What Is the Paleo Diet and How Can It Benefit Me?

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

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

Paleo Desserts

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!


Beyond Cutting Meat — Vegetarian Diets Explained

Beyond Cutting Meat — Vegetarian Diets Explained 0

Are you considering a vegetarian diet to lose weight or improve your health — or maybe a little of both? In addition to religious reasons, people choose a vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons beyond improved health — concerns about animal welfare, hormones and antibiotics used in livestock, bacteria and food safety or the impact of meat production on environmental resources.

Another Reason to Eat Vegetarian – Save Money!

Did you know eating vegetarian can also save you some money? Meat and seafood meals generally cost more to shop for or order in a restaurant than plant-based meals. By some estimates, a vegetarian diet can save you anywhere from $750 to $3,000 per year if you substitute legumes and other plant-based proteins for meat.  

Regardless of the reason why you’re considering the veggie life, a well-balanced vegetarian diet can do wonders for your waistline and your health! We’ll get into specific health benefits of a vegetarian diet plan in a moment, but research shows that vegetarians have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and lower body mass index (height to weight ratio). They also take in more nutrients and less saturated fat, all of which can mean a reduced risk of developing many chronic conditions and diseases.

So, What Does A Vegetarian Diet Plan Look Like?

In a nutshell, it means abstaining from eating all meat, including fish, seafood and poultry. But we can break this down further as there are variations in vegetarian diet plans. Some are more restrictive than others.

Vegetarian Diet Variations:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet: No meat, fish or poultry but allows dairy products and eggs.
  • Ovo-vegetarian diet: No meat, fish, poultry or dairy, but allows eggs.
  • Pescetarian or pesco-vegetarian diet: No meat or poultry but allows fish, and sometimes eggs and dairy products.
  • Pollo-vegetarian diet: No meat or fish but allows poultry, and sometimes eggs and dairy products.
  • Vegan Diet: The most restrictive, this means no meat, fish or poultry, plus no animal-derived products including dairy, eggs and sometimes even honey.
  • Flexitarian diet: A mostly vegetarian diet but allows occasional meat, fish or poultry.

As you can see, eating vegetarian can mean different things to different people. However, don’t let this confuse you — the great thing about vegetarian diet plans is you can choose the one that best suits your tastes and needs.

What Does a Well-Balanced Vegetarian Diet Look Like?

Many who consider a plant-based diet worry about meeting all their nutritional needs, and this is a valid concern. Since you’re eliminating foods that contain nutrients your body needs, you’ll need to pay attention to make sure you’re getting those nutrients from other sources, especially if you choose one of the more restrictive vegetarian diet plans.  

And simply eliminating meat from your diet doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating healthier! For example, if you eat donuts and almond milk Frappuccinos for breakfast, cheese pizza and chips for lunch, big bowls of mac and cheese for dinner and candy for dessert, you’re technically eating vegetarian — but you aren’t going to lose weight or improve your health. Some vegetarians make the mistake of relying on too many processed foods, which are usually high in sodium, calories, sugar and fat.

With a little planning, you can meet your body’s nutritional needs. Here’s an overview:

  • Protein: The most obvious need is, of course, protein, especially if you’ve cut dairy and eggs as well as all meat. Nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains can provide protein.
  • Calcium and vitamin D: Again, if you’ve cut dairy, you’ll need to eat plants high in calcium and consider enriched products such as juice or supplements.
  • Iron: Iron is a bit tricky as it needs vitamin C to be absorbed, so in addition to eating foods high in iron such as peas, lentils and dried beans, you’ll need to eat foods high in C at the same time.

Omega-3 fatty acids: If you’ve cut fish and eggs, you may need a supplement since plant-based sources are inefficient.

Let’s Talk about Weight Loss and Vegetarian Diet Plans

Again, simply cutting meat doesn’t guarantee you’ll lose weight on a vegetarian diet. Weight loss breaks down to about 75% diet and 25% exercise, so you’ll need to monitor your caloric intake even on a vegetarian diet. For example, nuts are loaded with nutrients but are high in calories, as are honey, cheese and other full-fat dairy products. And loading up on carbs such as veggie pasta and rice dishes, bread and starchy vegetables like potatoes won’t help your weight loss goals either.

So How Do You Lose Weight on a Vegetarian Diet?

The simplest way to lose weight while following a vegetarian diet is to eat fruits and vegetables in their most natural state. For example, eat an orange instead of drinking orange juice or eat a roasted sweet potato instead of a bag of sweet potato chips. It also means eating whole grain pasta and bread, and brown rice instead of white. You can find vegetarian diet plans for weight loss if you need to follow a structured plan, but you don’t necessarily need to if you follow these tips.  

Tips for Losing Weight on a Vegetarian Diet:

  • Avoid processed and prepackaged foods such as canned soups and boxed or frozen meals. Make soups and meals from scratch whenever possible.
  • Replace sugary snacks and junk food with nuts and fresh fruits.
  • Limit portion sizes when eating high-calorie foods such as nuts and cheese.
  • Avoid “empty carbs” such as white rice and non-whole-grain products.
  • Avoid sugary drinks such as soft drinks and fancy coffee drinks.
  • Watch out for so-called energy drinks or nutrition bars — some of these are thinly disguised soft drinks or candy bars.
  • Avoid high-calorie salad dressings and condiments.

A Final Word — The Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet Plan

We’ve already talked about how following a vegetarian diet plan designed for weight loss can benefit your waistline and your wallet. Research has begun to show that being a vegetarian can benefit your health in other ways:

  • Type 2 Diabetes: Vegetarian diets help stabilize blood sugar levels, which lowers your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Cancer: While there are no definitive studies that prove this without a doubt, some research suggests that avoiding meat, especially highly processed meats, can reduce your cancer risk, including breast, colon, rectum and stomach cancer.
  • Heart Disease: Studies have found that vegetarians also tend to have healthier cholesterol and blood pressure levels, which can lower the risk of heart disease.

With access to fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, it’s easier than ever to switch to a meat-free diet. And you might be surprised to find out how delicious and creative vegetarian cuisine can be — forget boring steamed vegetables and brown rice when you can enjoy meals such as Slow Cooker Bean and Spinach Enchiladas or Baked Polenta with Mushrooms and Gorgonzola!