What Is the Paleo Diet and How Can It Benefit Me? 0
Who knew that our caveman ancestors were onto something when it comes to diet? Have you heard about the Paleo diet or know someone who swears by it? For those who swear by it, you’ll hear them say things like “eating Paleo has improved my health and made me feel significantly better,” or “I no longer suffer from X chronic condition.”
If you want to feel more energized, reduce stress, lose weight and minimize or eliminate chronic health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, allergies, digestive disorders and autoimmune diseases, the Paleo diet plan might be for you!
What Is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet means eating only the foods that were available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors who lived during the Paleolithic Period. The Paleolithic Period was a cultural stage of human technological development that lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to about 12,000 years ago.
The Paleo diet plan doesn’t care if our Paleolithic ancestors used tools or which kinds — the diet follows the premise that our bodies are evolutionarily not designed to consume foods that require modern technology to produce. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors only ate foods that they could find and eat right away — they did not farm, process food in any way, bake, use salt or consume dairy products.
Grains and legumes such as soybeans grew during this period, but our ancestors did not eat them because they were inedible. It was much later that humans began to eat beans and grind up grains to produce flour for bread, cakes and cereals.
Why does this matter? Researchers who study DNA have recently discovered that our bodies are still very genetically similar to our caveman ancestors. Their bodies nor ours are equipped to digest grains properly — and grains contain toxins that can damage our intestinal lining. Legumes such as peanuts, lentils and beans contain phytic acid, which prevents our bodies from absorbing the nutrients in the legumes. Legumes also contain potentially toxic lectins, which can damage the intestinal wall and cause autoimmune and digestive problems.
Chronic health conditions such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes, food allergies, autoimmune disorders, asthma, cognitive decline, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease didn’t exist during the Paleolithic Period. These health conditions began showing up when we started eating processed foods, grains, salt and refined sugar.
What Can I Eat on the Paleo Diet Plan?
You can eat a lot on the Paleo diet plan! You can eat fresh fruits and most veggies, eggs, nuts, seeds, seafood, grass-fed meat and healthy fats and oils such as coconut, avocado, olive, macadamia, walnut and flaxseed. Unlike many diets, you can eat red meat on the Paleo diet plan, but avoid processed or cured meats such as deli meat, sausage and smoked meats (including fish). Instead of grain-based baked goods, you can buy or make bread, crackers, cakes and muffins using coconut, almond or tapioca “flour.”
What Should I Avoid on the Paleo Diet Plan?
In addition to processed meats, you’ll want to cut out grains (including bread, pasta and cereal), potatoes, salt, dairy products, refined sugar, some vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, alcohol and highly processed foods. Basically, avoid anything produced in a factory that comes from a box, bottle or bag!
What Are Some Typical Paleo Diet Meals?
One of the best things about following a Paleo diet plan is that you’ll be introduced to unique combinations of foods, spices and herbs you won’t find on other diet plans. And you’ll also eat “non-traditional” foods at certain times of the day. For example, for Paleo breakfasts, you’ll often eat vegetables instead of cereal or bread — or poultry instead of pork.
Finding lunch and dinner foods on the Paleo diet plan is pretty easy as long as each meal contains protein, healthy fats and vegetables. Salads, soups and sandwiches made with Paleo-friendly bread are common for Paleo lunches. And you can find an enormous variety of Paleo dinner recipes for meats with veggies and pasta-alternatives such as cauliflower rice. But what about Paleo breakfasts, snacks and desserts? You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to find Paleo-friendly options!
Paleo Breakfast Foods
Typical Paleo breakfast foods include eggs, any unprocessed meat, yogurt, avocados, vegetables, nut or seed butter and smoothies high in protein. You might start out eating basic veggie and ham omelets, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find a fantastic array of Paleo breakfast recipes for meals such as:
- Chorizo & Sweet Potato Egg Skillet
- Italian Sheet Pan Eggs with Artichokes and Prosciutto
- Coconut Mango Chia Seed Pudding
- Low-Carb Cauliflower Hash Browns
- Paleo Apple Cake
- Mixed Berry & Chocolate Paleo Smoothie
Paleo snacks are probably the easiest Paleo food to find! Grab a handful of nuts or nibble on carrots, cucumber slices and celery smeared with cashew butter. Eat a piece of fruit, a hard-boiled egg or guacamole. You can also find or make chips made from baked kale or sweet potatoes. For more creative Paleo snacks, consider recipes such as these:
- Sweet & Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
- Savory Zucchini Muffins with Ham & Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Coconut Honey Joys
- Paleo Granola Bars
- Paleo Hummus with Almonds
- Tahini & Wholegrain Mustard Crackers
Just because you’re following a Paleo diet plan doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a dessert or two! Of course, if you’re eating Paleo to lose weight, you’ll want to limit how often you eat Paleo desserts. The simplest Paleo desserts are fruits and fruit salads. If you have the time and inclination, you’ll find all sorts of delicious Paleo dessert ideas such as:
- Paleo Chocolate Cake
- Mango Key Lime Paleo Cheesecake
- Paleo Sticky Date Pudding Cupcakes
- Paleo Salted Caramel Bites
- Paleo Black Forest Cake Dessert
- Paleo Strawberry Ice Cream Bon Bons
How Can the Paleo Diet Plan Benefit Me?
Following a Paleo diet plan can seem restrictive because it requires a big shift in avoiding foods common in our Western diets. However, once you follow a Paleo diet plan consistently, you’ll:
- Be able to think more clearly and your overall health will significantly improve.
- Feel more energized, which means you’ll be more productive at work and able to enjoy your free time.
- Lose weight — and keep it off because it’s a lifestyle change that is sustainable instead of a “quick fix” diet that is hard to follow indefinitely.
- Experience fewer symptoms or eliminate chronic conditions such as obesity, hypertension, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies or autoimmune disease.
- Potentially see improvements in your skin, hair and teeth.
- Experience fewer mood swings and more stable blood sugar and energy levels.
Eating Paleo is almost guaranteed to improve your quality of life — and it might even prolong your life, especially if it eliminates a chronic health problem known to shorten lives. Of course, you should always check with your doctor before making any significant dietary changes!
3 Reasons Why Eating Paleo Will Improve Your Life 0
You could fill a basket the size of a shopping mall if you gathered all the fad diet books published in recent decades, so no it’s wonder we’re often confused over which dietary plan is the best for our bodies! As it turns out, the paleo diet is the oldest diet known to man — and may just be the best one. Why? Because eating paleo means eating foods similar to what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate thousands of years ago — and eating food in its most natural state is healthiest for our bodies.
Our ancestors from the Paleolithic period did not farm, bake or process food — they merely ate what was fresh and available in its whole form. They did not salt their food, consume dairy products or eat grains. Recent DNA studies have discovered that our genetic pattern hasn’t changed much in the last 40,000 years, so our bodies are still genetically very similar to those of our ancestors.
Eating foods in their natural state doesn’t simply mean no chemicals, preservatives or dyes. It also means no processing — no grinding grains to create flour and no refining vegetable oils, sugars or salts. The paleo diet is getting a lot of well-deserved attention, so let’s take a look at the top three reasons for eating paleo.
#1: Eating Paleo Reduces Inflammation and the Risk of Many Chronic Diseases
Researchers believe our Paleolithic ancestors didn’t need to worry about diseases and conditions such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, cognitive decline, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune diseases and inflammatory bowel disease.
Why? Because they did not exist. These diseases emerged only after our eating habits changed to include eating fatty meats, salts, processed grains and added sugars. The earliest records we have for some of these conditions date back to ancient Egyptian times, but by then, we were using salt and eating processed grains and fatty meats.
Several studies have emerged indicating that the paleo diet reduces our risk of developing many of these diseases and conditions. Or if we already have health issues, eating paleo minimizes symptoms or even eliminates the problem.
In addition, many of these conditions cause inflammation in our bodies, sometimes with pain but often without. The paleo diet is inherently anti-inflammatory because it is high in foods that are proven to reduce inflammation, as well as foods loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants — and it avoids foods that cause inflammation such as processed meats and trans fats.
So apart from the obvious reason for wanting to reduce our disease risk — longer life — we’re likely to enjoy life much more if we’re not battling one or more of these health conditions!
#2: Eating Paleo Helps Us Lose Weight — and Keep It Off
Our typical Western diet includes a lot of carbohydrates — think cereals, breads, potatoes, sugary drinks and foods, salty snack foods and pasta. By some estimates, the average American gets about 60 percent of their calories from carbs like these. Most of these foods didn’t exist until a few hundred years ago. And although low-carb diets have been the rage for a few decades, most don’t eliminate fatty or salty foods such as bacon, burgers, deli meat and cheese.
So how does the paleo diet help us lose weight? Eating paleo means eating fewer carbs, but it also means eliminating fatty and salty foods, unlike traditional low-carb diets. What you can eat on paleo are whole, unprocessed plant and animal foods. These foods have fewer calories and are more filling, so we feel less hungry. Carbs come mostly from plants, not grains or sugars.
People who follow the paleo diet are often able to adopt it as their long-range approach to eating, whereas most of us have a difficult time following a traditional low-carb diet indefinitely. So not only does eating paleo help us lose weight in the short term, it’s a sustainable lifestyle adjustment that keeps the weight off!
#3: Eating Paleo = More Energy, Better Sleep & Overall Better Health
In addition to reducing or eliminating chronic conditions and weight loss, if we follow a paleo diet, we’ll naturally feel better — we’ll have more energy, which means we’re likely to be more productive in our work and free time. We won’t end up “hangry” because our blood sugar and energy levels are stable throughout the day.
Some of us may even see allergies or skin problems clear up. And most of us will sleep better. We all know better sleep results in improved moods and mental clarity — which also means we’re better able to manage our daily stress!
How to Eat Paleo
Now that we’ve explored the reasons why the paleo diet can make us far healthier, let’s talk about how to eat paleo! In a nutshell, what you can eat on the paleo diet are fruits, most vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats, fish and oils such as olive or walnut. Other paleo-friendly foods you can eat include eggs,
herbs, spices, healthy fats such as avocados and coconuts, plus fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon. And grass-fed beef, pork and poultry are okay as long as you trim the fat!
What to Avoid When Eating Paleo
Now here comes the harder part, foods that we need to reduce or eliminate from our diets: grains, legumes, dairy, salt, refined sugar, potatoes, some vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, alcohol and highly processed foods.
By grains, this means no breads, pastas, cereals or crackers — anything made with wheat, oats, barley, rye and rice. But wait, aren’t whole grains healthy? According to paleo proponents, our bodies are not designed to eat grains, so we can’t properly digest them. They also contain toxic anti-nutrients that attack our intestinal lining.
No legumes means no beans, lentils, peanuts, soybeans, tofu or peas. So why no legumes? Legumes are high in phytic acid, which prevents our bodies from absorbing the nutrients in the legumes. We end up with a lot of carbs but little nutrition. They also contain potentially toxic lectins, which can damage the intestinal wall and cause digestive and autoimmune problems.
Not all who follow paleo completely avoid every one of these foods — some plans allow a few “open meals” per week, which means you can consume some of these foods in moderation.
The biggest no-no is, of course, highly processed foods full of salt and refined sugar. In addition to meats such as sausage and deli meat, this includes many condiments such as ketchup and salad dressings.
Basically, if it comes from a factory packaged in a box, bottle, can or bag, avoid it if you want to enjoy the benefits of the paleo diet!