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Foods That Are In on Paleo

THE SUPERFOODS

Paleo isn't just about excluding foods - it's about including nutrient-dense, whole-food sources of optimal nutrition. These superstars lead the way...

ORGAN MEATS

Offal, or organ meats, includes liver, kidney, heart - even brain, pancreas or what are known as 'sweetbreads'. These are the organs of animals, and as such are rich sources of the vitamins and minerals the organ used to perform complex metabolic processes in their animal of origin. This makes organ meats highly nutritious, easily assimilated by our bodies and wonderful sources of an array of vitamins and minerals fundamental to human health. Unlike animals' muscle meat, organ meats have a broader supply of amino acids (protein building blocks). Offal is perfect for human consumption with Liver being one of the most concentrated sources of Vitamin A, Heart supplying huge quantities of CoQ10 & Kidneys providing B12, selenium, iron, copper and zinc.

BONE BROTH

A phenomenal source of nutrients, filled with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Especially rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and a really important amino acid not found in many food sources: glycine. Renowned for being fabulous for joint and gut health, bone broth can be a mainstay of healing for many. Click on the link in the title to find out more - including links to instructional videos on how to make your own Bone Broth at home.

FERMENTED FOODS

The microbiome is all the rage these days. Whilst there is more that we don't know than we do, what we have come to realise is that bacteria are good for us. Compared to 'probiotic' pills, fermenting your own vegetables can provide unparalleled quantities of probiotic bacteria and prebiotic fibres, entirely suited to populating the human GI tract. To read all about this, click on the linked title...

OILY FISH & SHELLFISH

Salmon, mackerel, sardines (whole with bones), tuna, cod, carp, gurnard, halibut, sea bass, swordfish, trout, scallops, prawns, clams, mussels, oysters etc. Fish (especially oily fish) and shellfish are incredibly rich sources of nutrients. Shellfish such as oysters are renowned for their natural zinc content - and, of course, oily fish are rich in the Omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for both health and for the reduction of inflammation - meaning they are exceptional 'Paleo' foods.

SEA VEGETABLES

A rich source of micronutrients not otherwise found in the diet, sea vegetables (think dulse, kelp, seaweed etc.) are literally powerhouses of micronutrients: some containing more than 50 different kinds of trace minerals. They also contain B vitamins and both EPA and DHA Omega-3 fatty acids. AND they contain all four fat-soluble vitamins. You don't need much to get a whole lot of goodness from them and they work great as natural seasonings and bring variety to the Paleo table.

VEGETABLES

Not so much a single ‘superfood’, but the spectrum of vegetables contains a plethora of diverse nutrients and goodness. Despite what you may have thought, it is vegetables that make up the majority of any well-constructed Paleo diet (not meat, butter and cream). This is not because they fill you up on bulky foods with low calories. Instead, eating vegetables provides a rainbow of polyphenol compounds, tons of different micronutrients and all the fibre, both soluble and insoluble, that you need for good health. Vital for our cellular functioning, vegetables are also a mainstay because they perform a key role in feeding our ‘microbiome’ - the bacteria that live inside our gut which synergistically assist us with a host of processes which contribute to our overall health.

Want all of this information in a handy e-book / PDF guide? Just fill in your email to have the full Paleo Diet Ins/Outs & Reintroductions Guide emailed straight to your inbox:
 

THE REST OF THE DIET

Grass-Fed, High Fat Ghee (Clarified Butter – All Dairy Fat)

Ghee is clarified butter – basically butter which is heated and all of the residual dairy protein is strained off (a link to make your own is here).  What results is an entirely dairy-fat product which is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (providing it is made from grass-fed cows’ milk) and ratios of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) not found in other sources.

Grass-fed ghee were almost included in the “Superfoods” section, but dairy is a minefield (see our All About Dairy page) because dairy contains fats AND proteins, along with sugars and can be poorly tolerated for a host of reasons (including pasteurisation, quality of cows and any hormones or antibiotics remaining in the end product).  Therefore, it is safer to put it in the “include if tolerated” grouping here.

In the world of dairy, ghee contains little or no protein remnants (casein or whey) which are typically the inflammatory immune activators.  Additionally, it is completely free of the milk sugar, lactose.  Instead, what remains in ghee is the pure animal-derived fat source which contains a host of nutritional benefits, is low-glycaemic and is stable to cook with at high temperatures.  It also makes food taste amazing!

 

Animal Meat from all Sources

Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, duck, game, venison, goat, goose, pork, quail, partridge, rabbit, bison and buffalo (if you can get it!) – a wide variety of all meats is recommended and endorsed within a Paleo template. This is not about eating only meat – but including diverse sources of protein from many animals is a key part of a Paleo diet.  That said, this isn’t about being totally carnivorous and eating large amounts of steak at every meal.

Instead, the beauty of respectfully eating animals means that the whole animal is consumed. As you will see from the fact that Organ Meats are a Superfood whereas other meats are lower down the pecking order, there are very different benefits which come from eating different cuts of meat. Muscle meats provide certain amino acids, but it is by eating the whole spectrum, including the slow-cooked fattier, cheaper cuts, that you will allow your body to thrive using many different amino acids, nutrients and fat ratios.

Obviously, there are some caveats. To eat meat sustainably on a Paleo diet there are some considerations. The first is, as stated, don’t just consume prime muscle cuts of animals. The second is to prize the quality of the meat. ‘Grass-fed beef’ and ‘pastured chickens’ are phrases that you will see mentioned a lot.

This is not just a ‘nice-to-have’, it is a vital determinant of the quality of the meat you consume and therefore the nutrient profile within. For more on the meat question, head to the Paleo in the UK Deeper Science page where we have written about why the quality of your meat matters, about the links between red meat and cancer and about the sustainability of eating animals.

 

Fruit

Yes, you read that right, fruit is IN a Paleo diet. However, there are a couple of considerations.

If you are at all familiar with the more commercialised version of Paleo then you would be forgiven for assuming that Paleo is a low-carbohydrate diet, making fruit at least limited, if not completely ruled out. However, the real Paleo diet is macronutrient agnostic – and if you’re at all intrigued about that you can read our Paleo Purpose, Macronutrients & Weight Loss page.

So fruit is included but this does not mean that fruit is the mainstay of the diet. The reason for this isn’t so much anthropological but a reflection on the digestion and metabolism of fruit within the human body. Fruit is basically sugars packed alongside fibre. This means that it has varying degrees of effect on insulin, depending on the amount of fibre the sugars are packaged alongside. A Paleo diet is one of balanced nutrition, recognising that whilst we believe that there are still questions about the Insulin-Obesity Hypothesis, having stable blood sugar throughout the course of the day is a sensible idea for many metabolic, adrenal and overall health aims. This means fruit is good for us – but, as with everything, not to excess.

A last word on fruit would be on the variety and seasonality. When contemplating our access to food, the diversity of fruit in our supermarkets is perhaps furthest from what would be ‘natural’ to find. In the UK we can now obtain many exotic (incidentally, high sugar) fruits which would be impossible to grow on our shores. Moreover, we can access fruits which are native to the UK – but do so all year round. There are benefits to consuming seasonal and local foods, not just for the reduction in air miles. We will cover this topic on an upcoming Deeper Science article.  For now, suffice to say that the more organically grown (in both senses of the word, i.e. without pesticides but also ‘in their natural environment’) foods are always superior. They match the cycle of the earth, with which we would be wise to stay in tune. The more natural foods also tend to be richer in nutrients… which has the pleasant side effect of making them much, much tastier.

 

Eggs

Eggs become a real source of nourishment on any decent Paleo approach.  Quality matters greatly – and we endorse the consumption of eggs that are what the US would refer to as “pastured”. This basically means organic, farm-fresh, free-range eggs NOT from grain-fed chickens (or ducks, if you’re going for duck eggs).

There are several reasons for this quality stipulation – and it goes far beyond being ‘fussy’. Read our Deeper Science article to understand where these quality/grass-fed/pastured specifications come from, and why.

The simple version is that grain-fed chickens produce grain-fed eggs, and these are not as rich in amino acids, healthy fat ratios or any of the nutrients that make eggs such a fabulous food to eat. One of the richest sources of choline in the human diet, plus (when from pastured chickens) a good ratio of fatty acids, the egg is a really useful addition to a diet – and there is absolutely no need to worry about cholesterol.

A few words of warning on purchasing in the UK – ASK THE SUPPLIER about their egg-producing flocks. Whilst the term ‘free-range’ is good, it does not mean that the chickens are only fed grubs and worms. They could still be grain-fed at night etc. Realistically, farmers’ markets are your best bet and you may not be able to get totally ‘grain-free’ or ‘cereal-free’ eggs in the UK. If this is the case, try for the most organic and ‘natural’ you can get.  And here just to quickly mention why eggs are Paleo but not AIP – the reason for this is that eggs are one of the leading allergenic foods for humans. For more on the mysteries of egg proteins and the fact that they can act like soap to your cells (yes, really!) check out our “All About Eggs” page here.

 

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds are really good sources of protein, fats, even a little bit of carbohydrate… and they are very much included in a Paleo diet.  Multiple different varieties will have different micronutrient profiles, fat contents, fibre content and health benefits – with nuts being linked to everything from improved weight management, heart health, eye health and cholesterol management.

And yet, sometimes people take this too far and base their entire diet around nuts… nut flours… nut butters… nut milks… nut-based products to make desserts, treats, sweets, pancakes, cookies, muffins etc. etc. All the detail on how silly that can be for your health is detailed in the “Foods that are Paleo But…” section on our Grey Area page…  Beyond drastic overconsumption, however, nuts can make great snacks and ‘on the go’ foods whilst following a Paleo template.

 

A WORD OF CAUTION: PEANUTS ARE NOT A NUT, they are a legume – and for all about this, find details on our ‘Foods That Are Out” page.

 

Healthy Oils and Fats

Fats are both nutritious and vital for cellular function and brain health.  Cholesterol, from fat, forms the backbone of all of our hormones and a lynchpin in our physiological functioning. Fats make up the border of every single cell of our body and our lipid profile is essential for overall health on every level.

From a world where Fat was feared, the pendulum has definitely swung and we are now embracing fat. However, there are provisos when it comes to fat consumption.

The most whole and unrefined the fat is, the better.

Rendered animal fats are often the most stable. Ghee (above) is clarified butter, which is basically just the fat from milk (i.e dairy), but tallow, lard, bacon fat, duck fat and goose fat are other fats made by rendering the actual fat of the animal itself.

Then there are the vegetable fats such as coconut oil, coconut milk/cream, olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, sesame oil, walnut oil – and the list goes on. Each of these fats vary in terms of whether they are saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.

The science on these varying forms of fat always seem to end up with ‘variety’ being fundamental to health outcomes. Mainlining just one source of fat will ultimately skew the Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio inside your body and create repercussions. The one constant with fat must be the quality and the stability – so no old, stale oils which are likely to be largely oxidised (i.e. damaged). And absolutely NO trans-fats or hydrogenated fats. And please don’t consume fats that are heated to searingly hot temperatures and over their smoke point.

Beyond that, never be afraid of fat.  Fattier foods are always going to be tastier and probably a better way to get fats into your diet than adding fat to your food. However, because toxins are stored in the fat of animals, if your meats are poorer quality you may wish to consider using a leaner cut instead and adding supplemental, good quality fats to your meal during cooking or at the end. Whilst Paleo is not a ‘high fat’ diet, there is absolutely no prejudice against this being one of the most satiating and nourishing macronutrients for overall positive health outcomes.

 

Herbs and Spices

Using all varieties of FRESH herbs and spices liberally completely changes both the flavour and the nutritional profile of your food. These ‘flavour-enhancers’ are actually more packed with chemical compounds, nutritive stimulants and health-boosting properties than you might imagine. Of course, you only use small doses, of ‘seasonings’ but plant medicines are powerful. Whilst we’re not suggesting use of the more psychedelic plant medicines, the essence of herb and spice usage is the same: nature’s compounds are often beneficial for us, for many physiological processes, not all of which we fully understand.

Whilst it doesn’t quite fit in this section, mention must also be made of SALT. There are large debates about the salt consumption of Palaeolithic man, however it has been shown extensively that whilst added salt was incredibly low in the ancestral diet, the salt content of the foods eaten was actually high (including all the fish if close to the sea, but also the organ meats of all the animals consumed). This means that we encourage the idea of becoming a salt connoisseur whilst following a Paleo diet, with each salt offering a slightly different flavour – and nutrient – profile.Himalayan Pink Sea Salt and Celtic Grey Salt are some of our favourites but each month different salts are becoming more widely available. ABSOLUTELY ditch the homogenised and chemically treated ‘table salt’, but do seek out these fancier crystals because they are a fabulous source of micronutrients.

 

Fluids

Water, preferably filtered, is always a good choice. Should you drink gallons and keep a water bottle on you at all times? Probably not, actually. Whilst hydration is key there are many theories about optimal hydration. Drinking to satiate thirst is always a good rule of thumb – and preferably with fresh, toxin-free water stored in containers that don’t contaminate it (i.e. not plastic).

But other fluids might include nut milks (without additives, sweeteners or emulsifiers), coconut water – again, unsweetened, numerous herbal teas, coconut milk… but then there’s the questioned fluids.

Coffee gets a lot of media attention, with some people starting their day with the now infamous ‘Bulletproof Coffee’ (basically coffee with added fat). However, coffee is a stimulant, an adrenal booster, has effects on blood pressure and heart rate, can be addictive… and is also not friendly to the immune system (particularly for those with existing health conditions). For more on the ins and outs of coffee consumption see our “All About Coffee” page and also our “Paleo Reintroductions” area. What we can say though is that coffee should never become a dependency. If you can’t function without your coffee, we’d highly recommend trying to come off it – at least for a little while – to understand how well your body is functioning unaided.

Tea is actually a ‘Grey Area Food’ for us, simply because it still contains caffeine which directly affects energy and cortisol rhythms.  It can be a powerhouse of beneficial compounds, but it can also be an adrenal prop.  Which role it is performing for you will determine the role it plays in your health – and like the aforementioned coffee, if your energy and vitality are built upon the foundations of a caffeinated beverage we would recommend that you find sustenance and support in the superfoods above, rather than in these sources of artificial ‘energy’.

A WORD OF CAUTION

The ‘RULES’ pages of Paleo can read a little bit like a prescription – and they are supposed to: we are providing the basic understandings of what’s on and off the Paleo table.

However, always, always bear in mind that Paleo is a TEMPLATE – and the above ‘rules’ define the outline of this way of eating.  If you’re unsure about what Paleo really is, do read our “What Is Paleo” page, and if you’re at all confused as to “Why Paleo”, please check out our “Paleo Purpose, Macronutrients and Weight Loss” Page.

In reality all humans are different and what your ultimate “Healthful Diet” will be will depend entirely on your individual circumstances. It also must be combined with an overarching understanding of incorporating nutrition into a whole Paleo Lifestyle.

Nothing here is meant to trigger controlling, restrictive behaviours. Paleo really is designed to help you heal from inflammation and provide yourself with stable foundations from which you can experiment with and enjoy food that’s healthy and nourishing, for you.

A WORD OF CAUTION

The ‘RULES’ pages of Paleo can read a little bit like a prescription – and they are supposed to: we are providing the basic understandings of what’s on and off the Paleo table.

However, always, always bear in mind that Paleo is a TEMPLATE – and the above ‘rules’ define the outline of this way of eating.  If you’re unsure about what Paleo really is, do read our “What Is Paleo” page, and if you’re at all confused as to “Why Paleo”, please check out our “Paleo Purpose, Macronutrients and Weight Loss” Page.

In reality all humans are different and what your ultimate “Healthful Diet” will be will depend entirely on your individual circumstances. It also must be combined with an overarching understanding of incorporating nutrition into a whole Paleo Lifestyle.

Nothing here is meant to trigger controlling, restrictive behaviours. Paleo really is designed to help you heal from inflammation and provide yourself with stable foundations from which you can experiment with and enjoy food that’s healthy and nourishing, for you.