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Suz January 29, 2012 at 2:32 pm

That’s so good you persevered Rene! It’s so worthwhile!

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Ruth February 10, 2012 at 9:29 pm

I am so glad to find a down under website for paleo enthusiasts. I discovered this ‘diet’ while trying to find a dietary solution to my ulcerative proctitis and started it just after Christmas. I so regret not knowing about this decades ago (I’m nearly 60). I feel so good now – I am much more energetic, and niggling joint pains are gone. Alas, however, there has only been a small alleviation of my gastric symptoms and I don’t dare reducing the medication just yet.

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Suz February 11, 2012 at 4:51 pm

That’s so good to hear Ruth, well just think, at least you’ve started now – so many people never do! I’m sure the longer you keep at it, the more your symptoms will improve and the better you’ll feel.

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Elaine February 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Suz, I just discovered Bonah, organic meat packs delivered to your home. I just placed an order with the owner, to be delivered in Griffith. You may want to add it to your resources.
The web address is: http://www.bonah.com.au

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Suz February 15, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Thanks Elaine, that’s a great resource!

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Mike Parish March 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Hi Suz
Love your website. I have read Primal Body Primal Mind and listened to Nora in Sydney. I also own a health food shop in Dubbo. My wife and I have been on a paleo diet for about 3 moths now and feel great with more energy. We are making our customer aware of the benefits of a paleo diet.
Looked at your guide which is very helpful. One point that I picked up was the most of the meat in Coles and Woolies is grass-fed.
I managed large beef operations in the past and the last one was organic. I supplied feedlots, and there are heaps of feedlots and they contract to Coles and Woolworth. The majority of beef in Coles and Woolworth is grain-fed, they do this because they want a consistent product. They are also treated with hormones.
The best place to get grass fed beef is probably from butchers who mostly buy out of sale yards. A tip to tell if beef is grain fed,is to look at the fat and if it is white it is grain fed and if there is a light shade of yellow is is grass fed, from the beta carotene in the grass . It would be very rare to find hormones in grass fed beef in NSW, but common in Qld grass-fed beef.
I have heaps of info on the benefits of grass fed beef as opposed to grain fed beef, that I have collected over time.
Hope this helps.
Mike

There are grass fed groups starting up and once people become aware of the differences then we will see grass fed meat promoted in the supermarket. But at the moment it would be rare to find grass fed beef in them at present.

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Suz March 19, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Thanks for this Mike – very interesting, I’ve found it so hard to find out information about how cattle are fed – it just is not transparent!
I had no idea hormones differ between states either! I can’t wait until grass-fed meat gains in popularity.

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jillm April 19, 2012 at 11:06 am

Hi Suz. I found an interesting product called Babushka Organic Probiotic Kefir yoghurt recently. It is excellent. http://www.babushkaskefir.com.au/ Recommended. Regards, Jill

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Suz April 23, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Thanks Jillm, I’ve not see that before!

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Gill Q October 29, 2012 at 11:56 am

This product contains Inulin which can cause problems for some people. As well as a Paleo- dairy diet, I have to follow the FODMAP Diet which reduces intestinal responses to fructose, lactose, fructans, polyphenols etc that cause major problems for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease or other gut fermentation problems. The FODMAP Diet is easily dovetailed with the Paleo Diet, it just restricts some foods further, including yogurts that have added Inulin. There is a lactose fee yogurt by Liddell’s that has no added additives and is very palatable.

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Andrew May 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Just stumbled on the site. Good to see an Aussie among all the overseas info. My wife and I have been Paleo for most of this year. We have had dramatic results. When we ‘fall off the wagon’ we really feel the negative impact of the SAD diet.

Finding suitable food is always a challenge. If it helps for those in Victoria and nearby, a great place for grass fed beef is Milawa Organic Beef in North East Victoria. They do bulk lots of 25kg or more. Check them out at http://www.milawaorganicbeef.com.au. Looking forward to reading more. Thanks

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lordgman June 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Thanks for putting together this network and website, I stumbled on this today for the first time, I am half way through Primal Blueprint and gave up sugar 2 months ago, I regularly visit Mark’s Daily Apple.
It is really great to get involved locally (Sydney). I am going low-carb from this month and plan to go full paleo in a few months, I look forward to spending more time here.

-Guy

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Marg July 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Don’t know if this helps anyone but at Yarraman 2 hours drive NW of Brisbane, we have a local butcher (Frohles Meats) who does hormone free grass fed beef, and free range pork. We bought a side of beef and the butcher was very helpful, cutting some thin enough to make jerky. He also threw in 10kg of minced beef kidney fat for making dripping. We really appreciated the service.

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Jay Sempai October 4, 2012 at 2:58 pm

@Marg

Thanks for that info! Trying to source all the good Paleo suppliers here in Brisbane is not an easy task.

:)

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callmibree October 24, 2012 at 8:21 am

I have been on Paleo one month and have lost 15 pounds. I noticed today when I ate a hamburger bun, I had a major energy dive. I found it truly difficult to keep my eyes open in the early afternoon. I also felt suddenly irritable and teary-eyed. Do you think this was a direct result of the grain?

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Rowan B January 16, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Hey Callmibree,

I noticed when I went off bread for about a week, that when I had my first slice I had the same effect. Almost instant energy dive and sleepy.

Hope your all doing well.

Rowan

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Kylie Delaney March 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Hi, I live on the Gold Coast and am just starting on the paleo eating way with my family. I am just trying to purchase recipe books which are Australian as I think it will make it easier for me to understand. There are a number to purchase on the Internet but I am not sure which one will have foods that I will be familiar with. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks kylie

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Suz March 4, 2013 at 11:02 am

Hi Kylie, all of my books are Australian – have a look at the “Buy My Books” link in the bar at the top of this page!

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willem rethmeier May 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I will be starting Paleo in about 2 weeks.
At the moment I’m doing a 15 days juice fast and I’m on day 7 and feel fabulous.
20% fruit and 80% veggies .
I got in to the juicing watched the Joe Cross Movie.
W

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Christy May 24, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Hi guys!
My family and I have embarked upon the Paleo and are only on day 3 after much research and reading. Im looking forward to feeling great and feeling energised! Right now though, I find that I’m really hungry all the time, and afraid I’m eating too much. I feel I’m eating a heck of a lot of protein and afraid I will put on weight. My fourteen year old daughter is also whinging that she is constantly hungry given that we have eliminated all legumes, grains, and sugars (I have also eliminated dairy, but the kids still want a little, so I’ve allowed organic). Is this hunger just a craving that will pass? In the meantime, do we eat the higher amounts of protein and then reduce the serving sizes? I am trying to eat a palm size of protein at each meal, but find its not filling me and the kids are whinging! We are not wanting to gain or lose weight, just be healthier. There’s my novel, sorry guys!

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Debbie September 16, 2013 at 5:24 am

I started the paleo diet in April because of neuropathy in my feet(which I have had for 17 yrs). It is not due to diabetes but a bad back, degenerate of the spine. I woke up one morning and realized my joints no longer bothered me and I could bounce right out of the chair. I am also no sugar no dairy. I haven’t felt this good since I was probably 30 and I will be 60 in January. This is the only way to go. Yes it is more time consuming, shopping, cooking, planning but by far out weighs the cons.

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Anthony September 21, 2013 at 7:32 am

My partner and I started a Paleo diet six months ago. It’s made a huge difference to our health. I lost 10kg in the fist 3 months and have stayed at that stable weight ever since. As we sell grass fed beef and lamb at a Sydney farmer’s market we had been preaching the health benefits of good fats to our customers for years, but had never taken the plunge into eliminating grains. Both of us are never going back to not feeling god being the norm.

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