When it comes to overall health I have not yet found a diet that yields the same results as real food, and especially a paleo diet. I admit I'm not the most faithful paleo lifestyle liver, but I can say from experience that the more faithful I am to paleo the better my health. My digestion is better, my skin is clearer, my allergies are less severe, my joint pain is practically non-existant and I am closer to my ideal weight range the stricter my paleo lifestyle. I've seen a lot of misinformation out there on the interwebs about paleo, so this is my attempt to cover the basics of what to eat, the most frequently asked questions, and to point you towards some excellent resources that have more and better information than I.
What Do You Eat on Paleo?
Lots of real good food! Meats (preferably pastured, organic, humanely raised sources - it's better for the animal and for you, I promise), fish, eggs, lots of vegetables, fruit (especially berries - yum!), nuts, seeds and healthy fats (like olive oil, pastured ghee and coconut oil).
What Do You Not Eat on Paleo?
No grains. (That means no wheat, oats, corn, yes corn counts as a grain, etc. No quinoa either). No legumes (No beans, no peanuts, technically no green beans or peas - but those are in a grey area). No dairy, unless you tolerate it well - and then you should aim for pastured, organic sources - even raw if possible.
Is all that fat bad for you?
Heck no! It's all that sugar, not the fat, not even the saturated kind, that is killing you. Some fat is bad for you - trans fats are good for no one. I repeat - No One. Omega-6 fats (the kind you get from seed oils like corn and canola) are bad for you if not in balance with your omega-3 fats. Saturated fat is also good for you when it is in balance. (No it won't raise your cholesterol and give you heart disease - but sugar will).
Is all the red meat bad for you?
No. But if you're concerned about it you can always stick with poultry, fowl and plenty of fish! Not to mention lots of fruits and vegetables.
Where do you get your carbs?
From all those lovely vegetables and fruits! Paleo is not necessarily low-carb. Yes, you can make it low carb. (And if you have metabolic syndrome that's probably wise). But no, it doesn't have to be. Sweet potatoes, bananas, mangos and papaya are just some of the higher-carb fare that you are free to eat on a paleo diet.
Where do you get your fiber?
From all those lovely vegetables and fruits! (Really - and they come packed with many more nutrients and far fewer anti-nutrients than those whole grains that the food pyramid wants you to get your fiber from).
Okay, I'm interested, where can I find more information?
The two best books I've read on the paleo diet are Practical Paleo and The Primal Blueprint. Some other good ones include The Paleo Solution, Your Personal Paleo Code, Eat The Yolks and Primal Body, Primal Mind. For more info see below or check out these resources.
Here are some great websites and blogs on the Paleo Diet and ancestral health:
Marks Daily Apple (author of Primal Blueprint)
Whole 9 Life (authors of It Starts With Food)
Balanced Bites (author of Practical Paleo)
Here are some more books for both the science and recipes:
Make it Paleo
Paleo Comfort Foods
The Paleo Diet Cookbook
Primal Blueprint Cookbook
Good Calories, Bad Calories
It Starts With Food
It should go without saying that I am not a doctor and while I am a strong proponent of the paleo diet because I've seen it work first hand, I do not know your unique situation or medical history. Always consult a trusted physician before undertaking a new diet or exercise program.