There is a lot of hype about the “paleo” diet. It was the world’s most popular diet in 2013.
But there is also a lot of confusion about what it is. What can you eat or not eat? Are there any health benefits? Is it a fad? Is it right for you?
Just to be clear, I don’t label myself to be on any particular “diet”. But I think it can be useful to look at some different options available to see if all of some aspects of it are appropriate for you and your goals.
What is Paleo?
As background, the name “paleo” is from the “paleolithic” time when earlier humans (thousands of years ago) were hunters and gatherers. It is thought to represent the era of nutrition before agriculture.
The main principles of the diet are to:
- Eat lean animal protein
- Eat a large variety of fruits and vegetables
- Get a large portion of fiber from non-starchy fruits and vegetables
- Eat a moderate amount of mono and polyunsaturated fats relative to saturated, with an equal amount of omega 3 and 6
- Eat foods with a high potassium content and low sodium content (i.e. fruits and vegetables)
- Eat a diet with a net alkaline load (i.e. lots of fruits and vegetables)
- Eat foods rich in plant phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (i.e. fruits and vegetables)
Did you notice how much emphasis is on fruits and vegetables?? A lot considering the paleo diet has a reputation is that it’s all about the meat.
What Can I Eat on a Strict Paleo Diet?
The paleo diet was created to increase the amount of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods; while reducing the number of refined, gut-disrupting, hormone-disrupting, and inflammatory foods.
And there is actually a pretty wide variety of food to choose from in the paleo diet.
You can include fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat (including organ meats), seafood, healthy fats, fermented foods, herbs, and spices.
The paleo diet excludes processed and refined foods (e.g. sugar, vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, etc.), grains (e.g. wheat, oats, rice, etc.), dairy, and legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, peanuts, etc.).
Is there a Modified Paleo Option?
Of course! You can take any “diet” available and make it your own to suit your own bio-individuality. The paleo diet can be thought of as more of a “template,” rather than a strict set of rules.
Either strict or modified paleo is an eating style that can be easy to maintain, and with little to no negative side effects. There is no measuring or counting of calories or carbs. And there are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods to choose from.
Many proponents of the paleo diet even encourage experimentation by adding a few of the (healthy whole) foods on their list of exclusions. High-quality dairy, quinoa, or legumes may be added in moderate portions to less restrictive forms of the paleo diet.
Does the Paleo Diet Have Proven Health Benefits?
Several clinical studies have been done to find out whether there are health benefits of eating this way.
Some of the research has shown that the paleo diet can help with weight loss and belly fat. That alone may be reason enough to give it a try.
It can also have a positive on several chronic diseases. For example, it can improve risk factors for heart disease. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, improve glucose tolerance, and even reduce symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.
It’s also thought to be “gut-friendly” because it includes a lot of high-fiber foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds), fermented foods (which contain gut-friendly probiotics), as well as being full of nutritious whole foods.
Who Should Consider a Paleo Diet?
Some people recommend the paleo diet for those with autoimmune diseases. And those at high risk for heart disease or diabetes may also be good candidates to give the paleo diet a try.
If you react to gluten or lactose, this diet removes them both by eliminating all grains and dairy.
Even if you don’t choose to go paleo, the elimination of added sugars, processed and refined foods should be a goal to move toward.
The paleo diet is based on what hunters and gatherers ate thousands of years ago. It is a whole-food based, nutrient-dense diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, seafood, and fermented foods.
Science has shown that it can help some people to lose weight, reduce risks of heart disease, improve glucose tolerance, and reduce inflammation.
At the very least, eliminating added sugars, processed, and refined foods are a great goal, even if you decide not to “go paleo.”
Not sure what diet is right for you or how to get started? Book a free discovery call with Bonnie here.