Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard of the "paleo" diet. few years ago it was the most popular diet in the world!
But what is it? Is it a fad? Is it right for you?
Scientist and "Paleo Mom" Sarah Ballentyne, Ph.D. defines it as:
“The Paleo diet is a nutrient-dense whole foods diet based on eating a variety of quality meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. It improves health by providing balanced and complete nutrition while avoiding most processed and refined foods and empty calories.”
The name “paleo” is from the “paleolithic” time when earlier humans (thousands of years ago) were hunters and gatherers. It is thought to represent the era of nutrition before agriculture.
What you can (and can’t) eat on the paleo diet
Of course, being a "diet," paleo has food guidelines. The paleo diet was created to increase the amount of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods; while reducing the number of gut-disrupting, hormone-disrupting, and inflammatory foods.
But this doesn't mean there are only a couple of foods to choose from! There is a pretty wide variety of food to choose from in the paleo diet because no specific macronutrient (protein, fat or carbohydrates) is eliminated like some, not so healthy "diets" out there.
You can include fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat (including organ meats), seafood, healthy fats, fermented foods, herbs, and spices. EAting a variety of these foods is guaranteed to ensure a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates - all of which are essential to balance blood-sugar levels, stave off hunger and nourish the body with all essential nutrients it needs to function optimally.
The only things the paleo diet DOES exclude are processed and refined foods (e.g. sugar, vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, etc.), grains (e.g. wheat, oats, rice, etc.), dairy, and most legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, peanuts, etc.). Well we already know that processed and refined foods should be avoided at all costs anyway as they have next to no nutritional value and can in some cases even damage your health. Grains, dairy and legumes do have nutritional value although they can often be problematic for people who suffer with digestive upset. So it probably is best for those people to avoid grains, dairy and legumes anyway.
The paleo diet can be thought of as more of a "template," rather than a strict set of rules.
It’s a diet that seems to be easy to maintain, and with little to no negative side effects. There is no measuring or counting of calories or carbs. And there are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods to choose from.
Many proponents of the paleo diet even encourage experimentation by adding in a few of the (healthy whole) foods on their list of exclusions. High-quality dairy or potatoes may be added to less restrictive forms of the paleo diet but remember, all meals should be based on a combination of healthy fats, lean protein and complex carbohydrates to keep those blood sugar levels stable.
How does the Paleo diet affect health?
Several clinical studies have been done to find out whether there are health benefits of eating this way.
Some of the research has shown that the paleo diet can help with weight loss and belly fat. That alone may be reason enough to give it a try.
Not to mention its effect on several modern-day chronic diseases. For example, it can improve risk factors for heart disease. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, improve glucose tolerance, and even reduce symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.
It’s also thought to be “gut-friendly” because it includes a lot of high-fiber foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds), fermented foods (which contain gut-friendly probiotics), as well as being full of nutritious natural foods.
Who should consider a paleo diet?
Some people recommend the paleo diet for those with food intolerances or autoimmune diseases. Those at high risk for heart disease or diabetes may also be good candidates to give the paleo diet a try.
If you react to gluten or lactose, this diet removes them both by eliminating all grains and dairy.
As a bare minimum, a great start, even if you don't choose to go paleo all the way, is to eliminate added sugars, processed and refined foods .
The paleo diet is based on what hunters and gatherers ate thousands of years ago. It is a whole-food based, nutrient-dense diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, seafood, and fermented foods.
Science has shown that it can help some people to lose weight, reduce risks of heart disease, improve glucose tolerance, and reduce inflammation. Since it focuses on natural foods and eliminates anything that is NOT a whole food, this "diet" is in my opinion an excellent starting point for people wanting to improve their health overall. Tweaks and other short-term strategies may be necessary to address specific imbalances but this would be easy to do if a person is already in the habit of eating a healthy diet that follows the paleo diet principles.
If you often feel overwhelmed at the thought of healthy meal planning and health eating in general, CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR FREE ONLINE STRATEGY SESSION so I can help get you clarity on the next best steps for you to help you finally reach your health and weight loss goals.