There is a buzz about “the Paleo diet” now. Bodybuilders, weight trainers, athletes, and those trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, everybody is asking about this. The experts too are impressed. But what is Paleo diet? And how does it work, after all? Let us find out.
What is Paleo diet?
Paleo diet is based on Paleolithic nutrition or the foods we originally used to consume in the Paleolithic period when the human body required lots of energy to travel long distances, fight scary animals, hunt and gather food, and take on the other challenges of the time. Those were tough times, but the human body was perfectly adapted to survive, thanks to the foods we used to consume.
- The Paleolithic era lasted between 2.5 million years to 10,000 years back.
- This was the time when we first started using tools made with bones and stones, and so, the era is sometimes referred to as the “Old Stone Age”.
- The early humans of the Paleo age were engaged in fishing, hunting, and gathering plant foods.
- The Paleolithic era came to a close with the arrival of farming.
Sometimes, the Paleo diet is also referred to as the “caveman diet” too. Now when we fairly know what is paleo diet, shouldn’t we know why is it good?
Why Paleo Diet?
Thanks to the Paleolithic diet, our ancestors could get all their nutritional requirements from the environment, and it was best suited to their needs.
The consumption of real and unprocessed foods gave them optimal health. It’s only in the last 50 or 100 years that we have been consuming non-optimal foods. Sadly, modern diets constitute such foods as non-essential fats, sugars, processed foods, and carbonated drinks. The human body hasn’t changed much. Our needs remain the same. Naturally, therefore, we are having poor health with the intake of non-optimal foods.
The Human Metabolism is Not Adapted to Modern Foods
It has been argued that our metabolism has never really adapted to the foods we consume since the advent of agriculture. That’s because, agriculture has been around for 10,000 years, which is just a small fraction of our evolutionary history. Our body needs more time to adapt completely to the foods grown from modern agriculture.
So it is not a surprise that modern diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems, autoimmune disorders, and others have become rampant with the spread of industrialized food production.
The Paleolithic diet is a return to eating real unprocessed foods in the right proportions. Those who consume such foods lead a healthier and longer life.
Even the nutritionists, biochemists, and modern-day physicians are beginning to agree that the foods our Paleo ancestors consumed were healthier and more suitable to our health requirements. A Paleo diet can eliminate a number of conditions, such as,
- Pimples or acne
- Migraine headaches
- Cardio Vascular Diseases
- It also strengthens immunity
Top 10 Commandments of the Paleo Diet
- Do not eat processed foods.
- Stay away from grains and refined sugars.
- Eat nuts, meat and eggs.
- Give up gluten.
- Stay away from legumes and beans.
- Coconut is good (water, oil, flour, etc.)
- Fresh, green vegetables are good.
- Natural sweeteners like dates and raw honey are good.
- Do not drink alcoholic beverages.
- Do not sip sugars.
The Paleo diet is perfect for beginners, those who are trying to change their eating plans to lead a healthier life. In fact, you can’t go wrong with this diet.
Paleo Diet – Foods You Can Eat
Foods you can eat include those that our ancestors used to have, that is the natural foods.
The diet allows the following foods:
- Lean meats – lamb, beef, chicken, bacon, beef
- Fish – tilapia, bass, salmon, shrimp, lobster
- Fruits – papaya, apple, mango, grapes, banana, orange, lemon, raspberry, peach
- Seeds and nuts (except peanuts)
- Vegetables – cauliflower, avocado, spinach, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, broccoli
- Healthy oils – avocado, coconut, flaxseed, walnut, olive
What this means is that you shouldn’t eat anything that a hunter-gatherer couldn’t eat 10,000 years back.
What About Grains and Dairy Products?
According to the first book on the Paleo diet by Loren Cordain, 55 percent of your everyday calorie intake should come from lean meats. You should get 15 percent from vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts. The diet allows little grain and no dairy. Also, you cannot have any added sugar or salt.
Mark Sisson has however added some fermented dairy products into his version of the diet, though others have excluded milk completely, as cavemen were not in the habit of domesticating cows outside their caves.
It is surprising that we continue to have cheese, ice cream, and butter, given the fact that so many people are lactose intolerant.
Yogurt is another story.
Thanks to its probiotics, yogurt can improve your digestion. However, most modern-day off-the-shelf yogurt products you will find have too much sugar content. So if you want to have yogurt, then you should make it at home. That is the healthiest version, and it is also easy to make.
Cheese is another exception because much of its lactose is removed by the fermentation process.
Foods Not Allowed by the Paleo Diet
You cannot have the following foods if you want to follow the diet
- Processed foods
- Refined vegetable oils
- Refined sugar
- Cereals including oatmeal, bread, wheat, pasta
- Powdered milk
- Ice cream
- Any form of soft drinks and energy drinks
- Artificial fruit juices
- Legumes including peanuts, soybeans, lentils, tofu, peas
- Artificial sweeteners
- Fatty meats like in hotdogs
- Salty foods including ketchup and French fries
- Snacks – cookies, pastries, chips
- Starchy vegetables
- Sweets – candy, energy bars
How the Paleo Diet Works
The diet tells you to replace grain and dairy products with fresh vegetables and fruits. Proponents of the diet believe that Paleo foods are more nutritious for the human body. They contain beneficial nutrients like,
- Antioxidant vitamins – A, C, and E
- Soluble fibers
- Monounsaturated and omega-3 fats
- Low-glycemic index carbohydrates
Plus, foods in this diet are low in substances that have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, like
- Refined sugars
- Bad fats
- Empty carbs
A protein rich diet will keep you feeling satisfied for longer as compared to refined carbs. The “Cardiovascular Diabetology” journal published a study in 2009 that revealed how those suffering from Type 2 diabetes benefitted by switching to the Paleo diet. The subjects in this study followed the diet for three months and had amazing results.
Their blood sugar levels improved. The risk of heart disease came down. Millions of people around the world suffer from diabetes and are at risk of heart diseases. The researchers concluded by noting that the Paleo diet can certainly help them.
The Paleo Diet and Insulin
The Paleo diet also works by normalizing the body’s insulin levels to improve your composition, health, and performance. It gives you the most power and energy.
Food increases the sugar level in your body, and this, in turn, increases the insulin level. However, different foods will increase the levels differently. For instance, carbohydrates raise this level a lot, while fats don’t do it at all. Protein has some impact, but the level is marginal.
This is why there is a spike in your blood sugar levels when you have a lot of carbs. Your insulin sensitivity will go down if you keep having a lot of bad carbs for a long time. As a result, your body won’t be able to control it as efficiently.
Long-term, consistent insulin resistance can make you obese. But that is not all. Your body won’t be able to absorb nutrients as efficiently anymore, and this can cause hyperinsulinemia, where the pancreas loses the ability to control insulin. Hyperinsulinemia is known to cause many ailments, such as
- Heart disease
- Excess fluid retention
- Immune disorders
10 Benefits of the Paleo Diet
Just knowing what is Paleo diet isn’t enough. Let’s find out the benefits of Paleo diet too!
Benefit #1 – Keeps your cells healthy
The cells within the human body are made of both unsaturated and saturated fats and you need a healthy balance of both of them. Paleo foods will help you keep the balance right. The diet will give you the right proportions of omega-3 fatty acids and PUFAs or polyunsaturated fatty acids. This will help in your normal development and growth.
Benefit #2 – Healthy brain
Salmon caught in the wild is among the best sources of fat and protein. The Paleo diet approves this fish. Omega 3 fatty acids in the fish will keep your heart and eyes healthy, and your brain functioning better. Eggs will also give you omega 3 fatty acids, which the paleo diet approves.
Benefit #3 – Gives you less fat and more muscles
The paleo diet recommends meat, which is rich in healthy protein. The protein you get from this source is anabolic. It helps you build new cells such as muscle mass. Your metabolism will function better if you have more mass because muscles need the energy to move. So you have to store energy in your muscles. Paleo diet will help you shrink the fat cells and increase muscles.
Benefit #4 – Improves your gut health
Processed foods, man-made fats, and excessive sugar can cause inflammation in your intestinal tract. You may have the leaky gut syndrome if you are having a lot of these things. The walls in your intestines will be breached and food will leak out. The digestive process will suffer as a result. You can avoid this with the Paleo diet.
Benefit #5 – Fewer allergies
In the paleo diet plan, you have to severely limit the foods that are known allergens. Some people aren’t able to digest dairy and grains, and so the Paleo diet asks you to stay away from these foods. Scientific studies carried out in Switzerland, Austria and Germany has revealed that consumption of raw milk can cause asthma. If you suffer often and more from allergies, paleo diet is for you.
Benefit #6 – Limits fructose
Your body digests fructose differently than the other carbohydrates. This is why the Paleo diet limits the intake of fruits. Also, you have to select the right fruits. For instance, you can have a kiwi, but it’s best to avoid the banana. For best results, don’t take more than 2-3 fruit pieces a day. Researchers have discovered that high fructose consumption can cause insulin resistance in rodents, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Benefit #7 – Gives you a lot of minerals and vitamins
In the Peleo diet, you have to take a variety of vegetables. You will get a lot of nutrients from them, including dietary fibers, potassium, folic acid, and Vitamins A and C. By eating a rainbow of vegetables, you will get all the vitamins and minerals you need.
Benefit #8 – Gives you more energy
Many of us now have foods and drinks that are loaded with sugar and starch. This might eventually cause insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. The Paleo diet gives you foods where the glycemic index is low. The sugar content of these foods is absorbed slowly, so you will have energy throughout the day. There will never be the energy lag, which occurs typically after eating refined starches or sugars that get absorb quickly into the system.
Benefit #9 – Promotes weight loss
In the Paleo diet, you will be having low carb foods. Of course, if you remove processed foods from your menu, then that itself will lead to weight loss. Sugary drinks and refined grains that increase the risk of diseases also cause weight gain. You don’t consume these when on paleo diet and thus you are on the right path to lose weight.
Benefit #10 – Reduces inflammation
According to research findings, inflammation could be a leading factor in cardiovascular diseases. What’s great about the Paleo diet is that many of the foods you have here are anti-inflammatory. Thus, this diet reduces your risk of cardiovascular diseases and other diseases that cause due to inflammation. One more reason is because there is the omega-3 fatty acid in many of the paleo foods. Research findings tell us that omega-3 brings down inflammation and lowers the risk of cancer, heart disease, and arthritis among others.
The Paleo or the caveman diet helps the human body in many ways. It will surely improve your health and quality of life. No wonder, so many people the world over are trying it now. Even many of the modern-day doctors are prescribing paleo diet for optimum health. Take a close look at the foods you can have, and those you need to avoid. Then prepare a wonderful recipe. Luckily, there is plenty of amazing Paleo recipes you can have.
So now you know what is Paleo Diet, how does it work and what are the benefits of paleo diet. Now, its time for you to get some really delicious Easy Paleo Recipes