Diet Plan Information: Paleo Diet


What is the Paleo Diet Plan?

The Paleolithic (paleo) diet plan is a diet that is based on consuming whole, unprocessed foods that would have been available to our paleolithic, hunter-gatherer ancestors before the invention of farming. After farming, early humans’ diet shifted from meat, vegetables, and seasonal fruits to processed grains like wheat which was ground into bread.

The paleo diet (sometimes called the “Caveman Diet”) has become more popular over the last several decades as both a health-boosting and weight loss inducing diet. The main argument is that our ancestors evolved without having to consume grains or processed foods so there is no need for us to consume them, either. Even modern hunter-gatherer societies consume a mostly paleo diet: “After studying the diets of living hunter-gatherers and concluding that 73 percent of these societies derived more than half their calories from meat, Cordain came up with his own Paleo prescription: Eat plenty of lean meat and fish” (National Geographic).


How Does the Paleo Diet Plan Work?

Like many other diets, the paleo diet is a whole food diet that eliminates processed foods, making it more difficult to over-consume calories. It’s a lot harder to eat 2.5 cups of blueberries than it is to eat one Snickers bar (nor are you likely to consume that many blueberries in one sitting). It’s also harder to eat ten carrots than one small slice of carrot cake.

The paleo diet is sometimes referred to a “simple” diet in that you eat what our prehistoric ancestors would have eaten. “A simplified way of eating healthily by excluding highly-processed foods, is presumed to be the Paleolithic diet (a diet based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, meat, organ meats) which improves insulin resistance, ameliorates dyslipidemia, reduces hypertension and may reduce the risk of age-related diseases” (Tarantino, Citro & Finelli, 2015).

A list of processed versus unprocessed foods.


What Can You Eat on the Paleo Diet Plan?

Essentially, you can eat any food that is unprocessed. If it can be found in nature without requiring additional processing, you can eat it. For example, it is possible to go out and pick some blackberries from a bush and eat them without them needing more processing like being turned into jam or baked into a pie.

  • Meat (beef, venison, rabbit, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork, etc.)
  • Seafood (salmon, cod, trout, shrimp, crab, oyster, etc.)
  • Eggs (chicken eggs, duck eggs, quail eggs, goose eggs)
  • Vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, spinach, bok choy, cauliflower, kale, cucumber, onions, squash, carrots, etc.)
  • Fruits (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, oranges, apples, grapefruit, apricots, avocados, etc.)
  • Some Nuts (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, etc.)
  • Seeds (sesame seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
  • Herbs and Spices
  • Healthy Fats and Oils (coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, etc.)


What Can’t You Eat on the Paleo Diet Plan?

Anything processed is not allowed on the paleo diet plan. The simple rule of thumb is that if it looks like it was made in a factory and you can’t pronounce the ingredients on the list, don’t eat it.

  • Anything with Added Sugar (ice cream, candy, fruit juice, table sugar, pastries, granola bars, energy bars)
  • Grains (bread, wheat, barley, oats, rice)
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, quinoa)
  • Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese)
  • Alcohol (wine, beer, spirits)

It should be noted that different versions of the paleo diet allow for certain additional food items in the prohibited food groups. For example, some versions of paleo allow for full-fat versions of butter and cheese to be incorporated into the diet.


Pros of the Paleo Diet

  • Weight Loss: If you’re used to consuming a ton of processed foods and sugars, it is highly likely that you’re going to lose weight on the paleo diet. Again, it’s much harder to over-consume on calories if you’re eating non-processed foods.
  • Simple to Follow: If our ancestors didn’t eat it, you don’t eat it. Obviously our Paleolithic ancestors didn’t have access to cakes, pies, sugary soda, bread, or anything else processed like that. They did however have access to seasonal fruits and vegetables and hunted meat.


Cons of the Paleo Diet

  • Exaggerated Claims: Many proponents of the paleo diet suggest that it is a cure-all diet that can help you lose weight and be healthier. While this isn’t necessarily untrue, the paleo diet is not a panacea for every health issue nor for everyone who wants to lose weight.
  • Some Nutrient Deficiencies: The paleo diet does lack sufficient levels of certain nutrients which may need to be supplemented via vitamin or mineral pills. “GPs should caution patients who are on the Palaeolithic diet about adequate calcium intake, especially those at higher risk of osteoporosis” (Pitt, 2016).


Books on the Paleo Diet

  • The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat (Loren Cordain): “Healthy, delicious, and simple, the Paleo Diet is the diet we were designed to eat. Eat for better health and weight loss the Paleo way with this revised edition of the bestselling guide—over 100,000 copies sold to date!”
  • Practical Paleo, 2nd Edition (Updated and Expanded): A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle (Sanfilippo et al.): “With more than half a million copies sold, the first edition of Practical Paleo revolutionized the way we think about food and our bodies. Dubbed “The Paleo Bible” by readers, it explained how simply eating real, whole foods and avoiding processed, refined foods can improve our health—including reducing or even eliminating symptoms associated with common health disorders.”
  • The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet (Robb Wolf): “The Paleo Solution incorporates the latest, cutting edge research from genetics, biochemistry and anthropology to help you look, feel and perform your best. Written by Robb Wolf, a research biochemist who traded in his lab coat and pocket protector for a whistle and a stopwatch to become one of the most sought after strength and conditioning coaches in the world.”


Evidence-Based Studies on the Paleo Diet

  • Paleo Diet May Reduce Mortality: “Findings from this biracial prospective study suggest that diets closer to Paleolithic or Mediterranean diet patterns may be inversely associated with all-cause and cause-specific mortality” (Whalen et al., 2017).
  • Improved Glucose Control and Lipid Profiles in Type 2 Diabetes: “Even short-term consumption of a Paleolithic-type diet improved glucose control and lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes compared with a conventional diet containing moderate salt intake, low-fat dairy, whole grains and legumes” (Masharani et al., 2015).
  • Lower Disease Risk: “A simplified way of eating healthily by excluding highly-processed foods, is presumed to be the Paleolithic diet (a diet based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, meat, organ meats) which improves insulin resistance, ameliorates dyslipidemia, reduces hypertension and may reduce the risk of age-related diseases” (Tarantino, Citro & Finelli, 2015).

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