What is Paleo, anyway? There are a lot of definitions, some more robust than others. This Paleo Diet Summary Introduction has a pretty good overview of the concepts, and a lot of good references, to boot.
My current focus is eating real food. No grain, pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, refined sugars. No legumes or dairy. No soy, and that includes soybean oil. ...shopping mostly around the edges in the grocery store. And venturing into farmers' markets in search of locally grown produce and pastured beef and chicken.
MEAT! VEGETABLES! FRUIT!
Not so bad. I eat eggs, chicken, sausage, bacon, fish (admittedly from a can at times), all kinds of squash, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, green beans, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, okra, berries, apples, oranges, nuts. I use olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil and coconut milk. Lots of spices. I drink coffee and tea. And an occasional glass of wine. Or two. But only once (or twice) a week. And dark chocolate - 85% or 90% cocoa. Exceptional stuff.
I don't eat dairy right now...I'm new to this and letting things settle out. I do miss cheese. If it works out well, I'll probably add that back in moderation. I don't eat legumes, including peanuts or anything made with soy..
I'm not 100% "pure" in this, but that's ok. I'm working on developing eating patterns and habits I can maintain for the rest of my long, healthy, happy life.
Why am I doing this? I followed Atkins for quite a few months, dropped some pounds and was doing okay. Working with my wonderful trainer at Efficient Exercise. More muscle...stronger, more energy...all that good stuff. But my clothes were not fitting quite like I wanted and I couldn't always ignore my cute little muffin top anymore! (Ok, it wasn't cute, and it wasn't particularly little, either)
My trainer Keith Norris said, yep that's the diet part. He's gung-ho Paleo and believe me, he and his beautiful wife Michelle Curtis Norris are walking testimonials. He talked to me about the systemic inflammation a "modern" diet can cause and the resultant problems, including possible links to Alzheimer's. That got my attention. You've heard that saying "It's not the years in your life, but the life in your years"...well, I want lots of both, thank you. Yes, I'll have MORE of THAT!
I toyed with the idea for a couple of months, read some, ate a farewell cookie and began the journey.
The more I learned about what devious, dangerous things grains are, the easier it was to leave them alone! And I'm not just talking about the outward evidence (refer to muffin top above) but also all the other sneaky things that can happen as a result...metabolic disorder, auto-immune issues, etc.
So what is it about grains, and to a lesser degree, legumes and dairy? In a word...LECTINS.
Lectins are in a class of molecules called glycoproteins (molecules that contain a protein and a sugar) and are found in many many plants and animals, including human animals. Foods with the highest lectin activity include: grains, legumes, (which includes soy and peanuts), dairy, nuts, and nightshade plants which include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers.
Lectins are not broken down in the regualr digestive process. Because they are "sticky" molecules, they glom onto the gut lining. Once attached, some lectins trick other molecules to carry them directly through the intestinal lining. This move damages the intestinal lining, and allows other large molecules (partially digested foods, toxins) to enter the bloodstream. This is the genesis of leaky gut syndrome.
Once in the blood stream, these sticky molecules are free to attach to other tissues, like those in your kidney, pancreas or thyroid. Out of the intestine, attached to otherwise healthy tissue, these big old undigested protein molecules continue to trick our bodies because they look like invaders - viruses, etc.. Our bodies attack these "invaders", and the healthy tissue to which they are attached. This sets the scene for a host of auto-immune disorders and food sensitivities.
Oh, and did I mention that grains contain phytates that tightly bind to metal ions, like clacium, magnesium, zinc and iron? That means these metals can't be absorbed by the body.
Short answer? Not really. But that's why I'll pass on the grains, on foods made with soy products, etc...If you're interested, try some additional reading:
On the web:
The Low Down on Lectins (Mark's Daily Apple)
Why no grains and legumes? - The Paleo Plan
Lectins-A Little Known Trouble Maker
Food Lectins in Health and Disease - An Introduction
Books (you remember those, don't you?)
The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet Robb Wolf
The Primal Blueprint Mark Sisson