Paleo Diet Food List: Why You Should Quit Grains

paleo diet food list

Today, the wonderful Chelsea Whitten joins us again, this time with a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. While I don’t personally agree with her take on eating grains (I’m not a big fan of paleo as a lifesetyle, but I do love all of the stuff on the paleo diet food list) , she presents a fantastic argument for a diet choice that obviously works. She’s in tremendous shape. And while I don’t see myself giving up my daily bowl of pre-run oatmeal, I can say that when I cut most grains out of my diet a few years ago, my weight loss surged and was completely sustainable. Now, enough rambling. Here’s Chelsea!

Of all my eating choices, this one is the one I get the most questions, guffaws, and ‘SHE CRAZY’ looks for. So I want to explain to everyone why I quit eating grains almost four years ago, and why you should too.

If you cut only one food from your diet, it should be sugar. If you cut TWO foods from your diet, it should be sugar and grains. You won’t miss them, as the paleo diet food list is very nutrient dense–and you’ll still get all the carbs you need from fruits and veggies (more on that later).

Why are grains so bad? Why are they banned from the paleo diet food list?

The human stomach is not designed to digest grains. Grains naturally grow with a hard outer shell (the ‘whole’ grain) that is trying to KEEP you from eating it. A grain doesn’t digest like a seed and come out the other side in a pile of poo, ready to grow a new plant like vegetables and fruits do.

It doesn’t want to be eaten!

Inside these grain shells are proteins called ‘lectins’ which irritate the gut and cause damage to our intestines, causing a condition known as ‘leaky gut’. If you’re imagining poop molecules leaking out of your intestine into the rest of your body, you’re picturing it pretty correctly. When the gut and intestinal walls are damaged, larger molecules than are supposed to be able to start getting out. This causes inflammation in your body.

Inflammation is BAD. Constant, chronic inflammation causes all sorts of problems in your body.  Every type of grain causes this, the worst offender being wheat which contains gluten.

The best analogy to think about is a fireman. Usually, a fireman is only called to duty once a twice per day for an emergency, then he gets to rest in between. Inflammation is like if the fireman had to fight little fires in trashcans all over the city, all day, in ADDITION to the big emergencies. This really wears on the guy (aka: YOU) and makes him more susceptible to illness, injury, and disease.

In a worst case scenario, your body will get to the stage of ‘autoimmunity,’ where it basically starts waging war on itself in the form of arthritis, eczema, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, or Hashimoto’s disease. This is why the paleo diet food list cuts grains completely out. Humans aren’t meant to eat them.

At the very least, you will see fewer achey joints, fewer and less severe colds and allergies, and have more energy! Who doesn’t want that?

But we’ve been eating grains all throughout recorded history? Haven’t we gotten used to them by now?

Banksy's caveman

If you don’t believe in evolution, I may lose you here, but try and stick with me. 10,000-12,000 years (the approximate carbon date of the first evidence of grains in the human diet) is hardly a blip in terms of human evolution. Homo Sapiens (modern man) have been around for nearly half a million years, and Homo Erectus (your average caveman) was around for another million and a half years before that, and it takes a LONG time for adaptation to occur.

Why do you think men still have nipples and we have those extra ‘wisdom’ teeth kicking around? Natural selection puts a priority on survival.

Being immune to grains, since it doesn’t really kill you until middle age or later, doesn’t matter for evolution because you’ve already had time to reproduce. Consequently, there is no great stimulus to evolve for better grain digestion.

If I don’t eat grains, where will I get my fiber and carbohydrates?

paleo diet food list - fruits and veggies

Fruits and vegetables provide plenty of fiber (as long as you don’t juice them) keep everything in your system ‘moving’. Not to mention, fruits and vegetables have FAR more vitamins and minerals in them than bread does. Also, fruit and vegetables have carbs in them! Plenty, in fact. The body does not need a lot of carbohydrates to run, and can in fact produce them itself, so fruit and veggies have more than enough to keep you going. Hence, grains being in absentia on the paleo diet food list.

What am I going to eat instead of bread?

The answering is: NOTHING. You do not need bread. You do not need pasta. You do not need rice. Vegetables, meat, soups, and sauces can all be eaten with these handy inventions called FORKS AND SPOONS.

Who should eat grains?

Birds. Just birds. No mammals are designed to eat grains, especially not humans or cows! Industrial cows who are force fed large amounts of grain gain a lot of weight and get VERY sick before they are slaughtered for food. Their stomachs, which are especially sensitive due to their complex digestion process, can’t handle the grains which is why industrial meat is pumped full of antibiotics and other drugs to keep the animals alive.

So what CAN I eat?

If you’ve ever had an omelet for breakfast, a salad for lunch, or steak and a sweet potato for dinner you’ve eaten grain free. Start with the basics. When you take grains out of a meal, add more vegetables. Eat fruit instead of cookies for dessert. Do it for a week or two and see how you feel. I have never felt better in my life!

B.J. Keeton

B.J. Keeton

B.J. is a geek, gamer, podcaster, and livestreamer. He has been the co-host of the Geek to Geek podcast since 2016, and he helped start the Geek to Geek Media Network. His biggest pet peeve is when someone spells Wookiee with only one E. One time, he told his friends he liked vegetables maybe more than he did Star Wars, and they made him put a dollar in the jar. That should tell you everything you need to know about him. Find him on Twitter as @professorbeej or on Discord as @professorbeej#1337.

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  1. Nazaniel

    This is the biggest load of pseudoscientific crap I have read in a while. The advertising (“sponsored posts”) were bad enough, but I have to say I’m not really interested in reading anymore.

    • B.J. Keeton

      I hate to hear that. I thought people might be interested in this one, especially considering how ubiquitous the whole “Paleo” thing is these days.

      I tend personally to disagree with the Paleo stuff myself because of what you mentioned. I’m outlining/drafting a post, actually, that discusses a lot of the Paleo buzzwordiness and sensationalism.

      I do think there’s something to be said regarding limiting grains, though, as I did lose a lot of my weight by cutting carbs and limiting my grain intake.

  2. Brad

    I’d like to what the qualifications of the author are on nutrition or human evolution for that matter? Does this person have a degree in either fields or is this a regurgitation of information?

    I’m glad that Americans are more concerned with their diets but I’m weary of unsubstantiated views.

    • Jennifer

      I get the feeling that this post is a summary of the basic ideas that are prevalent in current anti-grain literature (and as I said in my other comment, I really appreciate the summary). I, too, would like it if Chelsea were to give us a couple of links to scientific studies that back up the more specific claims about how the body responds to grains.

  3. Jennifer

    There seems to be a big anti-grain movement right now (I hear a lot about the book Wheat Belly, for instance). I’m pretty skeptical about the science behind most of it, because what I’ve seen is more speculative than empirical.

    However, I’m also a big proponent of “find what works for you, and screw the folks who tell you that there’s only one right way.” So if this works for some people (and obviously it works for Chelsea), then I don’t see how it could be bad idea to share (and I also appreciate having a summary of what the anti-grain movement is about). You haven’t lost anything if you try giving up grains and it doesn’t work for you. Now, whether grains are bad in general or whether there are just a lot of people with gluten allergies (or similar sensitivities) whose lives get better without grain, I don’t know. There doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all diet. Some people feel better without meat and swear that vegetarianism is what our bodies are built for, while others swear by a meat and protein based diet. I recently even stumbled across a movement that is arguing that most people are actually over-hydrated and that making yourself drink water when you’re not thirsty is bad for you.

    I guess my thinking is this: Try to be healthy. Cut out as much junk as you can, and try to eat natural food (however you define that) as much as you can. Other than that, listen to your body. If, like Chelsea, cutting out grains works like a magic pill that makes you feel better, then that’s obviously the best diet for you. If it doesn’t make you feel better, then there’s probably no need.

    • Chelsea W.

      As I stated in the beginning of the article ‘this is why I did it’. While I’ve done a lot if research on my own, and i am not a doctor or nutritionist of any kind, my personal experience trumps all. I feel great, and I honestly don’t care if no one else tries paleo with me (though I’m betting you’d feel better if you did). This article was originally written as a simple summation of what I’ve learned and links were not included because this was not the originally intended audience (i wrote this for a nutrition challenge at my workplace). However the basic ideas of inflammation due to wheat and other grains are all over the interwebs these days. I personally feel everyone should do their own research AND their own self experimentation to determine what feels good for them, be it Paleo or whatever. I will try to include some in a further comment later to get anyone who is interested started.

      Also I was recently corrected on one fact – men having nipples isn’t due to lack of evolution, in fact it’s something that forms in utero before the fetus becomes male or female. So on that I was mistaken! Always learning! Yay nipples!

  4. Chelsea W.

    Okay here are the links, as promised!

    First, this one explains the idea of “N=1” logic, which is basically the ‘try it yourself’ method:

    This is a medical paper describing “Leaky Gut” – ie, the ‘escaping poo’ I talk about in my article:

    Here is a medical paper focused on the affects of inflammation on Atherosclerosis and Obesity:

    This article was written by a biologist and popular ‘Paleo Guy’ on inflammation and the use of metformin but gives a really great (though technical) explanation of what inflammation is within the article (with pictures!):

    Lastly where I first read about and decided to try the no grain/paleo diet about five years ago was from a couple of nutritionists who run the website They also wrote a book titled “It Starts With Food” which I found to be very no nonsense, non-sensational, and well cited.

    While I do find that much of the Paleo world can be sensationlistic, most folks who find success with this way of living and eating are NOT in it for the caveman jokes. I would never let some folks perhaps overzealous enthusiasm keep me from learning about what it is and what it means (I avoided the Harry Potter books for years because of the hype and when I finally read them you know what? They kinda rocked.), and I certainly won’t let it keep me from feeling awesome. Cheers!

  5. ryan

    I hate when commenters are so quick to disregard someone’s blog post unless they are “certified” in this or that. We live in an amazing technological age where a plethora of information is instantly available. Granted, there is a lot of noise to filter, this article is not noise. I hardly EVER comment on the Internet. But I cringe at the increasingly self-absorbed selfie-taking digital hipster culture that is so quick to criticize and snub anyone whose ideas do not align with their own. So the author didn’t spend hundrends of thousands in student loans to get a ‘degree’ in ‘nutrition’. Because of course, anyone who has can always be trusted to be honest about studys and data, and would never take a bribe from a corporation (cough monsanto cough).

    You haters probably have no issue with GMO either, even though we don’t know the extent to the long term effects. Time is a funny thing. If I gave you a posion that killed you on day 10, you’d spend the previous 9 days saying ‘See, its harmless, give me more!’.

    It does not take a genius to understand America has a serious health problem. I argue it might even be the biggest threat to our national security. And to think the increase in sugar and grain based carbs (which is also just sugar!) isn’t the PRIMARY crux of the problem, you are either massively ignorant or complicit.

    Chelsea put in the time to do her research and compile the data from various sources, then shared her thoughts. She is not trying to sell you anything.

    Chelsea: keep writing objective, data oriented health articles.
    Ignoramus’s: go scarf down some donuts and linguine so Darwinism can run its course.

    • Chelsea W.

      Ryan – I appreciate your support and understanding!

  6. varsha

    my great grand mother who is 103 years old is healthy as a horse, she walks, cooks, cleans her house AND makes rice and curry for lunch and wheat roti (tortilla) for dinner with vegetables since she was 10 years old, it has been a part of her diet forever, she never had any sort of gut problem or any such issues you mentioned, she is a living proof of a healthy person who has lived her life eating grain, she lives in kerela India where rice is the staple food. i think that diet does play an important role in the well being of a person but only if you exercise as well, no matter what you eat everything should be in moderation. my grandmother still has good skin even though its wrinkled to some extent but she is healthy and i think its all because of her moderate healthy eating and exercising which she gets through her rubber and tea plantation maintenance.

  7. Chelsea W.

    varsha, inflammation affects all people in different ways, and obviously it doesn’t kill everyone (or there would be a lot less people around). For your grandmother, her symptoms may be slight (say achey joints or getting tired). It also sounds like she’s avoiding the most wheat in favor of rice (which causes less inflammation) and if she lives in India she probably eats a ton of vegetables and other healthy foods which help to decrease inflammation. Every person reacts differently, and it sounds like your grandmother has done a lifetime of N=1 experimentation to figure out what works for her!


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