The Paleo Diet is more of a pattern of eating than a set diet. The goal of Paleo is to mimic the conditions we presume early humans had for food sources. Specifically, our ancestors from the Paleolithic era, which was roughly 2.5 million years to 10,000 years ago. This is thought to be a hunter and gatherer stage where no food sources were processed. There wasn’t much farming being done. And all of our food came from what we could catch ourselves.
The overarching belief is that our ancient ancestors from this time period had much lower rates of many of the chronic conditions that plague our society today. conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc.
When is the last time you saw a morbidly obese person in a cave painting?
Proponents of the Paleo Diet submit that eating a diet akin to what we feel our ancestors ate will eradicate many of the diseases that run rampant in our modern society simply by going back to when we ate only the food that we caught or picked. All-natural and nothing processed.
It is a common belief that many of the foods we consume today are the main contributing factor to these diseases.
In this article, we will break down the Paleo Diet and talk about what it is, how to follow it, the pros and cons of Paleo, and some Paleo FAQ.
Let’s get after it!
Paleo Diet Rules
The main rule that you must follow with the Paleo Diet is that you don’t consume anything that’s been processed. I know that this is a game-changer for many folks. But the fact that giving up all of the processed foods that you love is hurting your feelings so much as you read this is a terrific indication that you might be in need of something like this in your life.
To put it very simply, if a caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you! Our society has absolutely gorged itself on garbage foods for far too long. Almost everything we eat nowadays is highly processed with a plethora of ingredients that not only don’t bring nutritional value, but actually negatively impact our health!
One of the main rules of the Paleo Diet is that you have to stay away from refined sugars, grains, dairy, and legumes. This means nothing that comes from a box or can. So say goodbye to your fruity cereals and instant hamburger meals. No more TV dinners and mac and cheese lunches. Bye bye to the cinnamon rolls and nacho cheese tortilla chips.
I know it’s a tough pill to swallow. But you got in this situation by swallowing these types of foods in the first place. So now it’s time to do something about it!
One the Paleo Diet your meals will consist mostly of fresh meats, fish, poultry, veggies and fruits. So this means you will be eating whole foods. If you can spring for organic produce, then even better. Grass-fed, organic meat options are your optimal choice when it comes to your meats and proteins. Yes, these can get expensive. But think about all the garbage you’re NOT putting in your shopping cart and throwing your money away on things that are detrimental to your health. Instead, focus on the fact that you are fueling your body with the foods it is adapted to running on.
Benefits of Paleo Diet
Eating Clean Feels Great!
One of the first benefits of the Paleo Diet is one that I don’t think a lot of people talk about. And that’s how you actually “feel”. There’s just something about the way eating all-natural foods makes you feel that our modern way of eating overly processed foods strips away. You just feel cleaner when you eat things that don’t come out of a box!
Processed foods are incredibly high in sugars and additives that give us a false sense of feeling satiated and energized. We eat these foods and get an instant boost of energy, followed by a sudden crash, which makes us reach for another box of manufactured garbage to give us that next kick in the pants. It’s a vicious cycle that is downright bad for us. And one that we need to start avoiding.
When we replace the processed junk with all-natural food choices, our bodies just feel better. We don’t have the up and down constant roller coaster of energy spikes and crashes. We naturally feel better and our energy levels are more consistent.
Paleo Diet Weight Loss
Numerous studies done on the Paleo Diet have shown that you can absolutely lose weight on the diet. For example, one study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014 compared the effects of a Paleo Diet to a more traditional low-fat diet. The study was conducted on 70 obese women who were postmenopausal. After 6 months, the group that was consuming a Paleo Diet lose an average of 14 pounds while the group that consumed a more traditional low-fat diet lost an average of 6 pounds. (http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v68/n3/full/ejcn2013290a.html)
The fact that Paleo Dieting restricts processed foods is most likely the biggest contributing factor to the weight loss that people have found on this diet. Modern processed foods have contributed so much to our weight gain and obesity epidemic that it’s downright criminal. We have essentially traded our health for convenience. Look, I know it’s not easy to make your meals without looking at the side panel of a box for instructions. I get it. But this is exactly what has caused us to be a nation of fatties that stuff our faces with stuff that doesn’t benefit our bodies at all.
By removing those options for us the Paleo Diet will naturally help us lose weight.
Another big benefit to the Paleo Diet is that it has been shown to prevent factors that contribute to heart disease. A study that was published in Diabetologia compared the Paleo Diet to the ever-popular Mediterranean Diet and focused on glucose tolerance (how quickly the body clears the glucose from the blood), insulin levels (which are contributing factors in ovesity), weight loss, and waist circumference. This study took 29 males with heart disease and high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes and split them up. The study lasted 12 weeks where 15 followed a more Mediterranean Diet and 14 followed a Paleo diet. The Paleo Dieters saw a very large improvement in glucose tolerance compared to the Mediterranean Dieters. While both groups did lose weight the Paleo Diet group lost 11 pounds on average and the Mediterranean group lose 8.4. The Paleo Diet also won out in average waist circumference loss, coming in at 2.2 inches compared to just 1.1 inches for the Mediterranean Dieters. These are all factors in contributing to heart disease. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00125-007-0716-y)
Diabetes is something that is plaguing us and the sad thing is that it’s something that can absolutely be prevented. A study that was published in Cardiovascular Diabetology in 2009 focused on how the Paleo Diet compared with a typical diabetes diet. This study tool 13 people that had type 2 diabetes and split them up into the two diets for 3 months. The folks who followed the Paleo Diet lose an average of 6.6 pounds more and 1.6 inches more off of their waist than the people following a typical diabetes diet. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2724493/)
It has long been known the blood sugar levels are something that contributes to a ton of negative effects on the body including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. A study done on 32 folks with type 2 diabetes uncovered that consuming a Paleo Diet for 12 weeks saw an average improvement in blood sugar levels and enhanced insulin sensitivity by 45%. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27235022)
Possible Cons of Paleo Diet
I know, I know…the Paleo Diet is very restrictive, and that is something that many people can’t jive with. You are basically eliminating two food groups from your diet. While there are obvious benefits to removing these processed foods, some whole grains and legumes are considered to be excellent sources of fiber, vitamins and nutrients. You will want to get these vital nutrients from other sources, whether it be the foods you do choose to eat or from supplements.
The other food group that you are eliminating is dairy. While many people have digestive issues with dairy, it is still considered widely to to be great sources of calcium and protein, which are very important to have in your diet. Again, you can get these from other sources, but you can also use supplements as well.
Another possible drawback of the Paleo diet is in the pocketbook (is that even a thing anymore?). You are basically sticking to the produce section and meat counter with the Paleo Diet. And we all know that these tend to be the priciest corners of the grocery store. When it comes to Paleo Diet costs you have to weigh what is important to you. Is eating a healthier diet more important to you than the convenience of eating processed foods brings (even though you know these foods are literally destroying you)?
The other factor when it comes to cost is what you are giving up. Many folks can’t see the forest through the trees and only want to focus on what they are paying for instead of looking at what they are NO LONGER paying for. Yes, you may be shelling out a ton of cheese on fresh fruits and veggies, but you are not shelling out any dough on grains, dairy, or any of the processed foods that weigh down most grocery carts at the checkout.
One of the other complaints that some people have is the cooking. Let’s face it, if it doesn’t come out of a can or a box with a nice set of instructions on how to quickly whip it up, a lot of people simply don’t know what to do with it! With the Paleo Diet consisting of all-natural food sources, you will have to put your chef hat on and be able to mix it up in the kitchen a little bit. While I personally love that aspect of the Paleo Diet (as with many other diet options), some folks really don’t like to get their hands dirty in the kitchen and this may be a little bit of a deterrent.
It’s really all in your mindset. If you are a Negative Nelly and only think about what you’re giving up, what you think you can’t do (cook), and how much money you’re spending, then you might have a few problems with the Paleo Diet. But if you think of it as how much of a healthier way of eating it is, how fun it might be to try to learn how to cook, or how much money you’re going to save by not buying crap that’s not good for you, then you might just think that Paleo is not such a bad thing after all.
So get your mind right!
What to Eat on Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet is pretty simple to follow. You just have to think “if a caveman couldn’t get their paws on it, then I can’t eat it either.”
Foods to Avoid on Paleo Diet
- Refined sugar
- legumes (including beans and peanuts)
- processed foods
- sugary caffeinated beverages
- vegetable oil
- canola oil
Paleo Diet FAQ
What is the difference between Paleo and Keto?
Both Paleo and Keto focus on eating whole food sources and are both great options for those looking to lose weight and eat an overall healthy diet. The main difference between the Paleo Diet and the Keto Diet is in the macronutrients. While the Paleo diet is very specific in eliminating food choices (such as grains and dairy), the Keto Diet focuses on macronutrients and making sure you are cutting your carbs while increasing your fats. Paleo allows a lot of fruits that are frowned upon when following a keto diet since some fruits will provide an insulin response, thus knocking you out of ketosis. The Paleo diet does not focus on reaching and staying in ketosis.
How to get started on the Paleo Diet?
The best way to get started with the Paleo diet really depends on you. One train of thought is to start restricting the foods that you are going to be eliminating gradually. Some folks prefer to just jump in without dipping their toe in the water and go all out, cutting foods all at once. It really depends on you and whether you think you will be able to eliminate foods all at once or would like to wean your way off the naughty foods first.
What can you drink on the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet does not allow anything with added sugars or other additives which are prevelant in most of the beverages we consume today. This kind of makes sense because, let’s face it, we don’t see any cave drawings of Diet Coke cans anywhere so it’s safe to say that our ancestors from the Paleolithic era were not indulging in the occassional fructose beverages we have become accustomed to today. Some things you should get used to on the Paleo Diet:
- herbal and matcha tea
- coconut water
- bone broth
- unsweetened sparkling water
- black coffee (in moderation)
Why no legumes on Paleo Diet?
Legumes are high in phytic acid which binds to nutrients in your food and actually prevents you from absorbing them. While legumes are not “bad” for you, you are restricting your body of some of the major foods that you are most likely accustomed to eating. If you replace those foods with a heavy dose of legumes, you might be restricting the amount of nutrients you are going to be getting from the other food sources (meats and produce) that are on the Paleo Diet.
What does the Paleo Diet do to your body?
In the short term you may have a little bit of a let down in energy and mood since you are so accustomed to getting your energy from sugar. This is normal and something to be expected. But it won’t last long, and if you have what it takes to break through it and stick to eating Paleo, you will reap the benefits it has on your body such as increased metabolism, reduction of your appetite, and weight loss.
The Paleo Diet is something that is supposed to mimic the way our ancestors ate in the Paleolithic era. When our food sources were dependant upon what we hunted and gathered. It relies on eating all-natural foods such as meats, poultry, seafood, fruits and veggies.
There are no processed foods. No dairy. No grains. No legumes.
The benefits of the Paleo Diet might just be worth giving up those food groups if you are looking to eat a healthy diet and lose some poundage or inches of your waist.