From nutritionists to holistic professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts, it seems like everyone has caught the Paleo fever. The Paleo Diet has gained steam as one the most popular diets trending today as more and more people learn why it is important to get back to our dietary roots. Many Paleo enthusiasts have attested to its benefits; however, like any other diet some people are skeptical about whether or not they should jump onto the Paleo bandwagon.
Here you will find out everything you need to know about Paleo diet and why it can (or cannot) help you to lead a healthier life.
What Is Paleo Diet?
Meat, seeds, nuts and raw foods make up the bulk of the diet. Essentially, the Paleo Diet (also quite aptly called the Caveman Diet) seeks to get you to eat as much all-natural foods as possible. It aims for minimal to zero processed, cultivated or pre-packaged foods.
The rationale behind the Diet is to get your body to consume food in the way our ancestors did – as cavemen. That means going back to a time (the Paleolithic era to be exact) when there were no processed foods, refined sugar, dairy products and modern grains, such as rice and wheat.
The Paleo Diet proposes to minimize the risks of obesity, heart disease and diabetes which have been linked to diet. At the same time it promises to help you live longer, healthier and more actively engaged in life.
Other purported benefits of the diet include weight loss; a reduction in allergy attacks or food reactions; fewer unhealthy foods on your plate and in your cupboard, leading to a reduced urge to binge eat and a good supply of the vitamins, minerals and fiber your body truly needs.
The Paleo diet is an effective weight loss solution, mainly because it encourages you to consume much less carbohydrates than you normally would on a normal diet and increase your intake of protein and healthy fats. In other words, it replaces the sweet, sugary unhealthy foods that you would normally binge on and replaces them with high fiber foods, nutrient rich fruits and vegetables.
In addition the diet allows you to eat as much as you want to eat whenever you want to eat it. You just have to stick to the foods approved by the diet while staying clear of high sodium or high cholesterol foods. This also includes artificial foods packed with unhealthy additives. Instead, try filling up on foods high in fiber, rich with Omega-3 fatty acids, lots of protein and healthy fats.
Carbohydrate foods with a low glycemic index should also be included on your plate. These work to increase your blood glucose level, which then causes a small and gentle rise in insulin. These small increases in insulin work to keep you feeling full and energized for hours after eating so you don’t have to worry about overeating. An added bonus is that they also encourage your body to burn fat.
Downsides of the Diet
While the Paleo Diet is high in lean protein, you have to bear in mind that meat today is much fattier than meat in the era the diet originated. Therefore, you could end up consuming excess saturated fat that can lead to unwanted weight gain and heart problems.
Furthermore, the Paleo Diet can be a tall ask for your wallet to keep up with. It requires you to eat food items labeled as ‘organic’, ‘free range’, and ‘grass-fed’ and these are usually costlier than foods that are not. Organic fruits and vegetables will also need to make their way onto your plate and these are often overpriced.
Combine this with those special raw seeds, nuts, and sprouted grains that the diet requires you to have and you are looking at a hefty sum indeed.
Dairy Products and the Paleo Diet
Strictly speaking, dairy products are off limits on the diet but some proponents of the Paleo Diet allow some dairy products to make their way on the menu. The reason here is that it would be quite difficult for you to get sufficient Vitamin D if you cut out dairy all together. The diet also excludes some other key food groups, raising the potential for further nutritional deficiencies for those who adhere to it.
Legumes, for example, are a great source of non-animal protein but they are off limits on the Paleo Diet. This means that a strict vegetarian would have some difficulty keeping healthy on the diet. Many professional athletes find the diet to be lacking since it encourages low intake of carbohydrates, which athletes rely on to keep up with their rigorous training schedule.
How to Avoid Failure on the Paleo Diet
It takes time for you to adjust to any new diet and this remains true with the Paleo Diet. Your taste buds will need time to get used to the new foods (and the absence of some of your past favorites), so too your digestive tract will have to regulate itself around this new cadre of foods. Your entire body will have to learn to burn fat efficiently for energy instead of relying on the plenteous carbohydrates you once consumed.
Consequently, as your body adjusts, you may find you go through some days when you are just simply low on energy. The way you shop for foods will also change as you alter the make up of your grocery list.
If you think that the Paleo Diet can be beneficial to you, here is a list of foods you will want to stock up on along with a list of ones to start chucking out of your cupboards.
- Grass-produced lean meats
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy oils such as those derived from: macadamia,flaxseed, coconut, olive,avocado,walnut
- Sprouted grains
- Cereal grains (wheat, rye, barley)
- Legumes (including peanuts)
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Refined vegetable oils
Bear in mind that the purpose of the diet is to help you get to a healthier you. So instead of obsessing over the results, try focusing on eating the right foods for your body. This means reading all the labels and keeping track of what your food contains.
It’s also mentally healthy to not be too hard on yourself if you unwittingly let something slide. You will find it easier to adjust if you join support groups and seek encouragement from close friends and family members.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Sometime we think just because it’s called a diet we should be eating less. Don’t fall into this trap. The Paleo Diet calls for copious amounts of fruits and vegetables, but these can be mixed with proteins to make interesting, filling and satisfying meals.
One must-have protein on the diet is eggs. They go well with everything and are quick and easy to prepare in a wide variety of ways. Your sweet tooth will not simply disappear, so appease it with fresh berries and sweet fruits instead.
You find them just as satisfying with a whole lot less of the guilt. In addition, plan your meals ahead of time, starting with a hearty breakfast and have acceptable snacks on hand to go to for a quick treat so you’re less likely to grab something off the not recommended list.