Ease of Following
The Paleo Promise
Eat like a caveman to shed the extra pounds.
Before we get into the nitty-gritties, we are obliged to state that if you’re looking for a quick fix fad diet, this probably isn’t the right article for you! The paleo diet is aimed towards creating more of a long-term healthy diet regime as opposed to a fly-by-night diet that’s more of a quick fix. However, if you want to experience some amazing health benefits and shed pounds on an enjoyable diet, then you’re reading the absolutely right article!
About the Paleo Diet
As you might have probably guessed (or watching many, many “Friends” reruns has taught you), the paleo diet takes its premise from the nutritional expertise of our physically-active and hunting-dependent ancestors from the Palaeolithic Age. You may have heard a simple piece of diet advice often thrown at you- “The best diet to follow consists of food your grandmother will recognise.” The diet primarily relies on the consumption of unprocessed food just like our cavemen forefathers did back in the day. Therefore, primary foods of the paleo diet quite predictably include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and meat. You have to admit, that’s as simple as simple comes, and is often how we wish most diets were! Like many of its fancy-sounding counterparts, the paleo diet also has increasingly gained popularity over the last few years.
Although the origins of the paleo diet can be traced back to a book written by Walter Voegtlin, a gastroenterologist, back in 1975, the diet came into prominence when Stanley Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner wrote a paper titled Paleolithic Nutrition1 a decade later in 1985 which is often considered the foundational document of the paleo diet. When in 2002 Loren Cordain wrote a book titled “The Paleo Diet”, the diet was catapulted into public spotlight and made it a cult that it is today. Since then, there have been many variations of the diet that have been followed by people around the world and the diet continues to gain the kind of steam that could rival “Games of Thrones” as the years roll on!
How Does the Paleo Diet Work?
As stated previously, the paleo diet relies a lot on fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and meat. Each of these foods has a part to play in making the paleo diet not only a diet aimed at weight-loss, but a long-term solution to your dietary needs.
- Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables have a mean track record in most health-related marathons and all for good reason! The ever-trusty duo is high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, has no cholesterol and is mostly low in calories and fat which not only provides for a nutritious and healthy meal that our body requires but also reduces the chances of a heart attack, stroke and certain types of cancer among various other diseases2 that are kept at bay. Fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber help in reducing blood cholesterol levels and reduces the chances of heart diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
- Meat: The paleo diet suggests the consumption of meat only in the form of lean protein, so say goodbye to fatty steaks and cuts! Lean meats are high in protein and low in fats and carbs. The high protein and low fat combination not only helps in keeping your weight in check but also helps in muscle development3. Lean meats are also high in iron which promotes healthy blood production in the body. High levels of iron4 also ensures that your body is not fatigued or weak.
- Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds have healthy fats that help maintain the normal structure of the cells in our body and managing inflammation. They are high in fiber which keeps you full for longer periods of time and helps decrease cholesterol. Vitamins and minerals are found aplenty in nuts and seeds which aids in bone development, energy production and immunity5.
If you’ve paid attention so far, you might have realized that the primary food sources of the paleo diet are the foods that are high in carbs, or what we call “good” carbs or complex carbohydrates, also known as carbs that are rich in fiber. These carbs get absorbed slowly by the digestive system which ensures there isn’t a sudden spike in blood sugar levels and burns more fat as the body requires more resources in order to digest the food. Basically, these foods are beneficial to a giant level, which makes them a “Wun-Wun” all around! (Excuse us a for a moment while we hide in paleo caves to escape flak for bad puns.)
Moving away from bad puns and onto the more serious stuff, the sources of fat from the foods also ensure that you’re getting a good dose of healthy fats that your body requires for optimal functioning. Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, is found in certain nuts and seeds which reduces the risk of a heart disease, as discussed earlier.
The average man of the Palaeolithic Age was physically active, muscular, agile and versatile, which is everything the average man today isn’t! It isn’t like our genes have undergone a major change since then. The only possible reason for these changes in attributes is where our food comes from and how easily our food is available to us. The farther the distance between the source of food and our plate is, the more hands it changes, esplaining why they are preservative-laden and highly adulterated.
If you are researching various options for weight-loss diet plans, read on to know more about what it means to be following the “caveman” diet. Essentially about going back to eating raw, unprocessed food that is healthier than the numerous processed, canned and preservative-loaded options available in the market today, the Paleo diet, in simple words, means living on food that our ancestors lived on- pure and direct-from-nature.
Paleo Diet vs. Atkins Diet
If you’re someone who is familiar with diets or have been researching the various diets available today, you’ve probably been scratching your nose and wondering why the Paleo diet sounds so familiar. It’s probably bringing back flashes of memories about another low-carb, high-protein diet! If you’ve been blanking out instead of going all “Memento” so far, let us put you out of your misery! The Paleo diet does indeed have a cousin in the popular Atkins diet. However, there are some differences that are difficult to ignore. According to Paleo experts, Atkins doesn’t emphasize on how the meat is cooked, whereas the Paleo diet urges you to consume meat with lesser added flavor-inducing ingredients, and hence the lesser calorie intake. It also emphasizes on the consumption of grass-fed meat whereas the Atkins diet does not lay down any such rules for meat-consumption.
What’s on the Menu?
The Paleo diet food list is quite simple- anything that our ancestors could have hunted and gathered (Note the keyword “ancestors”. Hunting for bags of chips among the supermarket shelves and gathering them in your cart just doesn’t count!)
- Vegetables: Celery, okra, avocados, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, bell peppers, onions, leeks, kohlrabi, cucumber, cabbage, eggplants, cauliflower, zucchini, yellow summer squash, yellow crookneck squash, winter squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkin, buttercup squash, and summer squash
- Green Leafy Vegetables: Lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, dandelion, collard greens, kale, watercress, turnip greens, seaweeds, beet top, Swiss chard, bok choy, rapini, chicory, radicchio, endive, and arugula (rocket)
- Root Vegetables: Beets, turnips, yams, carrots, cassava, parsnips, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, radish, and Jerusalem artichokes
- Mushrooms: Button mushroom, porcini, morel, Portobello, chanterelle, crimini, oyster mushroom, and shiitake
- Fresh Fruits: Bananas, apples, apricot, watermelon, lime, oranges, peaches, nectarines, berries (cranberry, blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry), plantains, papaya, coconut, figs, dates, grapes, grapefruit, pears, plums, passion fruit, persimmon, pomegranates, pineapple, cantaloupe, cherries, lychee, mango, honeydew melon, kiwi, lemon, tangerine, and olives
- Meat: Beef, buffalo, bison, lamb, goat, pork, and veal
- Game Meat: Deer, moose, rabbit, reindeer, woodcock, pheasant, bear, wild turkey, elk, duck, wild boar, venison, and bison
- Poultry (skinless): Chicken, turkey, duck, quail, and goose
- Organ Meat: Marrow, livers, sweetbreads, kidneys, and tongue
- Eggs: Chicken eggs, quail eggs, duck eggs, and goose eggs
- Fish: Salmon, bass, mackerel, anchovy, halibut, sole, walleye, tilapia, cod, flatfish, grouper, tuna, trout, haddock, turbot, herring, catfish, flounder, Mahi Mahi, and sardines
- Shellfish: Crab, lobster, mussels, clams, scallops, and shrimp
- Nuts and Seeds: Pistachios, cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, chestnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, pine nuts, and hazelnuts
- Oils: Olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut, avocado, and grapeseed
- Fats: Avocados, veal fat, lamb fat, butter, nut oils (walnut, macadamia), coconut flesh, lard, tallow, duck fat, nut butters, clarified butter (ghee), and coconut milk
- Fresh and Dried Herbs: Mint, basil, oregano, sage, dill, bay leaves, rosemary, chives, tarragon, coriander, parsley, thyme, and lavender
- Spices: Ginger, garlic, onions, chilies, horseradish, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, cloves, hot peppers, star anise, fennel seeds, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, vanilla, and mustard seeds
- Sea Vegetables: Wakame, Kombu, algae, and seaweeds
- Beverages: Herbal tea, coconut water, fresh vegetable or fruit juice, and filtered or spring water
Grass-Fed Meat vs. Grain-Fed Meat
If you wondered what on Earth we were talking about when we earlier mentioned grass-fed and grain-fed meat, let us clarify all your doubts!
The Paleo diet insists on grass-fed meat, as grain consumption causes the same problems in animals as it causes in humans, making grain-fed meat quite possibly unhealthy!
Grain-fed meat comes from animals that are raised in herds of hundreds, with barely any breathing space. They are bred in unnatural and unsanitary conditions and fed excessive amounts of food that makes them ready for slaughter quickly. They are also given roughage supplement pills as a part of their diet and hormones are almost in doses equal to the food they eat. Due to unnatural conditions, they are low on immunity, quick to fall sick and are thus given immune-boosting medicines. Basically, all the conditions that give PETA and other animal organizations the impetus for their campaigns!
Grass-fed meat, on the other hand, comes from organically-farmed animals. They are bred in smaller numbers and allowed grazing in natural, stress-free environments. If you’ve got visions of happy cows grazing in the summer sunshine and letting out content “moos” while doing so, you’re bang-on with your imagination. These happy animals are fed naturally-grown grass, are well cared for, have naturally-acquired immunity, and medicines are given to them only when they’re sick. Not sold yet? Grass-fed meat is naturally leaner than grain-fed meat and has the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are required by our body since they are not naturally produced in humans.
What’s off the Menu?
- Fruits High in Sugar: Bananas, dates, mangoes, pineapple, and watermelon
- Fatty Meats: Bacon, ribs, chicken (thighs, legs, wings, skin), pork chops, and lamb chops
- Cereal Grains: Rice, wild rice, wheat, barley, spelt, rye, sorghum, oats, oatmeal, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, corn flour, white flour, bread, pasta, bagels, and tortillas
- Legumes and Beans: Soy (all forms), lentils, black beans, pinto beans, red beans, peanuts, white beans, garbanzo beans, lima beans, and kidney beans
- Dairy: Milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt, kefir, sour cream, whey protein powders, and cottage cheese
- Refined Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners: Corn syrup, corn sugar, honey, malt syrup, aspartame, Splenda, and Equal
- Starchy Vegetables: Potatoes, corn, yams, tapioca, and cassava root
- Processed Foods and Junk Food: Cookies, candy, chocolate, pastries, cakes, muffins, desserts, chips, crackers, snack foods, popcorn, jelly, jams, syrup, French fries, and pretzels
- Salty Foods: Condiments, salad dressing, ham, olives, processed meats, meat (smoked, dried, salted), sausages, pickled food, and canned meat and fish
- Refined Vegetable Oils: Soy, cottonseed, corn, safflower, and sunflower
- Alcohol and Beverages: Beer, wine, hard liquor, juices, energy drinks, fruit juice, and soft drinks
Why Exclude Grains from Your Diet?
- Processed: Grains need to be processed before they land in your pantry and then cooked, unlike meat which can be acquired fresh and eaten with minimal cooking.
- Gluten: Sounds familiar? Have you seen too many gluten-free recipes doing the rounds? Probably, yes! So, what is it and why do we need to avoid it7? Well, gluten is a mixture of proteins with low-nutritional value present in staple grains like wheat and barley. Too much gluten leads to swelling of small intestines8, a disease that often goes undetected until at a much later stage, hence the numerous gluten-free variants that are fast entering new markets.
- Lectins: According to Wikipedia, food items with high concentrations of lectins, such as beans, cereal grains, seeds, nuts, and potatoes may be harmful9. if consumed in excess in uncooked or improperly-cooked form. Adverse effects of excessive lectin-rich food intake may include nutritional deficiencies, and allergic reactions caused possibly because of interaction of lectins with the cells of the gut. Excessive consumption of lectin-rich food can also cause obesity in adults10.
Sample One Day Menu
To help start of your Paleo journey, we’ve put together a sample menu to help you out. Your paleo diet plan as a beginner could include berries, nuts, salads and eggs in any form only with plant-based oils, if required. You may also scout for or come up with your own healthy paleo recipes that work great for weight loss.
Gluten-Free Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes
- ¼ cup pumpkin puree
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 eggs
- ¼ cup coconut flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons almond milk
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Coconut oil to coat the pan
- A dash of nutmeg
- Take two bowls. In one mix the pumpkin puree, eggs, honey, almond milk and vanilla essence. In the other mix the coconut flour, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.
- Mix the resultant mixture of the respective bowls until they’re well mixed together.
- Heat the non-stick iron pan to a medium-high heat level. Coat the bottom of the pan with coconut oil. Now pour about a 1/4 cup of the mixture onto the pan and let it cook for a couple of minutes until the bottom is nice and golden-brown. Flip it over and do the same thing, let it cook for a couple of minutes and wait till it’s golden-brown. Your pancake is now ready to serve! Repeat this until your batter is over and enjoy a delicious, healthy and paleo breakfast.
Serves: 2 people
Portion: Makes 6-8 pancakes
Super Creamy Garlic Salmon
- 2 salmon fillets (remove the pinbones)
- 1 whole egg
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped dill
- 2 teaspoons brown mustard
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- First, let’s prepare the creamy sauce to dress over the salmon. Bring out your blender and add the egg, lemon juice, mustard powder, vinegar, garlic powder and ½ teaspoon salt while slowly adding the avocado oil while blending the mix. Blend well until you get a rich and creamy sauce.
- Take ½ a cup of the creamy sauce you just prepared and add the dill, garlic, mustard and ½ teaspoon of salt. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and place the salmon fillets, skin side down, on a non-stick baking sheet. Spread the mixture over the salmon fillets and bake until it’s cooked for 12 to 15 minutes. Once cooked, serve hot optionally with a squeeze of lime.
Serves: 1 person
Portion: 2 salmon fillets
Paleo Quick Snack Bar
- 1 cup almonds
- 2 tablespoons almond milk
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 12 dates, de-pitted
- ½ of a dark chocolate bar
- ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
- Process the almonds, dark chocolate and raw pumpkin seeds separately in your food processor until they’re somewhere between chunky and sand-like texture. Then blend the dates until it’s finely processed.
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until the ingredients are mixed well (especially the dates since they would’ve already been bound together when blended).
- Put a non-stick baking paper on the bottom of a pan and spread the mixture across the pan and press down on the mixture firmly.
- Put the pan in the freezer for about an hour.
- Remove the pan once you can see that the mixture has hardened well and cut it into bars. Your paleo quick snack bars are ready to eat!
Serves: 2 people
Portion: 3-4 bars
Salsa with Grilled Chicken
- 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
- ⅓ cup chopped chives
- ⅓ cup chopped cilantro
- ¾ cup chopped green or red bell pepper (or a combination)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons chopped oregano
- Red-wine vinegar to taste
- Ground pepper to taste
- Hot sauce to taste
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (8-9 ounces each), trimmed
- 2 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 ½ teaspoons chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- Put the following ingredients into your food processor: 1 cup of tomatoes with chives, cilantro (keep a little bit of the cilantro aside for garnishing), bell pepper, salt, oregano, vinegar, pepper and hot sauce. Blend until it forms a puree and add the remaining half a cup of chopped tomatoes to the puree.
- Cut the chicken breast into four equal portions.
- Take ¼ cup of the prepped salsa and add 1½ tablespoons of olive oil, garlic and chilli powder.
- Mix the chicken pieces with the above mixture in a bowl until the salsa and other spices have covered the chicken pieces evenly.
- Cover the bowl and leave it in the refrigerator to marinate overnight. Ensure that the remaining salsa is also covered and refrigerated.
- Pre-heat your grill to a medium heat level. Remove the chicken from the fridge and shake off the marinade that’s still on the surface. Then lightly dry the chicken with paper towels.
- Brush the chicken pieces with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Grill the chicken for 10-15 minutes while turning it once midway until the temperate of the chicken reads 165°F (with an instant-read thermometer).
- Serve the chicken pieces hot, topping it with the remaining salsa and garnishing it with cilantro leaves.
Serves: 2 people
Portion: 4 pieces
Paleo Strawberry Mousse
- ½ cup coconut oil
- 40 grams of dehydrated strawberries
- 12 fresh strawberries
- 2 ripe bananas
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1 avocado
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Take all the ingredients and blend them well in your food processor.
- Refrigerate for an hour.
- Serve chilled!
Serves: 4 people
Portion: 4 cups
How Will Our Body Manage the Production of Energy?
Valid question! Let’s face it, carbs have, for eons, been our primary source of energy. But, there’s got to be a reason why ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. Yes, our body is built to manage very well with the amount of sugar that one gets from consumption of naturally available food. Processed sugar is a devil in disguise. The Paleo food list completely eliminates consumption of processed sugars. This means you bid “adieu” to sugar cubes/crystals in your coffee, chocolates and candies!
Before you start breaking out in a cold sweat, let us tell you that not all carbs are bad. Sugar can be a part of your Paleo diet as long as they come from fruits. So, don’t you worry! Without the actual sweet in your diet, you can find healthier diet substitutes to recharge your internal power house. Vegetables and fruits are naturally-occurring, nutrient-rich and calorie-deficient (could they be any more perfect? Not even Scarlett Johansson could hold a candle to these guys and we’re of the unshakeable opinion that she’s the standard for “perfect”!) Additionally, they do not need to be processed to be eaten. But the best is yet to come, and what’s that, you ask? Well, there is no such thing as getting fat with consumption of fruits and vegetables. Lastly, in the absence of excessive carbs, our body starts using stored fat for energy production. Isn’t that a win?
Take it from us when we say that our body is made to handle the consumption of naturally available food and not excess of grains and dairy. That is why, in Paleo meal plans, processed food, sugar and dairy are completely prohibited.
The 85:15 Rule
You get to legally cheat when on diet. Isn’t that great? Who wouldn’t like that? Makes you feel less guilty, doesn’t it? Because let’s face it, cheating on a diet is an inevitability, unless you’re Batman (in which case, your “Batsuit” already has abs sculpted onto it, so no one would know if you were to cheat anyway!) But getting back to the point, yes, the Paleo diet meal plan allows you to introduce your favorite food in controlled quantities after a period of about a month when you have the diet-reins in your hands. This essentially means that if 85% of food items in your diet are Palaeolithic, 15% of your Paleo menu for a week can include Neolithic food items (in simple words, current day food). Here it purely depends on your will-power to disengage when you know you are going overboard.
The idea behind this Paleo challenge of following a strict 85:15 rule is to ensure that you do not feel deprived of your favourite food items and go binge-eating to gain back all the lost weight. Considerate, isn’t it? This certainly shows that the diet aims at long-term weight maintenance rather than a quick weight loss game. Bear in mind that you can give yourself the leeway to reintroduce your favourite food item only after you have lost a considerable amount of weight since you started on your weight loss journey or addressed a major health concern. Have your cake and eat it too? Of course!
Advantages of the Paleo Diet
- Healthy Diet: By following the Paleo diet, you will be mostly eating a “clean” diet without any preservatives, additives or chemicals. The fruits, veggies, oils, nuts and seeds recommended by the Paleo diet have plenty of anti-inflammatory benefits. Since you will be consuming a lot of red meat, your iron intake will also increase.
- Obesity and Related Ailments: Following the Paleo diet can help to reduce obesity and related issues such as stroke, cancer and cardiovascular diseases11.
- Other Health Problems: The Paleo diet can keep immune diseases such as systemic lupus, autoimmune diseases, and multiple sclerosis12 at bay. It can also prevent diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Since the Paleo diet is low in cholesterol, it helps to prevent the thickening of blood vessels13.
- Healthy Digestive System: Since the Paleo diet recommends consuming unprocessed foods, problems like constipation, metabolic related issues, and other digestive problems are reduced14. You also don’t feel bloated or full after meals.
- Improved Satiety: Since your intake of proteins and fats will be higher, you will feel full between meals and not experience hunger pangs.
- Healthy Brain: Foods such as salmon, grass-fed meats, eggs, etc. are very rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids that play a very crucial role in the brain growth and developmental function15. The omega-3 fatty acids are very good for the eyes16 and heart too.
- Weight Loss: The Paleo diet is a low-carb diet. Also, by eliminating all processed foods, you can reduce your bad carbohydrate intake which will help in weight loss.
- Builds More Muscle: The Paleo diet relies on animal meat to meet all the protein requirements of the body. This protein is needed for building muscle mass17 and the more muscles you have, the better your body metabolism will be. The body directs the energy to be stored into the muscle cells instead of the fat cells.
Disadvantages of the Paleo Diet
- Expensive: The Paleo diet can be quite expensive. Foods like nuts and organic meats come at a meaty price.
- Weakness: Reduced carb-intake may cause weakness in many individuals especially when you’ve just started the diet.
- Difficult for Vegetarians: The diet can be hard on vegetarians as it includes very few food items from plant sources.
- Nutrition Imbalance: A poorly created Paleo meal plan can cause a nutrient-imbalance. You must create a meal-plan with thorough research and ensure that creates a nutrient-balance with the choice of allowed food. This is important if you want to stay on a healthy diet for weight loss and maintenance and also keep your metabolism under control.
- Lacks Several Nutrients: As the Paleo diet restricts the consumption of dairy products, several healthy nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D are not available to the body that prevent bone related problems, osteoporosis and fractures.
- Since the Paleo diet eliminates starches, legumes and grains, at the start of the diet, you may experience symptoms such as lethargy, irritability, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, shakiness, etc. You can reduce these symptoms by reducing your carb-intake gradually instead of eliminating them abruptly.
- If you continue on the Paleo diet for a long time, you can suffer from symptoms of hypothyroidism such as sluggishness, fatigue or sensitivity to cold. A low-carb diet can suppress your appetite and send your body into starvation mode. You can prevent this by eating larger amounts of vegetables permitted by the diet plan.
- When on the Paleo diet, your body begins burning fat instead of carbohydrates for energy; the body begins to undergo a process called ketosis. During the process of ketosis, the body forms acetone which carries a distinct smell. You can avoid this by avoiding starchy foods such as potatoes, rice and grains and also chew mint or cilantro to reduce the ketogenic breath.
- In the first couple of weeks of the Paleo diet, you make experience sugar or junk food cravings.
- The Paleo diet recommends eating large amounts of animal protein which may increase the “bad” cholesterol in the blood and reduce the “good” cholesterol levels; this increases the risk of heart disease. The high protein levels may also be taxing for your kidneys to process and digest18.
Common Myths and Misconceptions of the Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet Is a Fad Diet
Fad diets are short-term, extreme and unhealthy diet routines that are usually followed for quick weight loss. As we so pointedly disclaimed in the beginning, the Paleo diet emphasises on optimal nutrition and healthy eating, making it more a lifestyle than a diet. The Paleo diet has been followed by many to heal many health issues.
The Paleo Diet Is a Low-Carb Diet
The Paleo diet focuses on eating nutrient-rich foods such as wild seafood, grain-fed meat, non-starchy vegetables and vegetables and cuts out legumes, grains and grain products. This is assumed to mean that by default, you end up eating lower amounts of carbs. However, this is not true; your diet need not be low-carb. If you are highly active, you can eat carbs proportionate to your activity levels.
The Paleo Diet Is Basically a Carnivorous Diet
While grass-fed meat is recommended as a “healthy” food by the Paleo diet, it is in way a major portion of the diet plan. You can eat other foods such as seafood or get your nutrition from coconut and coconut products rather than red meat or animal products.
The Paleo Diet Is Expensive and Unsustainable
It may be an expensive proposition to consume organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed meat products that are recommended by the Paleo diet. However, it may be worth your while to invest in a few expensive ingredients for your health rather than being part of the escalating diabetic and obese population.
The Paleo Diet Is A “One-Size-Fits-All” Approach
There is no hard and fast rule for the Paleo diet; it is quite a flexible diet and is more of a guide for a healthy lifestyle with some basic nutritional principles. You can customize the Paleo diet to your liking as long as you stick to the broad guidelines prescribed by the diet.
The Paleo Diet Raises Cholesterol Levels
Eating cholesterol rich food does not really raise your cholesterol level, such as eating eggs or red meat. Cholesterol production depends on various factors. Typically, the main causes for high cholesterol are grains and sugar that are anyway excluded in the Paleo diet.
Paleo Diet Is Deficient in Calcium
The Paleo diet is not deficient in calcium. In fact it is just the opposite as it actually contains high levels of calcium. While it is correct that the Paleo diet excludes dairy, you can get calcium from several other sources that are not just cheese or milk. Many plant foods are rich sources of calcium. You can get adequate calcium from nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits.
Phases of the Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet can be quite restrictive with its strict guidelines, so to help the body to adjust, there are 3 stages of the Paleo diet.
Phase 1: Swap
In the Swap phase, you must leave out all processed and chemically loaded foods. You will replace all processed foods with healthier alternatives such as organic and grass-fed products. This means no more processed foods, refined sugar and gluten in your diet.
Phase 2: Remove
In this phase you will remove all dairy, grains, legumes and processed oils from your diet.
Phase 3: Heal
This is the final phase of the Paleo diet where you will introduce nutrient-dense, healing foods into your diet plan such as seafood, organ meats, bone broths, fermented foods, etc.
Variants of the Paleo Diet
The most common variants of the Paleo diet are:
- Paleo or the Strict Paleo diet
- Primal diet
Paleo or Strict Paleo Diet: In this version, dieters follow the Paleo diet plan quite strictly with maybe a few exceptions. You can eat grass-fed meat, free-range chicken, all fruits, vegetables and roots. You must avoid rice, most grains, legumes, nuts and some vegetables. Although in this version, some rice, legumes and nuts are permitted in moderation.
Primal Diet: If you follow this version of the diet, then you can eat dairy or grains while following the basic Paleo diet as long as your body tolerates dairy products. This is basically a “whole food diet.”
Some Other Variants of the Paleo Diet:
Autoimmune Paleo: For individuals with advanced health ailments or autoimmune conditions, the Paleo autoimmune protocol can be followed where nuts, eggs and nightshade vegetables are added to list of foods to be avoided.
Low-Carb Paleo: This is a fairly popular version and is great for improving many health issues and also becoming lean. This mainly recommends eating non-starchy vegetables, meat and healthy fats. You must avoid sweet potatoes, potatoes, yams, roots, tubers, fruits, nuts, avocados, etc.
80/20 Paleo: In this version, you follow the clean Paleo diet 80-90 percent of the time and the rest of the 10-20 percent you can eat non-Paleo foods such as some cheese, ice cream, wine, etc. This is a healthy approach as long as you keep the eating in the 20 percent of time under control.
The Vegetarian Paleo: This is quite difficult to follow as the meat and animal products option is removed as a protein source for vegetarians and vegans who would like to follow the Paleo diet. You could eat beans, legumes, fermented soy, nuts and seeds to make up a bulk of the protein.
Who Is It For?
The Paleo diet works well for athletes who need a protein-rich diet to build and maintain muscle. However, the amount of sugars gained only from fruits and vegetables may not be enough for the energy needed to exercise. Some dieticians claim to have recommended this diet to individuals with osteoporosis and autoimmune diseases with great results.
Who Is It Not For?
The diet may be close to impossible to follow if you are a strict vegetarian as most of the protein and fats come from meat and poultry sources. However, as mentioned before, some options may exist even in such cases. It is also not advisable that individuals with excessive iron in their body or any kind of kidney disorder attempt the diet without proper advice from their medical practitioners.
The Final Word
While the Paleo diet has a few plusses like cutting down on sugars, dairy and processed food, it is also certain to create a downward health spiral if followed for a long time since many soluble fibres from legumes and grains are discounted from meals. Simply put, while the diet may be excellent for weight loss, it may cause bowel-blockage in individuals with a sensitive gut. Also, while it adds one mineral (iron) from meat, it cuts down another (calcium) that we get from milk and dairy products. If followed for an excessively long period, it may lead to weaker bones and teeth.
The diet also works under the presumption that our gastrointestinal tract has not evolved since the Palaeolithic period, which is not true. So, eating lean meat that may be difficult for us to digest over a period of time, as inadequate intake of roughage just adds to what goes in but doesn’t come out, leading to constipation. Sadly so!
The key here is to follow a strict diet that helps you get rid of the stored fat and slowly get back onto a disciplined meal plan that allows healthy food from all food groups to ensure you create a healthy nutrient-balance and happy metabolism. Also, ensure that you do not constantly fret about what to eat and what not to eat. Listen to your heart, but let your mind take over when you have the slightest inkling that you are going overboard. Always remember, when it comes to diets, there is no ‘one size fits all’. Experiment and understand what works well for you. Happy dieting!