Forget the low-fat diets and statin drugs for heart health.
Dietician Cassie Bjork writing on Primal Docs offers 7 quick tips to naturally protect your ticker.
Here’s a brief summary of each:
Eat less refined sugar and fewer processed carbs. Both contribute to inflammation which can lead to heart disease.
Eat healthy fats. Choose good fat sources such as avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts (and for our primal friends, heavy cream and butter) – all to nourish and repair blood vessels. Try to pair a healthy fat with every meal.
Skip the inflammatory oils. That would include vegetable oil, canola oil, hydrogenated oil, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil and margarine.
Eat balanced meals. That means ideally getting the Big 3 with every meal: Healthy proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Support your heart health with supplements. You might want to consider CoQ10, fish oil, a quality probiotic and L-Glutamine – all can help reduce inflammation and heal your gut.
Relax more. Stress can increase your blood pressure, damage your arteries, produce irregular heart rhythms and weaken your immune system.
Give your heart a good workout. Instead of long cardio routines, the preferred paleo way is shorter and more efficient workouts – look into interval training, HIIT, or CrossFit.
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It’s Not Rocket Science…Get Started On Your New Paleo Lifestyle Right Now!
New to paleo and anxious to get going? Awesome! Here’s a simple, no-frills, quickstart guide to the paleo basics. If you could care less about the details and just want to jump right in, this will get you off to a flying start!
Stop eating processed foods of any kind. The same goes for grains, beans, dairy, refined sugars, soy or industrial vegetable oils. Ideally, eliminate alcoholic beverages. Coffee gets a pass for paleo – hold the cream and sugar. TIP: Clean out your pantry, refrigerator and cupboards of all of the above. Donate unopened packages to your local food bank, or toss them in the trash.
Start eating wholesome, unprocessed, real foods. These can include meats and poultry (preferably grass-fed/organic certified), eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Cook with healthy oils such as olive oil and coconut oil. Substitute ghee for margarine/butter. Remember to eliminate legumes (beans), white potatoes, corn, rice, peanuts and of course wheat/gluten from your diet. TIP: Check out some of my easy recipes for delicious, wholesome meals. Start out with the simplest ones. I strongly urge you to skip past the “Treats” recipes if you’re just getting started.
Go grocery shopping. Keep in mind paleo is an investment in your health and longevity. Eating higher quality food may mean you have to spend a little more at the supermarket. Hit the store with a list and buy only what you need. TIP:Avoid the center aisles of the grocery store and shop the perimeter. On a tight budget? Do what I do and skip unnecessary luxuries like your morning lattes and put what you save toward your paleo shopping trips.
Paleo is a lifestyle, not a fad diet. Commit to it for the long haul if you decide it’s right for you. (You should know that after giving yourself at least 30 days (more if necessary) to get into the Paleo groove.) TIP:I personally recommend starting your first 30 days eating only paleo-approved foods and meals, and NO treats – even if they’re paleo-friendly.
Exercise! TIP:Any physical activity from high-intensity interval training to weight lifting is good. CrossFit is popular with paleo peeps, but any exercise that gets you moving and your heart rate up will help increase your body’s metabolism and energy levels.
Get plenty of sleep. Most studies indicate between 7.5 – 8 hours of quality sleep each night is what you need to fully rejuvenate your body and mind for the next day. TIP:Do not ignore this step…the benefits of good sleep are amazing.
Get regular exposure to sunlight. It’s the best source of vitamin D for your body. TIP:Obviously, don’t overdo this. Adjust the time for you skin type and seasonal sun intensity. Fifteen minutes per day is a good general recommendation for most people.
Don’t freak out if you mess up and eat something that’s not paleo.TIP:Seriously, you’re attempting a lifestyle that may be radically different than your normal routine. Chances are you will slip up. Well so what, you’re human! Just shake it off and get back on track. Paleo can reverse years of poor eating and lifestyle habits…stick with it and you will soon start seeing the rewards!
Living the paleo lifestyle begins with choosing the right foods to fuel your body. Here’s a good starter list of paleo diet foods you can eat, and which ones shouldn’t be on your menu.
GOOD PALEO FOODS TO EAT
Meats – just about every kind of meat is paleo, with the exception of processed meats such as hot dogs, Spam, bologna, and so on. Choose grass-fed beef and free range poultry over grain-fed meats whenever possible.
Fish – freshwater and saltwater fish provide great nutrition for the paleo lifestyle. Avoid farm-raised fish and choose fresh-caught instead.
Eggs – eggs are paleo and rich in protein and omega3 oils. Choose eggs that come from cage-free/free range hens if possible.
Oils/Fats – minimally processed oils and fats are good for you on the paleo diet. Healthy choices include olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee and grass-fed butter.
Vegetables – almost all are perfect for the paleo lifestyle. Just avoid those higher in starch and lower in nutrients – especially white potatoes. Also note most legumes (especially dried beans) corn and peanuts are on the do-not-eat list.
Fruits – concentrate mainly on berries to avoid consuming too much fructose (sugar), especially if your goal is to lose weight on the paleo lifestyle.
Nuts – okay to eat, but do so in moderation due to some toxins and generally high omega6 content.
FOODS TO AVOID ON THE PALEO DIET
Processed/Junk foods – if it comes in a box, package, pop-top can or fast-food wrapper, it probably includes additives, preservatives, sugars, processed oils, or any number of things that add useless carbs and health-robbing ingredients to your diet. Think wholesome fresh food and steer clear of pretty much everything else.
Grains – wheat, rye, barley, rice, corn – all grains and products made from grain such as cereals and breads should be avoided following the paleo lifestyle.
Sugars – definitely no table sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, cane sugar and similar refined sugars that provide no nutritional value and can be downright harmful. Sweeteners that are better for you (but should still be limited to small amounts) include raw honey, coconut sugar, and pure maple syrup.
Vegetable oils – consuming heavily processed and chemically refined oils (corn oil, canola oil, seed oils) may cause inflammation and possibly lead to more serious problems.
Dairy – no milk, ice cream, cheeses, yogurt, pudding, and so on. We make an exception for grass-fed butter or ghee, however if you want to follow a strict paleo diet, avoid those too.
Soft drinks – no sodas, and it doesn’t matter if they’re “diet” – avoid them all. Get used to drinking pure water instead.
Fruit juices – most fruit juices are about the same as a glass full of sugar water. Enjoy whole fruits instead.
Legumes – most beans, particularly dried beans such as lentils and navy beans, contain toxins and other stuff that can be bad for your digestive system. This includes peanuts. Fresh green beans and peas are less toxic, and when cooked, are fairly benign.
Starchy vegetables – it’s best to avoid white potatoes and other similar vegetables which are higher in starch and lower in nutritional value. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with them, you’ll look and feel better limiting your intake of starch – especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
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Paleo is shorthand for Paleolithic. The whole idea behind the Paleo lifestyle is that our bodies (specifically our genes) are programmed to function best when we eat only those foods that were available through the Paleolithic Era, which ended about 10,000 years ago. Any new foods that popped up after that on the Neolithic menu and later, are pretty much taboo on the Paleo plan today.
The 10,000-year cut-off is significant because that’s about when those early hunter-gatherers began turning into farmers and started planting and harvesting crops. Before that, eating grass seeds (grains) would have probably been a foreign concept to them. Likewise milking anything. And chances are legumes (beans) wouldn’t have been served at the dinner table because those need to be soaked and cooked to dilute the naturally occurring toxins. And most modern-day Paleo devotees believe the ancient ones didn’t go around digging up tubers either (like potatoes and yams – although there’s some heated debate about this one). Of course, the Paleo plan rules out anything processed, from margarine to Big Macs.
On the Paleo diet, you’re encouraged to eat meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and eggs…basically whatever our distant relatives would have been able to scrounge up in the wilds to survive.
There’s some pretty good forensic evidence to back up the Paleo lifestyle based on the remains and artifacts of our predecessors. Compared to us modern humans today, paleontologists say our predecessors were taller, healthier, had larger brains, experienced less chronic disease, and had almost no tooth decay. Back in the day, the biggest threat to your life was cave lions or aggressive bands of humans rather than heart disease.
Along with the diet, most Paleo followers recommend exercising the whole body (mainly the short-burst kind of activity similar to what you’d get running around spearing a woolly mammoth) instead of spending endless hours on a treadmill.
Most Paleo practitioners also advocate getting regular sun exposure for the vitamin D, and a good 8 hours of shuteye each night.
Here’s a video that starts out with a good summary of the Paleo diet from Robb Wolf, the author of “The Paleo Solution” – keep watching beyond the first minute if you want to learn more: