Most people have heard of the Paleo diet, but few know what it really means. For starters, the term “diet” in this context is a little misleading. When someone announces that they are on a new diet, we assume that their eating plan will be temporary. But Paleo is far beyond a diet plan – it's a lifestyle.

Here is the Paleo diet roadmap:

EAT: Meats, Fish, Eggs, Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts, Seeds, and Oils

AVOID: Grains, Legumes, Pasteurized Dairy, Processed Foods, Alcohol, and Starches.

Paleo is short for Paleolithic, which history buffs will associate with the caveman times. The Paleo diet is based on evolutionary biology: generally speaking, our biochemistry and physiology as human beings have not changed since the end of the Paleolithic era, which was only about 20,000 years ago. So we have inherited our genetic makeup from times long before modern-day agriculture and food manufacturing introduced many new foods to our consumption patterns. Paleo suggests that a return to the eating habits of our ancestors is the surest path to health.

Paleo is about eating intuitively and optimally given the genetic composition of our bodies. It is about having food work for you, and not putting strain on your body by having to filter out food that is not beneficial. This is perfectly logical when it comes to processed foods, refined sugars, preservatives and other obvious “bad” foods, but what about commonly recognized “good” foods like whole grains and dairy? The problem lies in the poor bioavailability of these food sources. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a nutrition source that is absorbed by the body for use or storage. So, although a food source may contain beneficial nutrients, whether our body can really break them down for digestion is another story.

Let’s look at grains. It may come as a surprise that the human body has not adapted to digest grains. When analyzed, grains do contain beneficial vitamins and nutrients. However, grains also contain toxic anti-nutrients: gluten, lectins, and phytates. Because our bodies do not accept these anti-nutrients as useful, it filters them out of the body before the majority of the beneficial nutrients can be absorbed. For a portion of the population, this results in painful bloating, gas, and upset stomachs. As for those beneficial nutrients? A large, healthy salad will do the trick.

The dairy story is similar. Take note, however, that not all dairy is the same! Pasteurized dairy is to be avoided on Paleo because it has been heated to a high temperature to kill harmful bacteria. The fact that this dairy source was toxic to begin with is the problem: heating also kills the natural “good” bacteria in the food source that aids in digestion.

Above all else, the Paleo diet is about eating in a way that best serves your body and its nutritional needs. Whether your goals are increased fitness or improved health, the Paleo diet will help you achieve them.