So what is a Paleo diet? For those that first encounter the Paleo diet, the most common questions are:
- “What is a Paleo Diet?”
- “What can you eat on the Paleo Diet?”
- “What is Paleo food?”
Unfortunately there seems to be an assumption that people are supposed to know what this diet is.
Most experts will have a different definition of what a Paleo diet is, which certainly doesn’t help to clear things up!
- The Definition Of A Paleo Diet Explained
- What Paleo Is All About
- How To Start The Paleo Diet
- Is The Paleo Diet Healthy
- Using The Paleo Diet For Weight Loss
Then there’s the added confusion from those that just jump into what this diet entails i.e. whether it should include grains and dairy, while others disagree and say that these foods should not be present in the Paleo diet.
The other questions revolve around questioning what the people of old really ate and whether we can really truly get hold of that food today.
Then there are those in favor of a Paleo diet consisting of a high-carbs, low-fat diet as long as all the carbs would have been available to a hunter-gatherer.
The Definition Of A Paleo Diet Explained
The word Paleo is short for Paleolithic. And the idea behind it is that we only eat those equivalent foods that were consumed by our hunter-gatherer ancestors this makes it the ultimate cave man diet, and answers the question, “what can I eat on the Paleo diet?“.
The best way to picture a Paleo diet is by imagining having no stores and having to catch and pick your own food, which would consist of animals, fruits and vegetables.
Obviously today you will be buying these foods in the store, but you will do so with the Paleo diet criteria in mind.
This criteria will consist of predominantly grass-fed meat, eggs, poultry, wild-caught fish, seafood, vegetables, tubers, herbs, fruits and a small amount of seeds and nuts.
What Can You Not Eat On The Paleo Diet?
Foods that would be prohibited in a Paleo diet would be processed or those that require manufactured processes to produce, which would include tinned and packaged food. The diet also excludes most legumes, cane sugar, as well as artificial and refined sweeteners.
You are also prohibited to eat dairy foods and any grain-based products including bread, pasta and rice. The thinking behind this as expressed earlier is that none of these items were available to the hunter-gatherer, they only became available after humans started farming land and domesticating animals and further processing the produce.
What Paleo Is All About
Now you understand what a Paleo diet is and what it allows and disallows here are some simple principles to keep in mind answering the question, what does the paleo diet consist of?
- You should only eat foods that your body can digest easily
- You should eat foods that nourish you and enable your whole body to self-regulate.
The process of following a Paleo diet in its simplest form involves following these simple guide lines. There is no need to do an historical reenactment, its just a matter of grasping the simple practical guidelines that allow you to stick to better nutritional choices.
The Paleo diet doesn’t follow one set structure, so it’s not just about explicitly eating low-carb. It’s also not burdensome i.e. it doesn’t require you to count your calorie consumption, which is certainly a relief. You’ll also be able to get plenty of tasty grub in, because it’s not about starving yourself just to lose excess weight.
The Paleo diets main focus is getting you to eat whole and unprocessed foods. At the same time it encourages you to stop eating highly-palatable foods that are often unhealthy because they’re normally filled with preservatives and harmful ingredients.
A great benefit of a Paleo diet is that it is much harder to overeat when following its principles.
The Paleo diet is lower in G.I. per unit consumed than an equivalent amount of simple sugar carbs, and at the same time provides more of the essential nutrients your body needs to function correctly.
The Glycaemic Index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods based on the overall effect on blood glucose levels. Slowly absorbed foods have a low GI rating, while foods that are more quickly absorbed have a higher rating.
Eating the many easy quick Paleo meals means that your brain receives signals that the stomach is full far sooner.
Paleo food, which is mostly protein and complex carbohydrates, is used by the body and brain for the correct functioning because of the food quality, these are just some of the Paleo diet benefits.
In contrast, we find that most of the modern Western diet is based on high-G.I. simple carbs and the problem with this is that it is readily stored as fat.
If you have been conditioned to feeding your taste buds rather than your bodies true dietary needs, the Paleo meals may seem dull and austere to begin with.
But the truth is that this is a superficial view and you are likely to be pleasantly surprised because good food tastes good. You will also find that a well prepared Paleo diet meal plan is very appetizing and is the food our body really craves, even if our taste buds can be fooled otherwise with artificial additives.
How To Start The Paleo Diet
Most diets are seen as rigid regimes and you could make the same mistake of thinking that the Paleo diet is the same. This may be true with some Paleo programs, but it doesn’t have to be.
Having defined parameters to follow, Paleo progams with little or no room at all for individual experimentation and variation can be off putting. If you are part of a strict Paleo diet it may not encourage your own personal experimentation, but you shouldn’t be discouraged because there are many good progams to start a Paleo diet.
The rigid style of the Paleo diet has created the misconception that it’s a “template” rather than a “diet”.
A template is more of a general guidelines approach usually customized according to the individual needs of anyone who wants to follow it. This is certainly not what you want to aim for when you start out.
Your goal should be to create your own diet plan that will encourage you to achieve optimal health instead of simply following someone else’s dietary prescription.
Paleo Weight Loss Benefits
There are many different reasons people want to start a Paleo diet, one of those is for weight loss. It’s important to know that this diet is not designed specifically for weight loss, it should be viewed as more of a lifestyle diet. It’s only when you’ve adopted the attitude for a healthy lifestyle that you can achieve optimal health, which is then likely to result in an healthier weight.
This shouldn’t scare you away, a Paleo diet is not just for athletes and professionals it’s for anyone that wants to make a dietary shift from a modern diet to Paleo.
Guidelines For Starting Your Paleo Diet
When starting out with any diet there are two approaches. The first is to abandon your old diet “cold turkey” and the second is to do it gradually. For this guide we will be concentrating on the most popular approach which is gradual.
Many people believe taking small steps when making dietary changes has more long lasting results.
(1) – You can start by adding more variety to the vegetables and fruits that you eat daily.
This can be done by steadily increasing the amount of fresh vegetables in your meals and the reduction of packaged foods.
(2) – You can then start filling your fridge with animal-based protein sources, which would include:
- Red meat
- seafood (if you follow a dietary law you can miss this out)
- duck (if you follow a dietary law you can miss this out)
These are all good sources of protein for your Paleo meals.
(3) – You can then find free or paid paleo recipes based on the meats and vegetables that you have available to you.
(4) – You need to avoid processed foods when buying your meats and vegetables and focus on preparing tasty whole foods.
Things To Keep In Mind
It’s obvious that you’re not going to eat exactly what the hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, but you can choose substitutes from a wide range of healthy alternatives.
If you’re not able to grow your own yams this shouldn’t stop you. You should still be able to get starchy Paleo-friendly foods, for instance:
- Lotus roots
- Taro roots
If you can’t find any of these food stuffs than pumpkin and potato are great alternatives.
The benefit of eating these starchy foods is to help replenish glycogen stores.
When using the Paleo diet to lose weight many people prefer to follow a low carb diet. The opposite is true for those that are into high-activity sports because carbs would play a more essential role.
Consulting A Doctor
You should always do your own due diligence when following any diet program. For example if you have concerns about your cholesterol levels rising while going on a Paleo diet, you can have your levels tested prior to making major diet changes. You can then have tests done every month.
If you’re changing from a processed food and rich desserts diet the great thing is that you will almost certainly be pleasantly surprised by the results.
The majority of dieters see great improvements in their health when following a Paleo diet.
You will be pleasantly surprised as you see yourself becoming fitter and healthier without even trying too hard or feeling hungry.
Is The Paleo Diet Healthy
As you’re aware the Paleo diet promotes good health. This is something we all want.
More specifically a Paleo diet will help improve your lipid profiles, insulin sensitivity and blood pressure in as little as ten days.
I know what you’re thinking, this sounds like an advertisement for a shady nutritional supplement or a magic pill for weight loss, but the truth is it’s not, I can personally testify to the positive feeling that takes place when eating healthier.
As with most diets there are skeptics, the Paleo diet is no exception. The good news is that studies conducted have been able to debunk the negative opinions skeptics have of Paleo diets.
Here are some health benefits found when following a Paleo diet:
Paleo Blood Pressure Reduction
The Paleo diet promotes a greater consumption of potassium rich foods and the reduction of high-sodium foods. For this very reason this diet is the perfect blueprint of what to eat to lower blood pressure levels.
In a study conducted it showed that Paleo dieters lowered their average systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings by as much as 3mmHg.
For many researchers this is no surprise because it’s known that a diet low in sodium and high in potassium has long been recommended for lowering blood pressure especially for those suffering from hypertension.
For a person that is suffering from hypertension, a correct balance between your intake of sodium and other minerals is required. With a Paleo diet hypertension reduction is not difficult to achieve because you’re exposed to a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meat and other whole foods, and these are filled with a complete range of minerals and vitamins.
Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Research has found that an healthy Paleo diet was also found to improve insulin levels and blood sugar metabolism.
The study involved, participants who were subjected to standard glucose tests to check their level of glucose tolerance as well as their level of insulin insensitivity. All of these are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.
The results showed that after several weeks on a Paleo diet, participants were able to maintain stable blood sugar concentrations with a reduced insulin secretion.
Results also showed an insulin to glucose ratio which was significantly reduced by as much as 40% and their insulin sensitivity was also improved.
What this all means is that they would now require relatively lower or normal insulin inorder to process glucose.
When a person is diagnosed with insulin resistance they normally have very poor insulin sensitivity.
The result is high amounts of insulin being released in their bodies inorder to be able to process glucose. This then leads to a host of known health issues, including type 2 diabetes.
Reduces Bad Cholesterol
In a study which took place at UCSF School of Medicine results showed that being on a Paleo diet just ten days was enough to improve their study subjects’ cholesterol profiles.
The results from the study were substantial as they produced lower bad cholesterol levels in subjects by up to 22 per cent.
From the nine subjects, involved there was only one that did not show any reduction in their total cholesterol and LDL levels.
Although all nine were found to have lower levels of triglycerides and VLDL or very-low-density-lipoprotein.
The feedback from experts was that the improvement in cholesterol levels was equivalent to six months of statin medication treatment.
As you can see from the results their are great incentives for those who suffer from high cholesterol readings to consider switching to a Paleo diet. The benefits are substantial, especially as there are no documented paleo diet side effects, which do exist when taking statins.
As always you should consult your doctor If you have a pre-existing medical condition, before starting a Paleo diet regimen.
Using The Paleo Diet For Weight Loss
If it’s weight loss you’re trying to achieve, a Paleo weight loss plan diet may be a good choice to make to achieve this. However, you should keep in mind that it’s not the ONLY way to achieve sustainable weight loss.
When using a Paleo diet as a vehicle for weight loss other lifestyle habits should be practised in conjunction such as:
Keeping Meals Simple
To maintain a healthy Paleo diet it’s important to keep meals simple, by staying away from lavish flavorings and ingredients, this will help prevent you from unecessary binging. You should reserve lavish fattening recipes for special occasions.
If you struggle to reduce your caloric consumption then a Paleo diet will definitely help make it easier.
Many Paleo dieters have reported success in losing their excess weight despite the fact that they are not consciously restricting any high-calorie foods. Weight loss for most people on the diet has been attributed to the simplicity of most Paleo dishes.
The fact that Paleo recipes have a less extreme taste and flavor, is a good thing because it helps to restrict the inclination to overeat.
Of course you may need to break some habits and condition yourself to stay away from sugar-laden treats.
So to get started you will need to make a decisive decision to eat for your health rather than just pleasure. The good thing is once you see some weight coming off it will be easier to say no to foods that don’t benefit you!
As expressed throughout this article the paleo diet is all about simple healthy eating. Which consists of whole, fresh vegetables, rich sources of healthy fats, protein and staying away from processed foods.
When you diet you should never adopt the mindset that eating less will necessarily reduce your weight.
Eating less is likely to deprive you of nutrients that your body needs to fuel it on a daily basis. Even if you have excess weight the chances are you gained the weight because you have been eating unhealthy, not because of how much food you’ve eaten.
Eating Too Little
You should be aware that eating to little as mentioned earlier may reduce your caloric intake, which could inturn reduce your resting metabolic rate and cause your weight loss to stall.
For this reason it’s important to eat enough for your body to function at its optimal level.
No matter what diet you are on, an important thing to remember is: “dieting” is NOT synonymous with “starvation”.
The truth is undereating is just as dangerous as overeating. Choosing a healthy and filling Paleo diet is the best way to provide you with all the necessary nutrients and calorie intake to get you through your day.
Prohibiting foods that are not part of a Paleo diet is the best way to start getting off the excess weight.
Knowing Your Carbohydrate Tolerance
Your level of carbohydrate tolerance may not be the same as another persons, which means a low-carb diet may definitely be fine for some people while others may find themselves experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia between meals.
If you’re used to eating sugary snacks regularly it is likely to take a short period for your body to re-balance and adjust to a new diet.
During your transition period any cravings between meals can be dealt with by eating a handful of nuts or something similar. This can help to reduce these cravings over the first week or two.
Choose The Right Balance Of Food To Exercise
When dieting it’s important that your calorie intake matches your exercise and daily physical activity.
A common mistake that people make is to ramp up exercise whilst cutting back on their carbohydrate intake.
Without a doubt exercising on less calories can help you lose weight faster. But the problem is, it can also put added stresses on your system which is already struggling with the diet change shock.
If you live a less active lifestyle due to a physical disability or any other health-related problem that prevents you from exercising or becoming too physically active, the reduction in your carbohydrate intake may indeed help you shed pounds without causing further harm to your body.
And to reiterate don’t forget to consult your doctor first before making any major changes to your diet, especially if you have any underlying medical condition.