The famous “Paleo diet”- Have you ever come across this term? Well, since this diet plan has been surfacing for quite a while now, we are absolutely sure you did. With all those new emerging diet fads everyday, it’s really hard to decide which diet plan we should follow. Paleo diet, Anti-inflammatory diet, Gluten free diet, Mediterannean diet, vegan diet and the list goes on.
Dozens of diet plans to complicate our mind. Out of all the available diet plans, today we are going to explore the Millennia old Paleolithic diet plan. We are going to find out whether the paleo diet plan is really healthy or is it just the hype. Does it really work? And if it does, then what is the real catch here?
Anyways, without any further ado, let us get started with it.
What is the paleo diet?
The Paleo diet aka caveman diet, stone-age diet or Paleolithic diet is a diet plan that replicates our ancestor’s eating habits. It is majorly based on the types of food that were available to the stone-age humans. The Paleolithic diet is interpreted in a variety of different ways.
The diet plan includes eating meat, fish, fruit, nuts, roots and vegetables while completely avoiding foods such as dairy products, processed foods, legumes, grains, sugar, processed oil, alcohol and fermented beverages. This stone-age diet does not just avoid the highly processed modern food but it rather tries to avoid all the types of food that human began consuming after the neo-lithic revolution.
Just like any other short term diet fads, Paleo diet was also initially promoted as a health improving diet plan. It was promoted by many books and magazine. But Paleo diet came into limelight mainly because of Loren Cordain.
There is very little research about the effects of this diet plan on human metabolism. But still the available little data is enough to suggest us that this diet plan helps in improving the human’s body composition and metabolism. When compared to the western diet habits, Paleo diet plan is far better than it. But there is just one serious thing to consider and that is the paleolithic diet can lead to calcium deficiency. We will talk about this later in our disadvantages section.
Since, the digestive abilities of the stone-age human and the modern human differs a lot, there is often some serious criticism regarding the core idea. The main reason behind this criticism is that during the caveman era, the earth’s climate was highly variable. Also the human population was spread across the entire globe.
The varying climate had its varying effects on the flora and fauna and so that made our ancestors to become nutritionally adaptable to whatever food that was available in those varying climates and regions. This suggests that the human’s digestive abilities were adaptable.
So now, after such a long period of time, wouldn’t we have become adaptable to certain types of food or nutrition? Isn’t it possible that our digestive systems have changed to adapt our new nutrition charts? Well, that’s highly possible. But still devoid of that, the supporters of caveman diet believe that our digestive system has remained unchanged over the Millennia.
As the Paleolithic humans lived 2.6 million years ago, there is very little known information available about their eating habits. Because of this, most of the idea of Paleo diet is based on assumptions.Also, there are some people who claim that stone-age people used to eat wild grains and legumes, and that is completely contradicting to the today’s modern day Paleo diet plan.
Western typical diet has left a major population suffering from metabolic syndrome. People’s digestive systems have become significantly inefficient in converting food into energy. People are just trying to survive the curable diseases. But as we know, paleo diet helps with improving our metabolism, major human disorders can be prevented by switching to paleo diet lifestyle.
Furthermore just to answer your “why” question more precisely, checkout the following benefits of paleo diet.
Paleo Diet Benefits
- Paleo diet helps in the functioning of healthy cells.
People don’t realize this, but each and every cell in our body is made from two types of fat.
The health of our cells totally depends on the proper balance of these two fats. A little imbalance in these fats can directly affect our cells in unhealthy way. The Paleolithic diet provides the perfect required balance of these two fats whereas other types of diet are devoid of doing that.
- Paleo diet helps in Healthy development of brain
Polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFA’s and omega-3 fatty acids are known to be very beneficial in the healthy functioning of brain, normal growth and development. The best sources of these healthy fats are fishes. And to be more specific, it is the salmon fish. Salmon fish is a rich source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid contains DHA and DHA is known to be great for our heart, eyes and brain functioning.
Since, Most of the western diet followers lack in omega-3 fatty acids, it is not surprising that major population suffers from heart strokes, eye problems and Neurological diseases. Omega-3 fatty acids can help them get rid of it.
- Paleo diet helps in gaining lean muscles and reducing unhealthy fats.
As the Paleolithic diet depends highly on non-vegan food, it provides a large amount of healthy proteins. The proteins obtained from these non-vegan foods are highly anabolic in nature and so they are efficiently used to build new cells and lean muscles.
Human’s metabolism works great if the body is largely composed of healthy lean muscles and not fats. The main reason behind this is that energy is required to move muscles and if one wants to move bigger muscles then more energy needs to be stored in them. Improved metabolism helps the body to send energy to cells of muscles instead of fat cells. When we increase the cells of muscles while shrinking the fat cells, all the extra energy that is stored gets converted into glycogen in our muscles instead of triglycerides in our fat cells.
- Paleo diet helps in improving the gastrointestinal health.
Today’s highly processed food, canned food, instant ready junk food and foods high in sugar are the major causes of havoc in our body. Inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases like IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), Heartburn, acid refluxes have become troublesome for us. And in addition to that, the combination of inflammatory food and chronic stress leads to a serious syndrome known as leaky gut syndrome. In leaky gut syndrome, the walls of our intestine are breached by the food particles. Instead of remaining in the digestive tract and then later transported to our cells, the food particles gets introduced in our blood stream causing havoc in our body.
But Paleo diet is devoid of that. Paleo diet isn’t inflammatory and it helps in establishing a healthy digestive system, thus promoting overall health.
- Paleo diet helps prevent allergies.
In western countries, a lot of people suffer from gluten and dairy sensitivity. And that is whyPaleo diet recommends us to avoid grains and dairy products. Paleo diet avoids all such foods that are known to cause allergies in our society. Since grains are not to be eaten, many people criticize the paleo diet plan. But it is also true that grains aren’t a good food source.
However, if a person is highly active or an athlete then it is totally fine to eat a bowl of oatmeal once in a while. Paleo diet doesn’t strictly restrict people from eating certain types of food but it just tries to help them choose quality food for their own good.
- Paleo diet helps in reducing inflammation
Recently a lot of researches suggested that the main reason behind increased cardiovascular disease is inflammation. Well, the best thing about the paleo diet is that its major category of food is known to be anti-inflammatory. Since you’ll be consuming a large amount of anti-inflammatory food, it will counteract the body’s inflammation, thus, greatly minimizing the risk of cardiovascular disorders. The main reason ofPaleo diet being anti-inflammatory rests in its focus on consuming foods rich in healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acid.
Meat of animals that were raised over pasture should be consumed as they have high omega-3 fatty acid. Also to reduce inflammation, Paleo diet encourages us to eat rainbow vegetables and herbs. Vegetables with different color are high in particular kind of vitamins.
- Paleo diet helps in insulin resistance.
You all love eating chocolate and candies, right? What if you are made to eat a huge bar of chocolate or a bowl of candies after each of your meal, every day, for a period of six months? Wouldn’t you start hating it? Yes you will. You will reject those chocolates and candies. Anything too much is not good. And same goes with your body too.
The western diet consists a large amount of sugary food and when you eat these kinds of food daily, eventually your body will start rejecting it, thus, developing various types of disease such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
The extra amount of these sugar rich foods is often stored in the form of unhealthy fats in our body. And if this keeps happening for a long amount of time, then eventually you will provoke the insulin sensitivity. It means that your body will not be able to recognize whether the cells have reached their threshold or not.
But since thePaleo diet doesn’t consist of any processed sugary food, you don’t have to worry about it. Following a Paleo based diet for even a short period of time can improve your blood pressure and glucose tolerance with a significant decrease in secretion of insulin and unhealthy fats.
- Paleo diet helps to reduce fat cells
Most of the population is unaware about a fact of the fat cells. Our fat cells have the ability to reduce and increase in size depending on our food choices. The slim and lean people do not have less number of fat cells but they just have fat cells that are smaller in size. If you want to be lean by shrinking your fat cells, then you need to opt for consuming healthy fats while at the same time reduce the intake of carbohydrates.
Aspaleo diet supplies healthy fats and proteins while minimizing carbohydrates by avoiding grains, it automatically shrinks the fat cells. The healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids are tightly packed in your fat cells and are instantly ready for providing energy. The paleo diet makes sure that your fat cells stay shrinked by providing youthe healthy food. Also, the restriction of carbohydrates will help in keeping your cells healthy while burning fats.
- Paleo diet helps in improving and promoting digestion and absorption
The paleo diet is highly based on the food choices that our ancestors used to eat and so it encourages us to consume only those foods that we have adapted to digest over the millenia. Because of the adapted digestion, there should arise no question about either we can tolerate the pasture raised beef and starch or not. Our ancestors have thrived and survived on such foods.
In case if you are suffering from digestive disorders, then you should surely try a strict Paleolithic based diet plan. We are sure it will improve your digestion and absorption.
Paleo diet restricts the fructose
Studies have shown that the human body digests the fructose differently than other foods. High consumption of fruits leads to high consumption of fructose and according to some of the studies conducted on mice, these high levels of fructose causes diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity and high BP in humans.
Paleo diet strategically limits fructose by advisingus to choose the fruits carefully. For example, eating an apple instead of bananas will ensure limiting the levels of fructose. Moreover, one should limit themselves to eat just 2 to 3 pieces of fruits every day.
Okay, if the paleo diet offers so many great benefits then what’s stopping everyone from going paleo?
Let’s find it out.
- We aren’t the caveman, we aren’t our ancestors.
- Many recently conducted researches shows that our ancestors were somewhat vegetarians. Animal flesh was eaten rarely.
- We don’t go on hunting our food, because we have a lot of choices of food.
- A vast number of researcheshave already found the benefits of food that aren’t the part of the Paleolithic diet.
What are the foods that you can eat on paleo diet?
Paleo Diet Food List
- Pasturized meat– An excellent choice of food for paleo diet lovers is the grass fed animal’s meat while at the same time they should avoid meat of animals that were fed grains. Grains affect the animals in the same way as they affect humans.
- FOWL– Another choice of food can be pasture raised turkey, chicken, hen and duck. One should try to avoid factory raised poultry as they have lesser amounts of nutrients.
- Cold water fish – The best source of omega-3 fatty acids comes from fish, wild fish should be eaten instead of farmed fish. Toxins like mercury and other are in high amounts in farmed fish.
- Eggs – omega-3 fatty acids packed eggs are also great.
- Vegetables – Vegetables should be enjoyed heartily. One can eat vegetables as long as they don’t feel satiated. But an important thing to make sure is that these vegetables are starch less.
- Natural oils – All the natural oils are great. Processed oil should be avoided at all costs. Oils of avocado, olive and coconut can be chosen.
- Fruits – Fruits are rich source of natural sugar. Fruits should be eaten for satisfying your cravings of sweet instead of artificially sweetened foods. But fruits should be carefully selected because certain fruits like bananas are high in calories and they can lead to weight gain.
- Nuts- Nuts are high in healthy fats and protein. They can be a great replacement for your current snacks. But they should be consumed sparingly.
- Tubers- Tubers like yams and sweet potatoes are fairly high in carbohydrates and calories. And so they should be eaten post workout session. After work out our body needs to replenish its glycogen levels, Tubers like sweet potatoes are best for doing that.
What are the foods that you shouldn’t eat on paleo diet?
The food choices that should be avoided on Paleolithic diet are those that cause havoc in our body, foods that cause degradation of our health with weight gain. Consumption of such foods that aren’t suggested by paleo diet leads to serious hormonal imbalance with increase in body’s inflammation.
- Grains should be avoided
Grains or seeds consists a lot of harmful anti-nutrients. For example, the phytic acid prevents our body from absorbing the essential nutrients. This causes our bodies to develop auto immune disorders and digestive problems. Inflammation causing proteins like gluten damages our gastrointestinal tract, giving rise to inflammation in our entire body. Most of the grains contain gluten and eating them can make our body produce excess insulin causing accumulation of bad fats.
All grains like wheat, barley, rice, amaranth, quinoa, rye, sorghum, oats, corn, millet and buckwheat should be avoided. Baked foods made from flour such as pastas and biscuits are at the top of the food avoidance list.
- Say no to processed food
The malls and food stores are dominated by processed food. Mostof the foods today are added with some type of chemical preservatives, sweeteners or artificial flavors. Such foods should be avoided. Food products that are fancily packaged or packed in air sealed bags like potato chips packet are generally not recommended by paleo diet.
Junkfoods, candies, baked packaged foods, dehydrated instant ready foods all are packed with additives and sugar. But been a paleo diet follower means eating clean, natural and healthy food. Not eating the food items that were prepared in a factory or a laboratory.
- Say good bye to Legumes
Although we have been taught from our childhood that beans and legumes are very healthy and high in protein, they too should be avoided. This is mainly because legumes have nearly the same anti-nutrients that grains have. Even if we soak it, sprout it or ferment it, the anti-nutrients remain the same.
As beans and legumes are high in carbohydrates, they trigger the release of insulin. Legumes and beans are not easily digestible. Paleo diet suggests us to avoid the beans and legumes such as peanuts, chickpeas, tempeh, pinto beans, peas, black beans, lima beans, lentils, soy beans, peanut butter, broad beans, miso, soy sauce, mung beans, edamame, snow peas, natto, sugar snap peas etc. but there is an exception to the green beans, because they are pod more than pea. The no beans rule should be followed extensively.
- Let go off dairy products.
We are the only creepy species that drink the milk of other animals. We didn’t just pause on drinking milk but we created a bunch of milk products. Cow’s milk is naturally made to help their offsprings grow faster and healthier, so that they can escape their predators by sprinting away quickly. It wasn’t made for human consumption for their entire life.
Modern highly processed, factory raised cow’s milk is full of havoc inducing growth-hormones, anti-biotics and bacteria.A very high insulin response is triggered upon consumption of such milk. The below listed dairy products should be avoided while been on paleo diet.
- Sour cream
- Salted butter
There is one exception in the dairy products and that is the ghee or clarified butter. Clarified butter is loaded with healthy fats but you should make sure that this clarified butter is obtained from the milk of pasture raised, grass fed cows.
- Avoid white potatoes
Potatoes, most of the dishes include potatoes. In one or the other form, potatoes rule the world. French fries, potato chips, grilled chicken with mashed “potatoes”, they are everywhere. Potatoes are like honey pots filled with spices. They don’t deserve to be in our nutrition charts. Since potatoes contain high amounts of simple carbohydrates, starch and sugar they trigger a high insulin response in our body.
Intestinal problems can be caused because of the consumptionof potatoes as they contain some anti-nutrients. One should be very careful about not eating white potatoes. White potatoes that have turned green or the potatoes that have lots of buds on it are not suitable for consumption as they contain toxins like Chaconaine and Solanine.
Chaconaine and Solanine are present in these potatoes so that they can avoid predators, insects, bugs and diseases. Making food bitter to taste is the natural defense mechanism of potatoes and therefore human consumption of such green budding potatoes is hazardous.
In case, if you are eating potatoes, make sure that they are not turning green, and if they are then it is totally recommended to wipe them off your menu.
- Avoid added sugars
Sugar is considered to be very bad for our health and therefore, it should be totally avoided. But as sugar is the intrinsic part of some healthy vegetables and fruits, eliminating ittotally from our diet is not possible. Instead of that, what we can do here is, avoid foods added with sugar.
If you want to be healthy and lean, then eliminating added sugar food products from your diet is must and that includes all the sweet delicacies. Ice creams and sweets laced with artificial sweeteners like nutrasweet or saccharin should be avoided.
Below is the list of sugar laced foods that we should completely eliminate.
Molasses and all other packaged, bagged or boxed sweet foods, artificial sugar, white sugar, rice syrup, aspartame, brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sugar cane, maple sugar, Maltodextrin and sucralose.
Once you start your 30 day paleo diet plan, you will feel more energetic. Later on, you can enjoy raw organic honey once in a while. All kinds of sugar, sucrose, fructose and even fine quality honey triggers insulin response in our bodies.
But just to satisfy your sweet tooth or sweet cravings, honey can be used occasionally. It forms a healthy aspect of Paleolithic diet.
- Eliminate industrial processed seed oils
Seed oils are touted to be healthy oils but in actual they aren’t. This is because they need to go through a lot of heavy processing in order to become edible. This processed seed oils does not contain healthy fats. Rather they are subjected to become rancid. Upon consumption of these oils, they create damaging free radicals. Further, these free radicals cause inflammation in our body.
So paleo based diet suggests to avoid corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, palm oil, trans fats, soybean oil,vegetable shortening,cottonseed oil and partially hydrogenated oils.
Eating food that isn’t advised by paleo diet increases our rate of aging and should be avoided at all cost.
14 day paleo meal plan
14 day paleo meal plan is all you need to reset your body. If you want to seriously follow this paleo lifestyle then you surely need a very simple meal plan solution. And so to help you with your meal plan, we came up with a readily prepared meal schedule for you. This 14 day paleo meal plan is totally based on Natural foods. It will properly nourish you and at the same time it will give you adequate amount of high energy for carrying out your day to day schedule.
For entire 14 days, you will be totally avoiding all types of grains while consuming real, whole food. This meal plan doesn’t include any factory made or canned food. Devoid of the typical western diet that provides more amount of refined unhealthy foods, paleo diet will help you get rich healthy nutrients, thus, helping to avoid all the modern chronic diseases.
Check out the below 14 day meal plan.
Breakfast- You can have any kind of berries that you like along with some coconut milk.
Lunch- For lunch you can have steak salad dressed with olive oil. It’s very Paleolithic diet friendly.
Dinner- You can have baked or grilled chicken with a side of vegetables that you like. But make sure that the chicken isn’t fried.
Snack- Snacks can consist of a bunch of soaked almonds.
Breakfast- You can have a huge omelet made with chopped vegetables and some 2 – 3 pieces of non-starch fruit.
Lunch- Lunch can consist of a vegetable soup and boiled chicken.
Dinner- Sauteed vegetables with grilled steak.
Snack- Boiled eggs.
Breakfast- Bacon made from pork and turkey along with some eggs (make them as you want).
Lunch- Lunch can be laced with green bean salad. Though, beans should be avoided in Paleolithic diet, but green beans are exception.
Dinner- You can have mixed veggies (non-starch) and meatloaf.
Snack- Unsalted beef jerky (Its paleo diet friendly)
Breakfast- Broccoli with boiled eggs (quiche like Paleolithic – friendly)
Lunch- Sandwiches made from meatloaf. Make sure to use zuchhini and not bread.
Dinner- Salmon fish or any other fish that you like dressed with lemon juice along with a side of vegetables like cauliflower.
Snack- Energy bars.
Breakfast- Boiled eggs and lean steak.
Lunch- Tuna salad (Paleolithic diet friendly)
Dinner- You can use paleo diet based ingredients to make shrimp scampi with squash.
Snack- Fruit salad that is starch-less
Breakfast- Pizza made from paleo diet based ingredients.
Lunch- Sandwiches made from chicken salad along with side of vegetable slices.
Dinner- Paleo diet-friendly meat casserole and green beans.
Snacks- Strawberry fruit slices.
Breakfast- Omelet filled with meat.
Lunch- Fried rice made with shrimp and cauliflower. (Avoid processed oils)
Dinner- Beef stir fried with broccoli.
Snack- Berries that you like.
Breakfast- Vegetable fritattas (Paleolithic diet-friendly)
Lunch- Kale made with garlic and rosemary beets.
Dinner- Salmon fish topped with lemon juice along with green beans as a side.
Snack- Berry shake made from your favorite berries.
Breakfast- Pork sausage or turkey and eggs (Can be made as you like).
Lunch- Chicken salad with a paleo diet based ingredients.
Dinner- Grilled steak and carrots.
Snack- Fruits like kiwi.
Breakfast – Eggs and ham salsa.
Lunch- Egg salad or sandwiches made from egg salad. (Zucchini should be used instead of bread)
Dinner – Beef bacon with veggies.
Snack –Mixed nuts.
Breakfast- Omelet made from ham, tomatoes and green pepper.
Lunch- Baked eggs and meat with paleo diet friendly salad.
Dinner- Chicken medley and broccoli roasted with garlic.
Snack – Coconut water.
Breakfast- Paleolithic diet friendly egg sandwiches with veggies.
Lunch – Meat soup and cabbage.
Dinner- Stir fried beef salad topped with lemon juice.
Snack – Grapefruit devoid of extra additives and sugar.
Breakfast- Fruits, almond milk and eggs can be made as you like.
Lunch – BLT zucchini bread.
Dinner- Green peppers stuffed with Lean meat. (peppers can be of your favorite colour)
Snack- Mixed paleo diet friendly nuts.
Breakfast- Meat or fruit with breakfast bar.
Lunch- meat and vegetable salad made with paleo diet friendly toppings.
Dinner- Vegetables laced meatball and bison stew.
Snack- Your favorite starch-less fruit.
Disadvantages of paleo diet
Though paleo diet is rich in healthy fats and proteins (building blocks), it isn’t enough for proper growth of our body. While being on a total paleo based diet, we miss a lot of important healthy nutrients. Some of the major nutrients we would lack are calcium and vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D both are richly available in dairy products.
Since paleo diet advices to avoid dairy, deficiency of the above nutrients causes disorders like osteoporosis, easy fractures and other issues regarding bones.Also as a thumb rule, just not to feast on meat excessively, paleo diet suggests to limit the meat consumption. Meat consumption should not exceed 4 servings a week.
Furthermore, as paleo dietalso suggests usto avoid beans and legumes, there arises a huge chance that our body will be deficient in lot of healthy essential proteins. This deficiency may further lead to decrease in muscle mass, fatigue and weakness. As legumes and beans are not recommended sources of nutrition by paleo diet, our body is likely to become more susceptible to infections.
Paleo diet involves significant amount of salt intake and this is totally against the findings of researches conducted across the globe. According to these researches, excess intake of salt is extremely hazardous to our body. Normal intake of salt is totally fine as our body requires it to keep the metabolic rate steady.
Moderate consumption of salt is also beneficial for the thyroid functioning but slight increase in salt dosage can directly lead to cardiovascular diseases and high BP.
The paleo diet lacks the variety. The Paleolithic diet plan is more of a strict restrictive form. Since you must not eat legumes and beans, starch, dairy products and grains, you might find it little difficult to adjust to the diet. Those people who have already adapted to the paleo based diet may eventually start feeling bored because of the lack of food variations.
Most of the expert nutritionist advice people to eat a broad range of nutrient rich food rather than cutting off entire food category. Also, sometimes it feels like paleo based diet has mistakenly listed the beans and legumes on its food avoidance list. The paleo dietmay not be suitable for certain individuals. Because the paleo based diet delivers only 30 to 40 percent of daily calories from carbs.
This recommended intake of carbs by paleo diet is significantly less than the recommended intake by professional nutritionists. The nutritionists recommend 45 to 65 percent of carbs. Since carbs are very essential in providing energy, paleo diet following people who are highly active might feel low on energy. Especially for the athletes, the paleo diet may not fullfill their energy requirements. The paleo diet wipes off the major sources of carbohydrates. Foods such as whole grains, starchy veggies, beans and legumes serve as a staple food and are very important for highly active people.
Ok, so after summoning everything in this article, covering every facet of paleo diet like what is the paleo diet, what are its benefits and disadvantages, what foods to eat and what foods to avoid, we have finally made it up to the conclusion section.
After going through the above information, it has become very crystal clear – why paleo diet is so famous? We can’t argue with the paleo diet benefits. And to be honest, we could have made the benefit’s list a little longer by mentioning that switching to paleo diet can improve your skin conditions like acne and furthermore that it can cure asthma too but those facts are yet to be scientifically proved.
There are not many reasons that you should consider to not switching to the paleo diet. At the least you can make it a base diet plan while choosing your food. Paleo diet meal plan can be made quickly and sticking to it is relatively simpler as compared to other diets. And moreover, most of our population has been subjected to suffer from different kinds of disorders. These diseases or disorders are a result of our typical western diet and sedentary lifestyle. It is therefore very important that the modern day’s people should remember their ancestor’s eating habits.
Paleo based diet tries to inculcate the ancestor’s eating principles by increasing the vegetable and fruits intake and decreasing processed grains and growth hormones induced dairy.The paleo based diet might serve as the best cure against the health degrading processed western diet.
Also, if you switch to paleo diet, it would sound really cool to tell your buddies that “you went completely paleo”.