The Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet is an eating plan based on prehistoric human diets.
Paleolithic humans were hunter-gatherers who lived off the land. Their diet consisted mainly of meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and honey. They also focused on the foods local to their area.
It’s not possible to know for sure what human ancestral diets were like, but scientists think they probably consisted of whole fruits and vegetables. As they didn’t have the equipment needed to make processed foods.
Eating a whole food diet and then combined with moderate activity, it is believed that hunter-gatherer societies may have had a lower incidence of diabetes and obesity as compared to modern times.
However, there’s also studies that show many early peoples didn’t live past 40 years of age, so it could be that no one lived long enough to develop more of those age-related illnesses.
Studies show that this type of low-carbohydrate eating plan can help people lose weight without having to count calories.
Keep reading for an overview of the paleo lifestyle, including a simple diet plan and other important information.
The Paleo Diet
The paleo diet was developed by Dr. Loren Cordain in the early 1990s. He proposed that our ancestors ate mostly meats, fish, eggs, veggies, fruit, and some plants.
Cordain believed that we should eat like our ancestors because it would be good for us.
He suggested that grains are bad for you because they contain gluten, which he said causes inflammation throughout your body.
He claimed that modern science has proven his point.
The paleo diet focuses on the foods eaten by our ancestors.These include meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
Grains, dairy products, legumes, and processed foods are all avoided.Instead, these foods are considered “anti-paleo.”Some people call them “modern” foods.They believe that these foods are unhealthy and unnatural. Others say that they’re necessary for survival.
How It Works
Regardless of why you choose to follow the paleo diet, here are some things to keep in mind:
The paleo diet emphasizes lean protein sources, such as beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, and wild game.
You’ll want to limit red meat consumption to once per week.
Eating too much red meat increases your risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Fruits and vegetables make up most of the rest of your meals.
You’ll want lots of leafy greens, tomatoes, berries, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms, onions, garlic, peppers, beans, peas, and squash.
The paleo lifestyle encourages you to eat real food.It doesn’t require counting calories or measuring portions.Instead, you simply eat until you’re full.
When you do eat carbohydrates, you’ll want to avoid refined ones.This includes white flour, sugar, and anything made with high fructose corn syrup.
Refined carbs also tend to be higher in calories than whole grain carbs.When you eat this type of carbohydrate, your blood glucose levels rise quickly.This can lead to cravings and overeating later on.
To prevent this, stick to whole grains instead.
Protein is the Key
Protein is key when following the paleo diet.
Your daily intake should consist of about 25% protein, 50% fat, and 25% carbs.Fat makes up the majority of your calories.
If you don’t get enough protein, your muscles will start breaking down.This could cause muscle loss and eventually lead to osteoporosis.
In addition to being essential for building strong bones, protein helps build muscle mass.
Muscle burns more calories than fat, so if you have less muscle mass, you ‘ll burn fewer calories.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that a low-protein diet led to weight gain and increased abdominal fat.
Another study published in Obesity Research showed that eating only 1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day resulted in significant weight loss.
For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you’d need 75 grams of protein every day.
Sources of Protein
There are many choices for foods high in protein. Eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, salmon, tuna, and shrimp are good options.
Meat isn’t the only source of protein. Vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even tofu contain protein.
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts,
Eggs have protein and are packed with choline, which helps maintain brain function.
Tofu contains lots of protein and is low in saturated fat. It also provides some B vitamins and vitamin D.
Seitan is another great source of protein. It’s made by fermenting wheat gluten and has a chewy texture similar to meat.
Carbs come from fruits, vegetables, and starchy foods. Starchy foods include potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, corn, and oats.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to consume fewer carbs and more fats.
Many experts recommend limiting your intake of refined grains. These include white flour, white rice, white pasta, and anything containing added sugars.
However, there’s no need to eliminate all grains from your diet. In fact, many studies have shown that whole grains may actually protect against certain types of cancers.
Whole grains are digested slowly, so they don’t spike your blood sugar as much. Whole grains also provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.
For example, one study found that women who consumed at least three servings of whole grains each day had a lower incidence of breast cancer.
Another study showed that men who ate an average of two servings of whole grains every day were less likely to develop prostate cancer.
So, if you’re looking to reduce your risk of cancer, it might be wise to incorporate whole grains into your diet.
But, don’t go overboard. You don’t want to become overly reliant on these foods. Instead, try to get half of your total grains from whole grains.
In addition to eating plenty of fruits and veggies, you’ll also want to add other plant-based foods to your diet.
These include nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, eggs, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and soybeans.
Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats which help keep your body running smoothly. They also supply essential nutrients like zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin B12, and omega 3 fatty acids.
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, which are good for lowering cholesterol.
They also contain folate, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health.
Omega 3 is Important
A healthy paleo diet will also help you get enough omega 3 fatty acids.Omega 3s are essential nutrients that promote brain development, vision, and immune function.
Most Americans lack adequate amounts of these important fats.That’s because we typically eat too many processed foods.Processed foods contain little to no omega 3s.
In addition, processed foods often contain trans fats, which are linked to increased cholesterol levels.Trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol while lowering HDL (good) cholesterol.This combination can put you at greater risk for cardiovascular disease.
Benefits of Paleo
There are several benefits that may be associated with the paleo diet. Here’s just a few:
Reduce the risk of diabetes by limiting refined carbs.
Improve gut health by avoiding gluten-filled products like bread, pizza, and pastas.
Lower the risk of certain types of cancers by consuming plenty of fresh produce.
Boost energy levels by increasing your intake of B vitamins and vitamin D.
Help control appetite by eating small meals throughout the day .
Eat less meat if you’re looking to lower your carbon footprint.
You can still enjoy delicious dishes like steak and chicken without having to worry about them being “paleo.”
How to Start Eating Like a Caveman
Start slow!Don’t try to overhaul your entire diet overnight. Check with your medical expert first before making dietary changes.
Focus on one aspect of your life first
For example, start by cutting back on processed foods.Then gradually add healthier options into your diet.
Here are some tips to make sure you stay on track:
Make a grocery list before heading out to shop.Use the list to keep yourself from buying unnecessary items.
Keep snacks stocked in your house.Pack a lunch each day.
Avoid restaurants whenever possible.Cooking at home saves money and cuts down on food waste.
If you do go out to eat, choose places that offer paleo friendly options.Ordering off the menu or asking for substitutions can help you avoid unhealthy choices.
Find ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
Try adding avocado to your breakfast sandwich, salad dressing, or smoothie.
Add spinach leaves to your pasta sauce instead of noodles.Add broccoli florets to your stir fry.Serve up steamed veggies alongside grilled meats.
Drink lots of water.
It keeps your body hydrated and flush toxins.And it makes you feel full faster.
Exercise is an easy way to burn calories and lose weight.
Plus, exercise boosts mood and increases energy levels.It also improves sleep quality.
Choose physical activities that you enjoy.A good workout routine will become part of your lifestyle if you practice it long enough.
When you find something you love doing, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
What About Organic?
Organic produce doesn’t necessarily mean healthier. In fact, studies show that organic produce isn’t any better than conventional produce when it comes to nutrition.
However, organic produce does tend to be more expensive. That means you might need to spend extra money if you’re trying to follow a strict paleo diet .
So, how do you know whether or not a product is truly paleo-friendly?
Well, here are some tips to help you figure out whether or not a particular product is safe for paleo eating:
Look for “paleo” labels. If the label says “paleo,” then it’s probably okay.
Avoid anything containing GMOs. Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are created through genetic engineering. They’re often found in non-organic foods like soybeans, corn, and wheat.
Check ingredient lists. Look for words like “natural flavors.” Natural flavors are derived from plants, herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. They’re usually safe for paleo diets.
Avoid anything with additives. Additives are things like preservatives, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and thickeners. These chemicals can make food less nutritious and add unwanted calories.
The Risk from Processed Foods
When you look at the ingredients list on packaged food products, you’ll notice that most of them contain unhealthy additives.
Some common ones include:
Sodium – This chemical is used to preserve food. However, excessive sodium consumption can lead to high blood pressure.
Artificial sweeteners – Artificial sweeteners are widely used in processed foods. But, some people believe that artificial sweeteners cause obesity and diabetes.
Sugar alcohols – These chemicals are added to foods to make them taste sweeter. Some sugar alcohols can cause stomach problems.
MSG – Monosodium glutamate is commonly used in processed foods to enhance flavor. It has been linked to headaches, migraines, and fatigue.
Artificial colors – Many processed foods use artificial dyes to color their products. Some of these dyes have been associated with hyperactivity in children.
High fructose corn syrup – High fructose corn syrup is used as a sweetener in processed foods. It may contribute to weight gain by increasing appetite.
Hydrogenated oils – Hydrogenated oils are used to extend shelf life. They can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
As you can see, there are lots of reasons why it’s best to avoid processed foods.
On top of that, processed foods have a lot of added sugars.These substances cause insulin spikes that increase hunger and cravings.
Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.But it also promotes fat storage.So eating too much sugar may contribute to weight gain.
Stay Away from Alcohol, Soda and Caffeine
Stay away from alcohol.Alcohol contains empty calories and has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns.
Limit caffeine consumption.Caffeine raises stress hormones and causes insomnia.
Cut back on sugary drinks and diet drinks.They contain artificial sweeteners that aren’t healthy.Also, they don’t provide any nutritional value.
In fact, just skip soda altogether. It’s loaded with artificial ingredients and high fructose corn syrup.
Go for natural tea over coffee.Coffee contains caffeine but not as much as other beverages.Tea provides antioxidants and helps boost metabolism.
The Lack of Scientific Evidence
However, there isn’t any scientific evidence that proves that grains cause inflammation or that the paleo diet works better than other types of diets.
In fact, many studies have shown that the paleo diet may actually increase inflammation in certain parts of the body.
So, if you’re looking for a way to lose weight , improve health, or just feel great, then the paleo diet might be right for you.
Common Paleo Diet Fails
Not following the guidelines
The paleo diet isn’t hard to follow.But it does require a little bit of planning ahead.
That means making sure you have all the right equipment and supplies.In addition, you need to know what foods to buy and prepare.
This includes knowing how to cook certain types of foods.
Not getting enough protein
Protein is essential when trying to build muscle mass.
This is why many people who follow the paleo diet opt for lean sources of protein.
These include fish, eggs, poultry, and dairy products.
However, there are plenty of plant-based proteins available too.
Vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products are just a few examples.
Not eating enough fat.
Fat is important because it gives us energy.It also helps our bodies absorb nutrients.
As such, most people should aim to get about 20% of their daily calories from fats.
Some experts recommend even higher amounts.But this depends on your goals.
If you’re looking to lose weight, then you may want to cut back on fats.
On the other hand, if you’re aiming to gain muscle mass, then you may want more fat in your diet.
Not drinking enough water.
Water is vital to maintaining optimal health.It helps keep your skin clear and prevents constipation.Plus, it helps flush toxins from your system.
Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water every day.Don’t forget to add lemon juice to your water.Lemon adds flavor and aids digestion.
You can also try using cucumber slices or fresh mint leaves.
Carbs are one of the main components of grains like breads, pastas, rice, and cereals.
Many people think these foods are bad for them.But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Grains are actually very nutritious.And they’re packed full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.Plus, they help lower cholesterol levels.
So instead of cutting out carbs completely, focus on choosing healthier options.For example, eat whole grain pasta instead of white pasta.Or choose brown rice over white rice.
Instead of having cereal for breakfast, try having oatmeal.Oats are a great source of fiber and protein.They’re also low in carbohydrates.So they won’t spike blood sugar levels.
Not eating enough vegetables.
Vegetables are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.They’re also rich in antioxidants that protect against cancer and heart disease.
Plus, they contain compounds called glucosinolates which help reduce inflammation.So make sure you eat plenty of veggies.
Try adding some to your meals.For example, toss some broccoli into stir fry dishes.Add spinach to salads.Or use cauliflower florets as a substitute for potatoes.
Not eating enough fruit.
Fruit contains lots of vitamins and minerals.They also provide fiber and potassium.
The latter helps regulate blood pressure.Plus, they’re loaded with antioxidants that fight free radicals.
So don’t skip fruits altogether. Just make sure you limit yourself to two servings per day.That’s roughly half a cup each.
Not eating enough meat.
Meat is another nutrient-rich food.It provides iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and protein.These are all essential for healthy growth and development.
In addition, meat is high in saturated fat.This raises LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
So it’s best to avoid processed meats.Eat lean cuts of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, and seafood.Make sure you trim off any visible fat before cooking.
Also, opt for organic whenever possible.
Not getting enough sleep.
Sleep is important for overall health.It allows our bodies to repair themselves and rejuvenate.
Plus, it boosts brain function and memory.A lack of sleep has been linked to depression, anxiety, and stress.So make sure to get seven hours of quality sleep every night.
If you find yourself waking up feeling tired, then take a nap during the day.
Doing too much exercise.
Exercise is good for us.It improves cardiovascular fitness, strengthens bones, and burns calories.
However, if you do too much, you could end up injuring yourself.So aim to work out three times per week.
Don’t forget to warm up first.Then perform cardio exercises such as running or cycling.
Afterwards, move onto strength training.You can lift weights, do pushups, or practice yoga.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity.Too little physical activity means we’ll gain weight.We’ll also have less energy throughout the day.
So make sure to get moving!