The Paleo diet plan has become immensely popular in the recent years. Also known as the caveman diet, primal diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, it is based on following the diet patterns of our ancestors. This unique diet involves ditching processed food in favour of natural, unprocessed fruits, vegetables and meats that were available in the Paleolithic era.
While many people claim that Paleo diet plan has several health benefits, such as lower blood sugar, reduce inflammation, weight reduction and improved digestion, this diet has been a subject of controversy during the recent years. Let us learn more about Paleo diet plan.
What is Paleo diet?
The basic premise of a Paleo diet is straightforward – Eat what a cave dweller would eat. The followers of this diet believe that we should eat only the foods that our hunting-gathering ancestors used to eat during the Paleolithic Age.
This means that not only are processed food off the table but grains, cereals and legumes are also a no-no. The proponents of this diet believe that our bodies were made to eat only these foods in their original form.
They also think that many of our ailments are linked to the modern day processed goods and grains. These diets tend to be low in carbohydrates and rich in proteins.
Unfortunately, these diets also eliminate entire food groups like legumes and dairy from the diet, and this means loss of essential nutrients.
History of Paleo diet
Gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin came up with the idea of Paleo diet in 1975 in his book The Stone Age Diet. Almost a decade later Melvin Konner and Stanley Boyd Eaton published a paper on the Paleo in the New England Journal of Medicine, and this became the foundation of the Paleo Diet.
Dr Loren Cordain, who founded the modern Paleo movement, wrote the book The Paleo Diet in 2002 and he has written many other books on Paleo diet since then.
The popularity of Paleo diet has grown in the recent years.
Paleo diet foods
Your Paleo diet should include real, unprocessed food. Choose organic and grass-fed foods.
- Meats: Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork etc.
- Fish and seafood: Salmon, trout, haddock, shrimp, shellfish etc. (fresh not frozen)
- Eggs: Choose free range, omega-3 enriched eggs.
- Vegetables : Broccoli, kale, peppers, onions, carrots, tomatoes etc.
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, avocados, strawberries, blueberries, etc.
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips etc.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, Macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds etc.
- Healthy fats and oils: Heart-healthy unrefined oils like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and flaxseed oil.
- Salt and spices: sea salt, Himalayan salt, garlic, turmeric, rosemary etc.
Foods to avoid on a Paleo diet plan
- Dairy: Avoid all dairy products, especially the low-fat variety.
- Grains: Wheat, rye, barley. Also, avoid bread and pasta.
- Legumes: All beans and lentils.
- Vegetable oils: Sunflower oil, soyabean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, grapeseed oil etc.
- Trans fats: Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils that are mostly found in processed food.
- Artificial sweeteners: All artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, saccharin etc. Use natural sweeteners like honey instead,
- Sugar and high fructose corn syrup: Sugar and products that use high fructose corn syrup like colas, fruit juices, candy, pastries and ice-creams.
- Highly processed food: This includes all synthetic ingredients and anything that is labelled diet or low-fat.
A few allowances
- Paleo diet has changed a bit over the years. Some versions of the diet allow some modern food, as long as it is healthy. These include:
- Pasture-raised pigs
- Grass-fed butter
- Non-gluten grains like rice
- Red wines are approved for their high antioxidant content
- Dark chocolate is allowed for its nutrition value
- Teas, especially green teas are allowed as they are loaded with antioxidants
- Coffee also contains antioxidants.
Health benefits of Paleo diet
When you eliminate processed food and include proteins and heart-healthy fats in your diet, you cut down on calories, and this helps in weight loss. This diet also encourages you to eat fruits and vegetables, which are rich in dietary fibre. Dietary fibre improves satiety and helps to reduce appetite.
Also, Paleo diet plan consists of high protein foods, which in turn can reduce the levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. The end result is the reduction in your appetite (1).
2. Helps regulate blood sugar
Paleo diet restricts the consumption of many carbohydrates like processed foodgrains and processed bread. It promotes the use of healthy fats and proteins and these help in keeping the blood sugar low.
A study was done on 14 type 2 diabetes patients who were on a Paleo diet. The study discovered that even a short-term consumption of Paleolithic diet improved glucose control and lipid profiles (2).
Protein is an integral part of our diet. It helps in repairing and rebuilding tissue, building muscle mass and maintaining healthy blood sugar.
A diet that is deficient in protein can lead to decreased immunity, low energy levels and slower healing of wounds. Paleo diet includes healthy portions of protein. It contains protein-rich food like beef, poultry and fish.
4. Rich in nutrients
Modern day diets of processed foods are high in calories but do not contain many nutrients. Paleo diet emphasises the importance of nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood in the diet.
This means you avoid all ailments that are linked to lack of nutrients in the diet and deficiency of essential nutrients.
5. Reduces inflammation
Paleo diet encourages eating lots of fruits and vegetables. These foods contain antioxidants which help in reducing inflammation. Nuts and seed are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are helpful in reducing inflammation.
6. Improves digestion
Paleo diet eliminates all processed foods and sugars from the diet. This helps in improving your digestive health. It also reduces the chances of developing leaky gut syndrome, which can lead to damage to intestinal walls.
Paleo diet plan tips for beginners
If you are planning to go on a Paleo diet but do not know where to start, don’t worry. Here’s a list of tips for you to make this journey easy for you.
- Start with a one-week plan. Plan your diet for the week and follow.
- Take a list of foods that are allowed in this diet with you when you go grocery shopping.
- Go for organic products as much as possible. Avoid any foods that have processed ingredients.
- Eat when you feel hungry. You do not have to count calories.
- Exercise regularly to maximise the benefits of this diet.
How to eat out on a Paleo diet plan?
Eating out can be a challenge if you are following a paleo diet plan. Here are some tips to stay on track while eating out.
- Order your meat without any sauces, as these sauces may consist of ingredients that are not Paleo friendly.
- Take vegetables as your side dishes instead of bread or rice.
- Make sure that your meat or fish is cooked in olive oil or coconut oil.
- Ask for sushi rolls that do not contain rice.
- Order tacos or fajitas without a tortilla.
Paleo diet plan for beginners
There are many Paleo plans available on the net. Follow the one that you find most suitable to your lifestyle. Don’t start with something that is too restrictive as you may end up giving up too fast.
There are many options for evolved Paleo diets or diets for beginners that you can start with. The internet has many recipes for paleo meals, smack and desserts for you to try.
For days that you don’t feel like cooking, here are some simple paleo snacks that you can include in your diet.
- Boiled eggs
- Carrot sticks or baby carrots
- Some nuts like almonds or walnuts
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Bowl of berries with coconut cream
The downside of Paleo diet plan
There are many disadvantages of following Paleo diet. Many experts believe that is it not possible to fully follow the Paleo diet as many animals and plants have evolved since the Paleolithic age. Paleo diet can have some disadvantages as well.
- Since Paleo diet does not involve counting calories, we may end up eating excessive amounts of specific food groups.
- Legumes are a highly beneficial food group as it provides many essential nutrients like magnesium, selenium and manganese. Paleo diet eliminates this food group.
- Since Paleo diet excludes dairy products, you can be at risk of calcium deficiency.
- Paleo diet emphasises meat consumption which is not possible for vegetarians. Also, excessive red meat consumption had been linked to increased risk of mortality and colorectal cancer (3, 4).
- People who follow Paleo diet are also not consuming enough fibre that comes from grain. Dietary fibre is essential for a healthy digestive system.
- People on Paleo diet may also be lacking in nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium, folate, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and phosphorus.
Final words on Paleo diet plan
Though Paleo diet plan has become very popular in the last few years, you must exercise caution while following it. Not all Paleo foods are healthy. Meats that are deep-fried should be eaten in moderation, include fruits and vegetables for a balanced diet. If you have diabetes or are suffering from any other illness, consult with our doctor before you begin a Paleo diet plan.