Thinking About Going Primal/Paleo for the New Year: What Does That Entail?

Going primal/paleo is about adopting a new lifestyle that emphasizes building new habits to clean up our diet, exercise more optimally, have better sleep hygiene, and learn how to manage the stress in our lives. It focuses on adopting an ancestral health approach. 

Embracing a primal/paleo lifestyle means we apply ourselves to mimic the way our ancestors lived, as reasonably as possible, within our modern world boundaries. 

We want to eat whole foods rather than processed foods, get enough exercise and low-intensity movement throughout the day, get adequate sleep, and minimize stress triggers on top of learning how to better handle overall stress. 

It is important to carve an optimal lifestyle for ourselves that works along with our ancestral roots, not against them. 

So What About the Food?

When it comes to the primal/paleo-approved foods that are okay to eat for most people, here’s an overview of the main staples you will want to have on hand (as highlighted in The New Primal Blueprint, by Mark Sisson):

  • Baking ingredients: coconut, almond, or other nut flours, tapioca starch, and arrowroot powder.
  • Beverages: water, unsweetened teas, full-fat coconut milk, or unsweetened almond milk (great for smoothies).
  • Coconut products: butter, flakes, flour, milk, and oil offer medium-chain fats; good substitutes for dairy, refined vegetable/seed oils, and wheat flour.
  • Dairy: raw, fermented, high-fat, and organic products are best (cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, kefir, whole milk, yogurt) –  to eat in moderation.
  • Dark Chocolate: my favorite snack/treat! It has to have a cacao content of at least 75 percent, ideally 85 percent or higher.
  • Eggs: local, pasture-raised, or certified organic for high omega-3 content. If you buy eggs from pasture-raised chickens, the yolk is going to have a deep-yellow/slight orange color. This color is a sign of a nutrient-rich egg.
  • Fats and oils: I like to use avocado and extra virgin olive oil. Coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and animal fats (bacon grease, chicken fat, lard, tallow) are best for cooking.
  • Fish: wild-caught from remote, pollution-free waters. Small, oily, cold-water fish are preferred: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring (SMASH). Certain farmed fish are okay (domestic Coho salmon, trout, and some shellfish – not shrimp). Check the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch ( for up-to-date recommendations.
  • Fruit: locally grown (or wild), organic, in-season preferred. Berries are best as they are low-glycemic. Go strictly organic with soft, edible skin fruits. Moderate intake of higher glycemic fruits.
  • Meat and Fowl: local, pasture-raised, or USDA-certified organic. If you must eat conventional meat, choose the leanest possible cuts and avoid consuming the fat as it is where some of the meat toxins are stored, not in the liver. 
  • Nutritious carbs: go for abundant vegetables, low-glycemic fruits, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, sweet potatoes, yams and other starchy tubers, quinoa, and wild rice.
  • Prebiotics: cooked and cooled white rice and white potatoes, green bananas, raw potato starch.
  • Probiotics: fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, and yogurt, and even dark chocolate!
  • Snacks: berries, avocados, canned sardines, dark chocolate, hard-boiled eggs, jerky, nuts, olives, seeds, and other high-fat and/or high-protein, low-carb primal food.
  • Vegetables: locally grown, organic, in-season is best. Opt for strictly organic for large surface area (leafy greens) and soft edible skins. Eat the rainbow!

To get a nice sum-up of the above list of primal/paleo-approved foods, you can check out my post about The Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid.

Happy New Year!


Sisson, Mark. The New Primal Blueprint : Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy. Oxnard, Ca, Primal Blueprint Publishing, 2017, pp. 480–1.

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Nuts and seeds: an awesome whole food

In a previous post, 12 “On-the-go” Healthy Snack Options, I had mentioned nuts and nut butters as one of those easy snack options to have on hand. Nuts and seeds are a great way to curb any hunger throughout the day. They can make great salad toppings, and their flour can be used instead of the traditional refined flours or breadcrumbs, just like in An Italian Meatball Recipe, Paleo-Style.

Fun Fact: Peanuts are not nuts, but legumes.

Nuts and seeds: why they are good for you

Nuts and seeds provide:

  • Protein
  • Fatty acids
  • Enzymes 
  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

Nut butters

Nut butters pair well with cut-up raw vegetables, dark chocolate squares, or say, a slice of bread made with almond flour. The best nut butters are raw and cold-processed, with no added ingredients besides salt. I usually go to Thrive Market to buy nut butters.

Sidenote: Buying raw nuts and seeds is best. Next would be dry roasted. Make sure there are no vegetable/seed oils or added sugar.


It is recommended to keep nut butters in the fridge. The same goes for nuts and seeds and their flours: put them in the fridge or even the freezer for long-term storage. Nuts and seeds can be kept for approximately six months, and up to a year if they are still in their shell. If you detect any “rancid, oily smell or discoloration,” do not eat them. As nuts and seeds have a hard protective shell, buying organic is not a must with these.

In summary

When eating primal or paleo, nuts and seeds are great nutrient-dense options. They are delicious on their own and when paired with other healthy foods. My personal favorites are pistachios and walnuts. Just make sure not to overconsume them. We want to watch our consumption of healthy omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (like in raw nuts and seeds), as we want to strive to have an omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio under 4:1, as mentioned in my post about Why We Must Consume Omega-3 Fats. To buy a variety of nuts, is a great site to check out.

So head to your favorite online store and enjoy one of the best snacks ever!


Sisson, Mark. The New Primal Blueprint : Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy. Oxnard, Ca, Primal Blueprint Publishing, 2017, pp. 220-23.

—. The Primal Blueprint : 21-Day Total Body Transformation. Oxnard, Ca, Primal Blueprint Publishing, 2016, p. 116.

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In my blog post on how to source beef, I briefly mentioned the Primal Blueprint food pyramid. The Primal Blueprint food pyramid outlines which types of foods someone should consider eating when wanting to eat according to the ancestral template. The bulk of any meal is vegetables. In smaller quantities then comes meat, fish, fowl, and eggs. The middle of the pyramid highlights the importance of consuming healthy fats, followed by certain foods you can eat in small amounts. Lastly, herbs, spices, extracts, and supplements top the pyramid of primal-approved foods.


Vegetables should be diverse and of many different colors. You want to “eat the rainbow,” as they say. It is better to buy locally grown fresh produce and organic. To know exactly how to pick vegetables and fruits, please see my blog post on what to buy organic. Also, an awesome book to read on how to select and prepare vegetables and fruits is Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health, by Jo Robinson.

Meat, fish, fowl, and eggs

Protein intake comes in second, as opposed to what many assume regarding the paleo/primal diet. Good-quality meat and fish is essential. It’s all about quality, not quantity. Here again, local (and pasture-raised) is the best pick, then buying organic is the next best choice. You can learn more about how to source beef, fish, and eggs by checking out my previous articles on these topics.

Healthy fats

Consuming healthy fats and only healthy fats is non-negotiable. This includes the fats used in cooking which should be solid at room temperature (coconut oil, butter, ghee, animal fats), except for avocado oil. Extra-virgin olive oil would be used more for drizzling over food and for dressings. Healthy fats also include foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butters, coconut products, etc. My blog post What are ketones? outlines the benefits we get out of consuming healthy fats.

Moderation foods

The foods to eat in moderation are most fruits because they can bring up your blood sugar quite a bit (except for certain berries) and “nutritious carbs” like sweet potatoes, squash, quinoa, and wild rice. High-fat dairy (raw, fermented, and unpasteurized) is also okay in small quantities provided it is well-sourced (from pasture-raised and grass-fed/grass-finished animals). That means none of the conventional dairy products we find in supermarkets. Dark chocolate is an okay treat too, but it has to be 75% or above, cacao content-wise.

Herbs, spices, extracts, and supplements

Herbs and spices are a great addition to any dish and they offer a host of benefits. They say it’s like having a small medicine cabinet in your kitchen. Of course, organic and mold-free is highly recommended for these. Certain supplements are usually fine to add too as even the best quality foods we can find nowadays offer fewer nutrients compared to centuries ago (or simply decades ago). To find out which supplements might be beneficial to you, you must consult a licensed professional that can help you figure this out after carefully studying your lab work results. 

In summary

This sums up the types of primal-approved foods you want to focus on when eating according to the Primal Blueprint template. Keep in mind that even these primal-approved foods may not work well for everyone. It is up to you to experiment and see how your body responds to each food you consume. To be more attuned to your body and how foods make you feel on a daily basis is part of becoming more knowledgeable about your health and overall wellness.

Sisson, Mark. The Primal Blueprint : 21-Day Total Body Transformation. Oxnard, Ca, Primal Blueprint Publishing, 2016, pp. 101-122. 

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As I have mentioned previously about the state of being in mild ketosis during the day, which implies the use of ketones, now might be a good time to further explain what the use of ketones to fuel our energy levels really means, as opposed to being traditional “sugar burners.” First, a couple of quick, simple definitions to help you understand this topic better:

Glucose = A type of sugar, main source of energy for most people

Insulin = A chemical excreted by the pancreas to transport sugar into the body’s tissues

Ketone bodies = A type of energy source produced in the liver as a by-product of fat metabolism

A traditional “sugar burner” is mostly fueled by the glucose provided from any carbs eaten. When we eat, the hormone insulin kicks in to dispose of the nutrients, which are now in the blood, and send them wherever they are needed. If we eat too many carbs (healthy or not), quickly after a spike of energy, we feel tired because (among other things) a lot of insulin has to be produced to dispose of this excess sugar. Ever wonder why you felt like taking a nap after that lunch you had? That’s the spike of insulin talking. If we are “sugar burners,” we have those ups and downs on a regular basis throughout the day.

Now if we start to consume more healthy fats throughout the day and limit our carb intake, we don’t have to deal with all those ups and downs that excess sugar and overproduction of insulin trigger. Isn’t it a nice thing not to feel like taking a nap after lunch, especially when we can’t? Healthy fats keep us more satiated for longer periods of time.

So we have the healthy fats that we consume and we have the ketone bodies, both to fuel our energy levels in a more linear fashion when we become fat-adapted. Eating healthy fats means consuming foods like avocados, olives, nut butters, certain oily fish,  grass-fed butter or ghee, coconut oil, MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oils, extra-virgin olive oil, and avocado oil.

Ketones are a by-product of body fat that is tapped into if we fast or if we limit our carb intake to a bare minimum. If we are keto-adapted, we can use those ketones (we are in ketosis) but, if we are “sugar burners,” those ketones are close to useless. MCT oils are the only oils that also increase ketones in the body, such as the Brain Octane oil I blend in my coffee. MCT oils are processed right away by the liver, so a surge of energy can be felt pretty much immediately, especially if consuming C8 MCT oil. This is another way to increase ketones in the body and reach a state of mild ketosis without literally having to fast.

Being able to utilize ketones as fuel to power ourselves each day is an awesome tool at our disposition to better our lives.


“Ketosis Is the Mostest.” Head Strong: the Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster-in Just Two Weeks, by Dave Asprey, Harper Collins, 2017, pp. 98-105.

The Primal Blueprint: 21-Day Total Body Transformation, by Mark Sisson, Primal Blueprint Publishing, 2016.

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