Firstly, paleo is a really bad name for this "lifestyle". It is NOT a diet! It is a way of life, a lifestyle. Diets are too hard to stick to, restrictive in nutrients, very unhealthy, and the body will adapt and change to the lack of nutrients and actually start putting ON weight! But that's another topic...
Critics of the paleo lifestyle get carried away with the name, saying that our paleolithic ancestors were lucky if they lived for 30 years, and this shows that paleo is useless and just another dangerous fad diet.
So what really is paleo all about? The main ideas behind this lifestyle are:
1) Eat organic foods (uncontaminated by toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers etc)
2) Buy or get foods locally, fresh from your own garden, or farmers markets - so you know they have not been in storage for 2 years or lacking in nutrients, and don't have a high "carbon footprint" by needing to be transported long distances
3) Eat seasonal foods - they are cheaper and fresher, again not likely to have been in storage
4) your money goes direct to farmers, not a pitiful percentage that the supermarkets pay them
5) sustainable production of foods.
That all sounds good right?! Yes!
What is confusing is that there's no one paleo diet either! There are many variations on this theme. The is also a misconception that paleo is high in protein (ie, meat), or low in carbs - which is also incorrect. Generally, however, what is true is that the foods allowed in this lifestyle include:
1) grass-fed meats
2) organic and fresh vegetables and fruits
4) nuts and seeds (except peanuts which are actually a legume!)
5) healthy fats and oils.
This is a "whole food" lifestyle!
Foods that are not recommended include the following:
1) grain-fed meats
2) whole grains and any grain products (breakfast cereals, breads, bakery products, pasta etc)
3) legumes (beans, lentils, soy, peanuts)
4) dairy products
7) processed foods (and packaged foods)
8) refined vegetable oils (canola, margarine, and other nut/seed-based oils).
There are no set rules about this lifestyle, as it is flexible, and you can occasionally have other foods without feeling guilty about it! Critics of the paleo lifestyle (ie dietitians in particular) jump up and down that you can't remove a whole food group (such as grains) from their unhealthy, corrupt and industry-funded food pyramid model! With paleo, you don't miss out on any nutrients, as the lifestyle allows for substitution of common foods with healthier alternatives, such as nut milks instead of dairy, and healthier nuts and seeds instead of grains. There's nothing in grains that you can't get from other foods or food groups! Actually I don't necessarily recommend cutting all grains as some are better than others. It's mainly wheat and corn that I recommend avoiding.
There are very good reasons why paleo is a good nutrition lifestyle to follow, but it does depend on which variation you look at. Paleo can improve your health, help you to lose weight and reduce various symptoms that you may be experiencing.
The reasons for the exclusion of certain foods will take too long to explain but some are found in my blogs or articles here. More information on the paleo lifestyle will be coming in early 2016 as I am putting together a paleo seminar and workshop where you can find out more! Please let me know if you are interested in learning more about the paleo lifestyle in my upcoming seminar or workshop!