“Paleo” has been a buzzword in the health industry for quite some time now. You may have also heard of this as the “caveman diet.” The diet is based on how Paleolithic people ate back in the stone age, and that’s how “Paleo” got its name.
So why would a Paleo diet be beneficial today?
According to Loren Cordain, Ph.D., author of The Paleo Diet*, DNA evidence shows that the genetic makeup of humans has changed very little over the past 40,000 years. This means that our bodies can function optimally on the same foods that our Paleolithic ancestors consumed.
Think about how the Paleolithic people had to survive. They didn’t have the farming or domesticated livestock, processed foods and sugars that we consume today. They had to live off of nature.
Lets time travel back and take a glance at what a typical diet would look like back in the Stone Age:
Minimal to no cereal grains
No added salt
No added sugars (maybe the occasional honey)
High lean protein intake
Almost all carbs came from non-starchy veggies and fruits
Healthy fats; balanced in omega-3’s and omega-6’s (click here to read why this is important)
As you can see, this is far from the typical American diet today.
The Paleo diet presents a multitude of health benefits including:
Reduced risk of heart disease
Slow down/prevent the development of osteoporosis (loss of bone density)
Stabilize blood glucose and insulin levels
Help prevent/fight cancer
With the majority of Americans falling into the overweight and obese categories, you can see that making a few simple changes can eliminate a lot of our lifestyle-related diseases that are running rampant. The good news is that the Paleo diet consists of 7 easy to maintain principles that can lead you back to a healthy lifestyle.
7 Rules of Following a Paleo Diet
- High protein from lean animal sources and fish
- Fewer carbs- carbs are from fruits and non-starchy vegetables
- High fiber- this is also obtained from fruits and non-starchy vegetables
- Moderate amounts of healthy fats- olive oils, fish, nuts and seeds. Balance omega-3’s and omega-6’s
- Eat high potassium, low sodium foods
- Eat a diet with a net alkaline load**
- Consume foods that are high in plant phytochemical (chemicals that have protective or disease preventative properties), minerals, antioxidant and vitamins.
** Acid-producing foods include meats, fish, grains, legumes, and diary products. Alkaline-producing foods are fruits and vegetables. Keeping an acid-base balance in the diet can help keep conditions such as asthma, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure at bay.
Now you may be thinking, what kind of fruits? what kind of vegetables? what kind of meats and fats? Don’t worry, I’m about to tell you!
Foods Allowed on the Paleo Diet
Meats: turkey, chicken breast, pork tenderloin, pork chops, steak, veal, bacon, pork, ground beef, grass fed beef, chicken thigh, chicken leg, chicken wings, lamb rack, venison, buffalo, bison, rabbit, goat, elk, emu, goose, kangaroo, wild boar, and quail
Vegetables: asparagus, artichoke, brussels sprouts, carrots, spinach, celery, broccoli, zucchini, cabbage, peppers, cauliflower, parsley, eggplant, and green onions
Nuts: almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pinenuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, and walnuts
Fruits: apple, avocado, blackberries, papaya, peaches, plums, mango, lychee, blueberries, grapes, lemon, strawberries, watermelon, lime, raspberries, cantaloupe, tangerine, and oranges
Oils/Fats: coconut oil, olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil, and ghee
This is not an all encompassing list, but as you can see it’s a pretty good start. If you want more options and details of what is and isn’t allowed on a Paleo diet, this book *will tell you everything you need to know.
If you are a very active person or an endurance athlete you may find that you need to incorporate things like sweet potatoes, yams, or squash to help provide a more consistent supply of energy. However, if you are not training and you are looking to lose weight, these are items you would want to avoid (based on Paleo guidelines).
As with any other diet you decide to follow, you make allowances to still eat your favorite foods, even if they don’t fit the Paleo guidelines. In a true Paleo diet, alcohol is eliminated, but if you like to enjoy a nice glass of red wine from time to time, you can still have it! It’s always about balance, and that’s what makes this maintainable.
One of my favorite aspects of the Paleo diet is that you don’t have to count calories (though you can if you want). Sometimes counting calories can be helpful, but I know I wouldn’t want to do it for the rest of my life!
If this sounds like a lot of changes for you, start small. Start by following one of the rules until you are comfortable enough to start following another one. For example, try just cutting out all of the added sugars in your diet first. Then you can move on to removing diary or grains.
Remember not to beat yourself up if you fall off track a couple of times. Anything new takes some time to get used to and turn it into a normal routine. And if you find that this type of lifestyle just doesn’t work for you, no worries! You can try something else!
If you are interested in giving the Paleo diet a try I highly recommend this book, The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordian, Ph.D.*, along with his Paleo Diet Cookbook*. It incorporates everything you could possibly need to know about the Paleo diet. It breaks down the different acid-base values of food, recipes and sample meal plans, includes how to incorporate exercise while following a Paleo diet, as well as all the health benefits and scientific evidence to back up the health claims. There’s also a section for recommended resources, other books to read, and even suppliers of Paleo-approved foods such as game meats and other Paleo-related foods. #win!
I’m not one for “diets” like Atkin’s or Southbeach etc., but after researching the Paleo diet, all of the scientific reasons behind the structure of it aligns with the basic principles of a generally healthy diet: healthy fat sources, eliminating processed foods and added sugars, high protein diet from lean meats, lots of fruits and veggies…
Sounds pretty good to me!
Have you ever tried following a Paleo diet? What did you think?
*denotes affiliate link