If there’s one diet you want to sit up and take notice of, the Paleo Diet is it. More and more people are starting this diet for good reason – IT WORKS! And, it works across many different levels.
What do we mean by this? Basically, those who use the Paleo Diet plan will notice that they are experiencing a number of great benefits. These can include weight loss, reduced blood pressure, improved heart health, better focus and concentration, cleaner energy levels (no more mid-day crashes!), stabilized blood sugar and so much more.
The Paleo Diet could very well be considered the diet to end all other diets. It’s one that you could feasibly use for all your years ahead because while it does omit some foods from the menu, it’s not so restrictive that it would be impossible to stick with long term.
Let’s now take a look at what the Paleo Diet is all about, who it’s best suited for, what you will eat on the Paleo Diet, and how to get started immediately.
What Is The Paleo Diet?
The Paleo Diet is one that attempts to take you back to the early days. You will be focusing on eating like our ancestors ate, consuming only foods as they grew from the ground or were caught in the wild. Back in the day, you didn’t have foods like processed granola bars, potato chips, cakes, cookies, salami, yogurt, and soda. They simply did not exist as there was no way to actually manufacture them.
The diet itself doesn’t have many rules apart from these basic ones. You just need to eat the right foods and beyond that, everything else should take care of itself. Do note however, if your goal is fat loss, you may want to lean towards more of the fresh fruits and vegetables and cut back on the total amount of calorie dense fats from nuts, avocados, and oils that you eat in order to maintain a lower calorie intake.
You don’t need to omit any of the foods included in the Paleo Diet entirely, just sway your intake a bit closer to those lower calorie, higher density options instead.
The idea behind this diet is that many of the diseases that we are dealing with in abundance in today’s world – diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, simply did not exist back in previous times and a large reason for this was due to the types of foods that were eating. It’s only when we’ve shifted our food intake largely towards all these processed and grain-based foods that many diseases have begun to show face.
Let’s look at the foods that are permitted and excluded from the plan.
Allowed Foods On The Paleo Diet
Trying to decide if a food is allowed on the Paleo Diet plan? The process is relatively simple: just think back to whether a caveman would have had that particular food available to him. If he wouldn’t, it’s not allowed.
The main foods you’ll focus on include:
· Lean animal meat proteins and fish
· Eggs and egg whites
· Fresh fruits and vegetables
· Sweet potatoes and yams
· Healthy oils (olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, and avocado oil)
That’s pretty much it! While it may seem like a small list of foods, there are hundreds of different meals that you can make eating these foods. It may seem with all wheat and grain based foods eliminated, you have no options, but you are even able to find paleo friendly pancake recipes out there, so there definitely are options.
Banned Foods On The Paleo Diet
Which foods will you need to avoid? The following foods are not permitted and if you look carefully, are all foods that usually do give people issues when consumed. Whether you use the Paleo Diet or not, most people react negatively to many of these foods.
· Legumes, including beans and peanuts
· All dairy products
· Refined sugar of any kind (keep in mind sugar comes in many forms, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, sugar cane, sucrose, honey, etc.)
· Refined vegetable oils
· Any form of processed snack or junk food
· White potatoes
· Cereal grains (rice, barley, oats, couscous, etc.)
· Fruit juice
At first you may find it hard to cut out some of these foods, but if you give the diet a serious try and keep up with trying new recipes, you should find that you don’t miss these foods all that much.
Paleo Diet Benefits
Provided you don’t go too heavy on the oil, nut, and seed intake on the Paleo Diet plan, you should see reasonable levels of weight loss taking place. The diet is naturally rich in protein, lower in carbohydrates, and helps to combat hunger quite well, thus making it easier to intake a lower calorie diet.
Stabilized Energy Levels
Another benefit of the Paleo Diet approach many state is stabilized energy levels. Because you aren’t eating so many processed foods, you won’t have energy highs coupled with crashes throughout the day. Whenever you hit an energy crash, you’re likely to try and bring your energy level back up by relying on more refined foods. This creates an endless cycle where you experience those mountains and valleys and are left feeling terrible throughout the day.
Those who follow this diet plan tend to notice they feel very good all day long. They may not get those same energy highs, but their energy is constant and it’s a much better trade off.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
An overall decreased risk of heart disease is another big benefit to the Paleo Diet plan. Heart disease is running rampant in North America right now and a lot of this comes down to dietary efforts not being made.
We are eating too much saturated fat and sugar, and this diet will cut down on both of those very well, positioning you for optimal heart health success.
Many people who have suffered from a heart attack are prescribed a diet very much like the paleo one in order to stave off any future heart attacks that may occur. Research (1) has also demonstrated that this type of diet can help improve blood pressure, enhance glucose tolerance, decreases insulin secretion, and help improve lipid profiles.
Stable Blood Glucose Levels
Another disease that we are seeing more and more often right now is diabetes. The hallmark of this condition is high blood glucose levels, often brought on by the consumption of sugary foods. Processed foods, while they may say they contain no grams of sugar, very quickly break down in the body into sugar, so they aren’t much better. Think of them like little sugar bombs, waiting to go off.
By being able to control your blood glucose levels by eating meals that are instead rich in lean proteins and healthy fats, you will keep insulin levels stable and as a result, also keep your insulin sensitivity up.
Most people experience energy highs and lows throughout the day. There are some people who experience these highs and lows in their blood sugar levels on or near an hourly basis.
When your blood glucose level is low, you’ll be hard pressed not to consume more sugar to bring it back up to a comfortable range.
Because the diet is going to cut out gluten based foods entirely and it’s been well documented by research(2) that diets rich in gluten may be linked to inflammation, it comes to no surprise that the Paleo Diet is great for lowering your overall inflammation levels.
Decreased Chance Of Nutritional Deficiencies
Finally, the last big benefit the Paleo Diet offers is a lowered risk of nutritional deficiency. This is thanks to the fact that this diet essentially eliminates all the nutritional devoid foods from your menu and instead, encourages the consumption of foods that are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. As a result, you’ll be hard pressed not to get in all the nutrition that your body needs for optimal functioning.
As long as you eat a varied, mixed menu choosing from the different foods that make up the Paleo Diet plan, you should have no problem meeting your nutritional quota.
The diet is also quite balanced in proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fats in terms of the total food choices being offered, so as long as you make an effort to choose some food from all of these categories, you should not be going to any extremes with your macronutrient ratios on the Paleo Diet. This is also essential for long-term health benefits.
So as you can see, there are many terrific benefits to using the Paleo Diet plan. For most people, this diet will help improve their health, manage their body weight, and be a livable approach they can use for years to come.
Paleo Diet Drawbacks
Like most things in life, there are always drawbacks. The Paleo Diet is no exception. While there are a great many benefits to using this diet, there are a few drawbacks as well. Let’s take a look and also go over how you can overcome these.
Limited Complex Carbohydrate Availability
Perhaps the biggest drawback to the Paleo Diet approach is the fact that there will be a limited carbohydrate availability on this diet. Meaning, you probably won’t have that high of a carbohydrate intake, which for those who are engaging in regular intense physical activity, may pose a challenge.
If you are exercising regularly in the weight room, you need more carbohydrates to perform and recover optimally. Therefore, you may need to supplement with additional complex carbohydrates. You are permitted to eat sweet potatoes on this plan, so you could fill up on those and bananas if you wish (which is one fruit that also contains a good amount of complex carbohydrates), however most people will tire of these sources eventually.
So you might also consider bringing in gluten free oats as well as brown or white rice, both of which are still relatively healthy and will help give you that energy that you need.
This simple modification can help you completely overcome the drawback this diet would otherwise present.
Not Suitable For Vegetarians
Another issue that some people note with this diet is that it’s not suitable if you are a vegetarian eater. This diet is based primarily on lean animal meat and fish, so if you are a vegetarian, this is taking out a huge component of this diet.
Unfortunately the diet does not allow any soy based protein and since it omits beans from the picture (another important vegetarian source of protein), if you are a vegetarian, you are best off just finding yourself another diet plan.
This doesn’t mean you can’t still use some concepts from the Paleo Diet such as restricting processed grains, adding more fresh fruits and vegetables, and so on, but you will need to find alternative ways to get your protein needs met.
Limitation Of Some Healthy Foods
Finally, the last drawback this plan presents is that it is going to limit some of the healthier foods out there. Legumes, peanuts, and beans for instance are all excellent sources of nutrition and since they are not permitted on this diet, you are missing out.
Beans especially provide a wonderful source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, and potassium, which are critical for optimal well-being. While you can certainly get these nutrients from other foods on the Paleo Diet, you may need to eat more of those foods to get the nutrients in.
So there you have a few drawbacks to the Paleo Diet plan. All in all, the benefits do outweigh the drawbacks unless you are a vegetarian eater so it’s still a great plan to go on.
Getting Started With The Paleo Diet Plan
So if you want to get started with this diet plan, you simply focus on removing all the non-allowed foods from that list. It would be a good idea when just beginning to do some calorie counting to check that you are on track there and to get a feel for how much food you need to eat when consuming paleo-approved options.
You should still aim to eat three main meals a day and two to three snacks in most cases, ensuring that each meal and snack contains a good source of protein, a healthy fat, and either a fresh fruit or vegetable (or both).
This will help you sustain optimal energy and keep your diet as balanced as possible.
To help you get started, let’s look at a few Paleo Diet recipes.
Delicious Paleo Diet Recipes
Strawberries and Cream Breakfast Waffle
¼ cup egg whites
2 whole eggs
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. stevia
1 cup sliced strawberries
2 tbsp. whipped coconut milk
Whisk together the eggs and egg whites. Combine the coconut flour, milk, baking powder, and Stevia in a bowl. Fold into egg whites. Pour batter into a waffle maker, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Cook until done (4-5 minutes depending on the waffle maker).
Serve with whipped coconut milk on top with sliced strawberries.
Coconut Thai Stir-Fry
1 tbsp. olive oil
6 oz. chicken breast, cut into strips
salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. lime zest
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ cup light coconut milk
½ tbsp. coconut aminos
½ tbsp. Stevia
1 cup broccoli florets
½ cup sugar snap peas, sliced
½ cup red bell peppers, diced
¼ cup carrots, sliced
1 green onion, sliced
½ tbsp. chopped basil
½ tbsp. chopped cilantro
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, garlic, and chicken. Sauté for 4-5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside.
Add the lime zest, lime juice, and ginger. Stir and cook for another minute. Add the coconut milk, coconut aminos, and stevia and then vegetables. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and let cook for 3-5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp. Add in the fresh herbs and then serve.
Tangy Shrimp And Avocado Salad
1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
4 oz. shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt and pepper to taste
1 grapefruit, broken into segments
½ tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
½ tsp. honey
3 cups spinach leaves
¼ avocado, sliced
Heat ½ tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp. olive oil with cilantro and honey. Drizzle over shrimp and then add grapefruit into the skillet. Cook for 1 minute longer. Toss together the spinach and avocado along with the shrimp mixture and then serve.
Beef And Potato Soup
12 oz. stewing steak, cut into cubes
2 cloves garlic
200 grams sweet potatoes, cut into cubes
1 cup green beans, halved
2 large carrots, sliced
½ onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
½ cup kernel corn
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 cups of water
16 oz. can of stewed tomatoes
1 tbsp. beef bouillon powder
salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add steak, garlic, onions, and carrots. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Mix 3 cups of water in a large pot with stewed tomatoes, beef bullion, potatoes, green beans, celery, corn, and steak from skillet. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Paleo Diet
What Can You Eat On The Paleo Diet?
You’ll focus on eating meat, fish, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs.
What Shouldn’t You Eat While On The Paleo Diet?
When on this diet plan, avoid all processed foods, refined sugars, dairy, breads, pastas, soy, refined oils, sodas, caffeine containing beverages, and fast foods.
Can you have cheese on the Paleo Diet?
While cheese is not permitted on the Paleo Diet plan, most people do allow themselves to eat generous amounts of butter as a primary fat source.
Is Coffee Okay On The Paleo Diet?
Herbal tea, green tea, and green coffee are thought to be acceptable on this plan because they contain minimal amounts of caffeine. Regular coffee though, due to its higher caffeine level, is to be avoided while on the Paleo Diet plan.
Is Peanut Butter OK On The Paleo Diet Plan?
No, because peanuts are a legume, peanut butter is not acceptable as part of the Paleo Diet plan. Almond butter however would be a good alternative choice.
Is Oatmeal Paleo?
No, because oatmeal is considered a cereal grain, it is not an acceptable choice on the Paleo Diet plan. This said, many people will add oatmeal to the diet who are very active and are looking for more energy to complete their workouts.
Is Wine Paleo?
Most people who follow the Paleo Diet do agree that wine is an acceptable addition as it is full of healthy antioxidants that can help improve heart health and do your body good. This said, it should be drunk in moderation.
So there you have some of the need to know facts about the Paleo Diet plan. If you are serious about taking your health to the next level, it’s one diet that you do want to consider.
Fortunately it is quite easy to go on, isn’t too terribly expensive to maintain, and will help you enjoy many delicious meals so it should help keep your food cravings at a minimum.
Most people who start this diet plan are very impressed by how they feel on a day to day basis, so once they are experiencing the benefits, they have no trouble sticking with it in the future.
1. Frassetto, Lynda A., et al. “Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet.” European journal of clinical nutrition 63.8 (2009): 947.
2. De Punder, Karin, and Leo Pruimboom. “The dietary intake of wheat and other cereal grains and their role in inflammation.” Nutrients 5.3 (2013): 771-787.