Interested in a paleo diet, but aren’t sure what to eat, how to start and whether it’s healthy? This thorough guide will answer all your questions. Scroll down to learn more about the paleo diet, get informed about foods to eat or avoid, and so much more.
What is the Paleo Diet
The Paleolithic, or paleo, diet emulates or mimics the diet of hunters and gatherers, our ancestors who lived thousands or millions of years ago. The diet is based on the knowledge that humans back then were healthier and stronger, free of many diseases that affect us today. Also referred to as caveman or stone-age diet, paleo is more than an eating program, advocates consider it a lifestyle based on the fact it also promotes regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and stress management.
While it’s easy to assume that the paleo diet is a novel idea, the efforts to adhere to primitive diet have been around for decades. For many years it has been theorized that our ancestors had a healthier diet than we do today. That’s why they were free of diseases, obesity, and other problems. However, the term paleo diet became known in 2002 in The Paleo Diet book authored by Loren Cordain, an American scientist.
Is It Healthy?
We’re used to the fact that most diets nowadays are unhealthy. Yes, they’re popular, but they offer no nutritional support the body needs to remain healthy. Paleo diet is entirely different! Foods you consume in paleo diet supply the body with a wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, healthy fats, fiber, and other important nutrients you need for good health. The popularity of the paleo diet isn’t an accident, but an expected course of events based on the efficacy of this type of lifestyle. Various studies have confirmed that paleo is, indeed, healthier and more effective than other eating patterns.
Paleo Diet Benefits
Paleo diet has been a subject of various scientific studies that evaluated its efficacy, and it’s safe to say we can expect many other studies in the near future. An important benefit of the paleo diet is that aids management of type 2 diabetes. In a study from the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology scientists found that paleo diet improved glycemic control and various cardiovascular risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Research from Diabetologia found that a paleo diet led to a greater improvement in waist circumference, glycemic control, weight loss, and glucose management compared to the Mediterranean diet.
Adherence to a paleo diet also shows favorable effects on the management of metabolic syndrome unlike diets from a control group, according to a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Besides improved management of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease, paleo diet also has the following health benefits:
- Energy boost
- Brain health
- Stronger muscles
- Improved gut health
- Better digestion
- Reduced inflammation
- Fewer allergies
- Stronger immune system
Paleo For Weight Loss
One reason why people start with paleo is that they hope it will help them slim down or keep it off. Weight loss benefits of paleo aren’t a myth, but a reality and science have confirmed it. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study where the main objective was to evaluate the effects of the paleo diet. Scientists found that weight decreased by 5lbs while BMI lowered by 0.8 and waist circumference reduced by 0.6 in three weeks.
A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine included ten healthy women with BMI over 27 and found that ladies lost on average 9.9lbs and had 3.1 inches reduction in waist circumference in five weeks.
Since paleo lifestyle also promotes regular exercise and it eliminates foods that are too high in calories, it’s not uncommon why it can help persons lose weight or keep it in a healthy range.
Paleo Diet Myths
The reason why some people are reluctant to start with paleo diet is that they believe in some myths about this lifestyle. Similarly to other eating programs, the paleo diet is also highly misunderstood, but we’re going to change that now. Here are the most common myths about paleo diet that you shouldn’t believe in anymore.
Paleo is just like other diet fads.
Diet fads are so common nowadays that people easily assume some reliable diets are just a trend that will disappear soon. As mentioned above, paleo is not just a diet, and it’s a lifestyle. This lifestyle is based on healthy living and consumption of food sources that allowed humans to develop and thrive. We can easily consider paleo as an anti-fad diet, not the other way around.
Paleo is all about meat.
Not true. Scroll down to see the list of paleo foods, and you’ll notice it doesn’t include meat only. Paleo also revolves around the intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, among other things.
Eliminating entire food groups is unhealthy.
We’re led to believe that paleo may not be the wisest choice because it involves eliminating certain food groups. The reality is different, though. Food groups that you need to eliminate in the paleo diet are those that were introduced in human nutrition recently. So, humans have not only survived, but also thrived without those foods.
Paleo is for men only.
While the paleo diet is more popular among men, it has nothing to do with its influence on women. Generally speaking, both men and women can benefit from a paleo lifestyle.
I will develop calcium deficiency if I don’t eat dairy.
What many people aren’t aware of is that dairy is not the only source of calcium. You can obtain it from produce too as well as from fish and other sources.
Paleo VS Atkins
Atkins is a popular low-carb diet where people eat all the fat and protein they want, but they avoid carbohydrates. Both Atkins and paleo promote the consumption of meat, fruits, and vegetables. While paleo is a lifestyle that comes with many health benefits, Atkins is more of a weight loss program. Atkins involves various phases through which you need to go, while paleo is easier to follow.
Although Atkins diet promotes intake of meat, its origin isn’t that important while paleo is different (see food list below). Paleo omits grains while some phases of Atkins do involve this food group. In terms of health, paleo is a better approach because it’s focused on your overall health and wellbeing. On the other hand, Atkins is more like a diet that people follow for a while to lose weight and that’s it.
Paleo VS Keto
Keto diet focuses on inducing ketosis through the calculated adjustment of dietary macronutrients (fats, carbs, and proteins). Ketosis is a metabolic state wherein the body utilizes calories from fat instead of carbs to produce the energy you need to function properly. Keto and paleo diets have similarities and differences.
Main similarities of keto and paleo are that both diets emphasize consumption of whole foods and they eliminate legumes and grains. In addition, both keto and paleo promote intake of healthy fats while banning sugar.
The biggest difference between the two diets is that paleo is more focused on ideology while keto is all about macronutrient adjustment. Unlike a ketogenic diet, paleo lifestyle is more about food choices. While you eliminate some food groups, you have the liberty to balance macronutrients any way you want.
Despite the fact that paleo restricts some carb sources, it’s not a low-carb diet in the same way that keto is. On the other hand, keto doesn’t restrict dairy. When compared side by side, paleo is a healthier option because it’s more flexible in terms of food choices.
Celebrities Who Eat Paleo
Celebrities always look for different ways to manage their weight, and many diets become popular when a famous person credits it for their amazing figure. Some celebrities follow dangerous fads, but others prefer a healthy approach toward successful weight management and good health. Many famous people have either tried, or they live a paleo lifestyle. Below, you can see some names that are associated with this diet:
Eva La Rue
Paleo Foods List
Paleo diet revolves around the consumption of healthy foods that supply the body with an abundance of nutrients to keep you healthy and strong. Foods to eat when following this diet are:
- Grass-fed meats (beef, lamb, pork, flat iron steak, etc.)
- Game meats
- Poultry (chicken, turkey)
- Fish and seafood (salmon, shellfish, white-fish, etc.) wild-caught if possible
- Eggs (pasteurized or free-range)
- Natural sweeteners (maple syrup, honey)
- Healthy oils and fats (olive oil, flaxseed, coconut, avocado oil, ghee)
- Nuts and seeds
- Fresh fruits (avocado, orange, apple, banana, berries, etc.)
- Fresh vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, romaine lettuce, mushrooms, celery, asparagus, radish, beets, onions, pickles, olives, kale, butternut squash, zucchini, etc.)
- Herbs and spices
Foods to Avoid
Men and women who follow paleo diet have various foods to choose from, but at the same time, they need to avoid certain foods. Below, you can see the list of foods to avoid when adhering to paleo lifestyle:
- Beans and legumes
- High Omega-6 vegetable oils
- Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Iodized table salt
- Hydrogenated, processed, and refined foods
- Certain seafood (tilefish, shark, swordfish, king mackerel)
- Sweetened beverages
- Peanuts and peanut butter
- See more foods you should avoid here
Getting Started Steps
Beginnings are always difficult, especially when you’re not sure what to do. Most people abandon some diet program in the first two weeks, but that’s only because they started the whole thing unprepared. Getting started with paleo isn’t difficult. These tips will help you:
- Get informed and learn about paleo diet first – the more you know, the easier it is to understand and follow
- Do a shadow week – during that week you need to eat normally like you usually do, but keep a food journal. In the journal, try to log foods that you eat and next time you can try to write down paleo alternatives you could have eaten instead
- Clear out the kitchen – gather all non-paleo items in your kitchen and donate them or eliminate in another way
- Acknowledge that paleo is a lifestyle, not a program you’ll follow for a while
- Get motivated – some people start paleo due to a specific reason, and it’s not a bad thing. That reason will keep you motivated! Always keep your inspiration in mind
- Follow 85/15 rule – 85% of the time is reserved for paleo food while 15% for non-paleo alternatives after the first month
- If unsure, check online – there comes the time when you’re not sure whether some ingredient or food is paleo. Instead of guessing, look it up online
- Expect a setback – people feel bad because of setbacks, but they’re entirely normal. You just need to keep going and do your best
- Cook – get cookbooks and find recipes online so you can cook and prepare your own food. You’re more likely to stick to the diet when it’s delicious, versatile, and homemade
- Get organized – plan your meals, write down shopping lists
Problems and Sticking Points with Eating Paleo
In some cases, a person tries to follow the food list, but they can’t seem to stick to paleo. Why does that happen? Reasons are numerous including:
- Not eating enough
- Believing in myths
- Failing to plan meals
- Unrealistic expectations
- Not eating enough carbs and fat
- Forgetting about other important aspects of the paleo lifestyle (sleep, exercise, stress management)
- Not fully committing
- To avoid these problems, take your time and make sure you’re ready to start with paleo. Plan your meals, eat enough food, and make other changes in your lifestyle too. All this should be accompanied by reasonable expectations.
How to Shop Paleo, Grocery List
Staying organized is vital for success with the paleo diet, and this also includes grocery shopping. Here are useful lists to use the next time you head to the grocery store or a supermarket.
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Celery stalks
- Baby carrots
- Carrot sticks
Paleo Recipe Books and Cookbooks
Luckily, persons who want to start a paleo lifestyle can enhance their experience with paleo recipe books and cookbooks. Some of these include:
- Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Food Lifestyle (1st and 2nd edition) by Diane Sanfilippo
- The Ultimate Paleo Cookbook: 900 Grain- and Gluten-Free Recipes to Meet Your Every Need by Arsy Vartanian
- Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime by Danielle Walker
- Paleo for Beginners: Essentials to Get Started by John Chatham
- Ready or Not!: 150+ Make-Ahead, Make-Over, and Make-now Recipes by Nom Nom Paleo
Paleo diet is not a mere eating plan, but a lifestyle that leads to the improvement of your health, better weight management, increased strength, and so much more. Paleo is more versatile than you thought and it’s easy to follow it. It’s needless to mention paleo meals are super delicious.
About Lorraine Patience
I have over 20 years of experience in health education, fitness instruction and wellness coaching for corporate and individual clients. Working with people to help them achieve a healthy and balanced life is truly my passion! Continue reading about Lorraine…