The paleo diet promotes grass-fed meats for their lower saturated fat content and higher omega-3 fatty acids. However, cutting out dairy and grains can mean fewer fibre, calcium and energy sources.
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The paleo diet can be tailored to individual food requirements. “I often help people customize it, especially athletes and active people that need more carbohydrates for fuel,” says Pittsburgh-based Heather Mangieri, a registered dietitian, certified specialist in sports dietetics and author of Fueling Young Athletes. “Incorporating a few more complex carbohydrates—like oatmeal, potatoes and other whole grains helps to supply the extra fuel needed for activity, while still following a healthy eating plan and reaching personal goals. The key is eating what you need, and not overdoing it.”
“From my experience, most people who claim to be following the paleo diet are actually following a modified form of it,” she adds. “That’s okay, though, because following a strict paleo diet is not necessary to lose weight.”
The Autoimmune Paleo Diet
Variations of the paleo diet have emerged over the years. One adaptation is the autoimmune paleo diet. This is an elimination diet, which requires a person to remove foods from their diet one at a time to determine which foods specifically cause symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases. Here, eliminated foods are those which paleo diet proponents say are common offenders, such as grains and processed foods.
While research evaluating how the paleo diet impacts autoimmune disease is limited, there’s been anecdotal evidence of its benefits. Such was the case for Sarah Ballantyne, who has a doctorate in medical biophysics and is the author of The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body. She found that following the paleo diet significantly eliminated symptoms she experienced for years, such as irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, anxiety, migraines and eczema. After switching to the paleo way of eating, she also lost weight and slept better, she says.