There are a lot of popular diets currently doing the round of fitness circles, online forums and nutritionist offices namely Atkins diet, ketogenic diet, military diet, low-fat diet, low carb diet, vegan diet etc. But a diet that is getting very popular along with the ‘Ketogenic Diet’ is the ‘Paleo Diet’. There’s a lot of curiosity regarding this diet and it is generating a lot of queries among people seeking weight loss and fitness enthusiasts and health fanatics. Here we are going to provide a comprehensive guide regarding the ‘Paleo Diet’ which will answer most of the questions that you may have regarding this diet.
What is Paleo Diet?
The word ‘Paleo’ is derived from the word ‘Paleolithic’. ‘Paleolithic’ was an era in human history which is also known as the ‘Stone Age’ that occurred around 2.5 to 2 million years ago. This age is associated with the steady development of stone tools, bone artifacts, paintings and wall engravings and rock-sheltering. This was the age where humans or ‘homo sapiens’ developed their tool making skills and became skillful hunters. So Paleo Diet clearly refers to the diet plan based on the diet pattern of ‘Paleolithic Age’. That is why this diet is also sometimes known as ‘the stone age diet’, ‘the Paleolithic diet’ or ‘the caveman diet’.
Definition of Paleo Diet:
The Paleo Diet is a nutritional approach that solely focuses on eating nutritionally dense foods which were available and eaten by humans in Paleolithic Times only. You need to know that humans hadn’t developed or discovered farming/agriculture at this age of human evolution. So the main staple foods of their diet consisted of animal meats, seafood, raw fruits, leafy greens, seeds, available nuts etc.
Therefore, people on the paleo diet aren’t supposed to eat anything processed, humanely grown & developed, or anything that was not available during the caveman times.
Basics of a Paleo Diet:
As you already know by now that in this diet, you are not supposed to have any food item on your plate that a caveman also didn’t have on his plate. This diet doesn’t require you to keep a calorie count and you are allowed to eat until you’re full and contended. It can help you lose weight, gain muscle and get in shape as well and is generally considered convenient for people who do not like to count their calories which most of the diets require you to do. In simple terms, it is a no grains, no sugars, no processed foods diet.
How does the ‘Paleo diet’ works?
Researchers and advocates of this diet believe that our DNA is still inspired from our ancestors, the cavemen and our bodies still haven’t adjusted to the agricultural produces that we are consuming at a very high level. Paleolithic times didn’t allow the huge sugar spikes that a modern time does. Therefore, this diet is great to make our body work at its optimum levels.
There’s a lot of debate among researchers about the benefits and implementation of a ‘Paleo Diet’. Some researchers believe that it is alright to mix in modern ingredients to this diet while some researchers simply prohibit anything remotely related to agriculture and manufacturing. We believe that if you are following a diet plan, you need to follow it properly. Therefore, we recommend following a strict caveman diet if you are interested in this diet.
If you notice the images of ‘homo sapiens’ during the Stone Age and the modern times, there’s a considerable difference in the appearance. The humans during that age appear to be much athletic, agile, muscular and versatile as compared to average humans nowadays who are overweight, pale, unhappy and suffering from so many diseases in spite of having better medical facilities.
Many nutritionists and researchers have attributed the alarming levels of “Obesity” to the change in our diet and the inability of our body to adapt properly to grain and sugar based diet. So the Paleo Diet is an effort to go back to the eating ways of our genetic predecessors and start living a healthy and fit life as our processors used to do.
The Paleo Diet Rules
There’s generally only one accepted rule of a Paleo Diet which was already mentioned above – no sugar, no grains and no processed foods. You also need to avoid eating fried/junk food, rice, pasta etc. You are encouraged to eat to your heart’s fill in this diet but your food generally comprises of animal meats, seafood, green vegetables, nuts and seeds with healthy oils like olive oil and coconut oil for an extra dose of healthy fats. You’re also not supposed to go overboard with fruits as they can give you a sharp sugar hike if taken in a large quantity. You’re encouraged to eat as many vegetables as you want though.
Paleo Diet Food List
The Paleo Diet encourages eating food straight from mother earth like our ancestors did. Therefore, fresh meat, fresh vegetables & fresh fruits form the staple of a Paleo Diet Plan. Also note that our ancestors from the Stone Age didn’t have livestock or crops, therefore, it is advisable to eat grass-fed and organic varieties of food whenever possible to limit the pesticide and other related chemical exposure from the food. Although it is not the norm, the accepted/average breakdown of calories for a Paleolithic diet is – 50% calories from fats, 30% from proteins & 20% from carbohydrates. But these figures change as per your need and food availability.
Humans from Stone Age also didn’t consume dairy after a certain age like other animal species. So dairy is also prohibited by many experts of the Paleo Diet. Here are some of the foods items recommended for the Paleo Diet
Proteins: Although cavemen seldom ate fowl or poultry and hunted some of the species which might be extinct today, which supplied them with good quality protein and healthy fats which we might not have access to. So we have to make the best of the situation. Therefore, it is encouraged to consume grass-fed meat as much as possible and organic seafood. Unfortunately for vegans and vegetarians, meat is the primary form of protein recommended in this diet.
Fats: Although cavemen didn’t eat fats separately, their meats provided them with healthy doses of omega-3 and monounsaturated & some saturated fats as well. Nutritionists recommend getting fat doses through Nuts, Seeds, Olive Oil, seafood, avocados and grass-fed meat.
Carbohydrates: Fresh fruits and vegetables should be the primary source of carbs in this diet and they are also super-rich in antioxidants, vitamins & minerals. Sweet potatoes are also allowed as a carb source as they have primarily grown in the wild and they are not processed like grains and they are also a great source of complex carbohydrates. Another thing to note about vegetables is that they are extremely satiating and nutritionally dense. Case in point – a full serving of broccoli has around 30 calories and 6-7 grams of carbs while a single serving of pasta has around 200 calories and 50 grams of carbs.
Here’s the complete list of foods to eat and avoid in the Paleo Diet –
Foods to eat
Foods to avoid
|Meats – beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork||
Grains: bread, pasta, wheat, rye, barley etc
|Fish & seafood: Salmon, trout, shrimp, shell fish||Legumes: Beans, lentils and many more|
Eggs: Free-range, pastured and omega-3 enriched
|Dairy: Most dairy especially low fat kind|
|Vegetables: broccoli, kale, leafy greens etc.||Sugars: Soft drinks, candies, pastries, ice-cream etc|
|Fruits: Apples, bananas, pears, avocados, blueberries||Processed foods: foods that come packed in a box or packet.|
Carbs: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips etc
|Vegetable oils: Soybean oil, cottonseed oil etc|
|Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin & sunflower seeds||
Trans Fats: Found in margarine and various processed foods
Healthy Fats & Oils: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados
Artificial sweeteners: sucralose, Saccharin, aspartame etc.
As far as beverages go, water is the most preferred drink in the stone man diet but herbal tea and coffee is also not prohibited as long as they are not taken with sugar or dairy. You can add natural sweeteners like stevia or honey if you’d like. You are also advised to avoid all types of sugary drinks and alcoholic drinks.
Benefits of a Paleo Diet:
Now that you’ve learned the basics of a Paleo Diet and the Paleo Diet food List, let’s discuss the advantages of the Paleolithic diet. There are numerous health benefits of a Stone Age diet some of which are mentioned as under:-
- Clean Diet: It is the cleanest of the diets as it emphasizes on pure, chemical-free meats and foods. Your body is certainly bound to work at an optimum level when it is consuming a diet without additives, preservatives or chemicals.
- Anti-Inflammatory: Paleo diet encourages consumption of nutrient dense foods and healthy fats consisting of the correct amount of Omega-3s and Omega-6s. These omegas help in reduction of inflammation in our body which can increase further as we age. Also, this diet eliminates the four major culprits of inflammation in our body – dairy, gluten (from grains), sugar and alcohol. This may also result in lesser allergies.
- Sustained Weight-Loss: This is probably one of the prime reasons that most of us start the Paleo Diet in the first place and research has proved that this diet does provide the benefit of sustained weight loss in the longer run. This weight loss might be due to nutritionally dense food consumption that keeps us satiated for a longer duration or any number of reasons.
- Increased Energy: In this diet, you are eating foods with low glycemic index (foods whose sugars are absorbed slowly by the body) which give a sustained energy over a longer period of time and may help avoid the energy crashes that we suffer during the day.
- Boosts Immune System: This is perhaps the most incredible health benefit of the Stone Age diet and it happens due to increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. These fruits and vegetables contain vital vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. This results in an increase in the body’s capability to fight off diseases and germs, thereby, strengthening the immune system.
- Reduced Risk of diseases: Studies have shown that the Paleolithic diet increases insulin sensitivity thereby reducing the chance of diabetes. It also greatly improves lipid profile (which is cholesterol in layman terms) and this, in turn, decreases the risk of heart diseases and other cardiovascular diseases. With proper fuel for the body, you are also more likely to sleep better. It also promotes better mental health due to the increased energy, physical fitness, and better sleep.
- Eco-Friendly Living: The Paleo diet encourages organic, locally produced and seasonal foods, which arguably if not better for you, are certainly better for the environment and their producers. Plus fewer toxins in the food mean fewer chemicals in your body and lower chemical print on the environment too. This eco-friendly approach also acts as a natural detoxification of your body which promotes health from within.
Negative Effects, disadvantages or Cons of the Paleo Diet:-
- Expensive: This diet can be expensive than the regular diet as you are consuming grass-fed meats, fresh seafood and organic fruits and vegetables. Consuming these types of foods can be rather expensive but if you consider the health benefits of an organic diet, they far outweigh the costliness of the diet.
- Not fit for Athletes: Most of the athletes spend a large amount of energy during their workouts/sessions. They need to consume large quantities of carbs to get the energy levels flowing. Therefore, this diet might not be ideal for athletes and hyperactive individuals.
- Difficult for Vegetarians: As this diet contains meat as the primary protein source and prohibits dairy, legumes, and beans, therefore, it is very difficult for vegetarians to follow this diet in a healthy way.
- Restrictive Diet: This diet can be very restrictive as you are only allowed certain types of foods to eat and most of the diverse food items (grains and legumes) are prohibited. Therefore, it is very difficult to adopt this diet as a lifestyle and many people jump off the diet after a few weeks or months. You need better focus and resolve to follow this diet.
- It’s Impossible to completely follow this diet: This diet is called a caveman diet but it is very difficult to maintain this type of diet in the modern lifestyle. For starters, our ancestors didn’t have access to chickens and cows in the wild and they probably hunted animals which are long extinct now. Many of the plants which thrived back then are extinct now as well which makes it impossible to truly follow their meal plan.
As with most diets, it generally works for some people and does not work for some people. In our opinion, the Paleo diet is a very impressive diet and has far greater benefits than disadvantages. But there’s no point in reading this article if you’re not going to implement this diet in your lifestyle. We recommend trying this diet for at least 30 days and see if you find results as you desired (you will if you follow it properly). You can always extend it for further 30 days to enhance the benefits and see the transformation in your body.