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How To Tell If A Food Is Paleo
I get a lot of questions about whether a specific food is paleo or not. It’s tough to figure all of paleo out from the start, so I’ve laid it all out here.
Please note, that this is what would be considered a “strict” traditional paleo guidlines. There are variations (for fat loss, athletes, primal and autoimmune), but this is the most common one.
You can always download our app – paleo.io – but on the odd chance you don’t find something you’re looking for, here’s how you go about determining if a food is or is not paleo.
Hopefully with this post, we’ll not only show you what foods are paleo and what foods are not, but also how to think about paleo and determine if a food is paleo or not if it’s not specifically listed here.
Doing this, will not only help you implement paleo in a smarter, more effective manner ,but also give you more control over your diet, your decisions, and your life.
All grains – no matter their origin – are not paleo. Cereal grains, bread, wheat, and pseudo-grains.
They cause blood sugar spikes, inflammation and a host of other issues. Avoid them, plain and simple.
For more on grains, check out the following posts:
Eliminate dairy, especially processed dairy. Milk especially has a ton of milk sugar in it that messes up your hormones and your insulin levels (which affects fat storage).
Here’s the deal with dairy.
Soy isn’t paleo.
It’s a concoction made by vegans to make up for artificially limiting their protein intake that wreaks havoc on your body.
There are plenty of great paleo places to get protein. Don’t do it.
Legumes aren’t paleo, but you’re forgiven, if you’re not quite sure what a “legume” is.
We answer the question on legumes here (), but they’re pod-fruits – think peanuts, beans, peas, etc.
These have a lot of anti-nutrients and prevent your body from absorbing some of the beneficial nutrients that they do have.
Avoid Refined Sugar
Refined sugar, cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup are all non-paleo foods. Minimize them as best you can as they wreak havoc on your energy levels and your hormones.
Artificial Sweeteners, Vegetables Oils
Here’s the rule on artificial sweeteners. Don’t eat them.
Splenda, Sucralose, etc – avoid them all. They’re overly processed and not beneficial to you in the long term.
Same thing for vegetables oils (canola oil, corn oil, etc). Go with coconut oil instead.
If a food is overly processed, you should avoid it. In general, you can cut out the entire middle section of your grocery store on most days and be okay.
For more on this, check out the Grocery Store Donut Strategy.
What To Focus On
Okay, so talking just about what you can’t have can get depressing.
- Grass-fed Meat
- Seafood & Fish
Focus on eating those and you’ll be in the clear.
Rules To Live By
If you do end up looking at paleo foods and need help choosing between times, here are a few guidelines to help you make the best choices.
If It Doesn’t Go Bad – It’s Not Good
If your food won’t spoil, that means bacteria won’t eat it. If bacteria won’t eat it, that means you shouldn’t either.
If it has a shelf life of a couple months, go ahead and ditch it.
Quality Beats Quantity
When choosing a food, when you can, choose quality foods. They’re better for you, more nutrient dense and will give you more bang for your buck.
It doesn’t always mean buying grass-fed meat, but sausage from your local butcher shop is an exponentially better choice than run of the mill hot dogs.
Don’t Panic About Organic
If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about going organic from the start. Not all
If you’re going to start choosing organic, start with the dirty dozen (or the ones listed here).
The Dirty Dozen
For more on specific foods to focus on getting organic (if you choose to), check out this article.
Well, what about this food?
This post is meant as a FRAMEWORK to understand and implement paleo. It’s by no means comprehensive as there are hundreds of thousands of foods in the world, so we choose to address them by categories rather than by the individual food (and we’ve covered all categories).
In addition to this, we’ve built an app to help you answer this question on the go. We list over 3,000 foods in our database and have it reviewed by paleo expert – Amy Kubal – who reviews the work Robb Wolf puts up at RobbWolf.com.
That said, if you have a question on a specific food that’s NOT in the paleo.io database, email me and let me know.
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