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Expert Interview Series: Joel Runyon on the Paleo Diet

Paleo diet

Joel Runyon, founder of The Ultimate Paleo Guide, is passionate about the paleo diet. Why? Because it works.

“While a lot of people get wound up over the talk about cavemen, when you look at it from a biological perspective, it’s very clear how a paleo diet can help someone control their blood sugar, insulin levels and weight gain,” Joel says. “I’ve seen people lose 80-plus pounds on paleo and change their lives.”

And the best part is, the diet doesn’t force you to eat less; it just helps you focus on eating better.

We recently checked in with Joel to learn more about the benefits of going Paleo and get a few of his favorite dishes.

What is the Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet is a way of eating that’s inspired by how people ate before the advent of agriculture. This is sometimes referred to as the caveman diet. The list of foods you can eat is pretty straightforward: vegetables, meats, fruits, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds.

When and why did you start your site, The Ultimate Paleo Guide?

I started Ultimate Paleo Guide about three years ago. I was getting a ton of questions about paleo on my other site, Impossible, so I built a Paleo 101 Guide and it got very popular. I started to focus on the site a bit more and started to blog as well. Over time, we built out a ton of recipes, started a paleo meal planning service, and began a paleo challenge for people wanting to get started with paleo on the right foot. I found a few friends who were paleo-friendly as well, and it really became a community endeavor.

I’d be lying if I said I was 100 percent paleo 100 percent of the time; but I think the paleo diet is an incredibly healthy “baseline” for most people to start from (and then supplement as needed).

What are the benefits of going Paleo?

They vary from person to person, but a lot of people find that they have more even energy and normalized hormonal levels and tend to lose weight or maintain their ideal weight effortlessly. You also see people getting healed of autoimmune issues by eliminating stressors through the autoimmune protocol. Essentially, when you cut out the crap that’s around you on a day-to-day basis, good things happen.

What’s a typical day of eating look like on the Paleo Diet?

Again, this varies by person. A lot of paleo people tend to do intermittent fasting, which means only eating for a part of the day (and often skipping breakfast in lieu of a cup of bulletproof coffee). However, a lot of people do pick up some simple paleo breakfast ideas and have some eggs and bacon to kickstart their day.

For lunch, I’ll typically have chicken with some type of vegetables. I’m not the most amazing cook myself, so I’ll throw it in a pan with coconut oil, broccoli and garlic and that usually does the trick.

For dinner, I like to grill. If I got steak or fish, I’ll do that. I also am a huge sweet potato fiend, so I’ll toss those into my dinners quite often. In general, any carb-heavy foods are taken in through the end of the day.

What types of food should we be avoiding? Why?

Here’s a quick list:

Processed foods: Anything that won’t spoil. If it won’t spoil, it means it’s packed with preservatives and most likely sugar. Stay away from these.

Sugar: This is in everything and messes up both your blood sugar and insulin levels. This is the number one cause of weight gain and the reason why so many people are Type 2 diabetic in the U.S.

Grains: Most grains are just one step away from becoming sugar as soon as they enter your body. Most people don’t need to eat as many grains as recommended by the FDA (especially if they’re not active), and grains can cause digestive issues in a lot of people as well.

Dairy: Highly processed dairy is highly insullongenic, which means that it causes blood sugar spikes (which can cause weight gain). If you’re going to have dairy, stick to the fermented kind or grass-fed butter.

Legumes: This is more of a personal choice, but legumes can prevent nutrient absorption and they can also make you feel not-so-great (you know what I’m talking about).

This site has a good breakdown of what you can and can’t eat on the paleo diet. You can also get all this info in a handy paleo app we built called Paleo.io.

What do you think would surprise people the most about the Paleo Diet?

I think a lot of people are surprised at how big a part vegetables are to the paleo diet. Most people think it’s an all-meat, all-the-time diet; but it’s much more diverse and more plant-based than people truly give it credit for. I think when people realize that, then even people who don’t like paleo can understand it.

What do you think would surprise people the most about the typical American diet?

I think people would be surprised at how much sugar is in everything. The No. 1 reason people have trouble losing weight or getting healthy is that most mainstream food is designed to get you addicted via sugar. Even on the so-called healthy foods, the labels show they’re packed with sugar. That means even if someone is trying to get healthy and doing what they think they need to in order to eat well, they’re still eating some food that has a ton of sugar in it.

What are some of your favorite Paleo dishes?

We have a ton of paleo recipes and breakfast recipes available. I think some of my favorite ones are the simplest: typically, grilled chicken and/or steak with asparagus. I’ll also sauté anything I can get my hands on in butter.

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