The foods for paleo diet or Palaeolithic diet are modelled to resemble what our human ancestors (the hunter-gatherer) ate thousands of years ago.
Although it isn’t possible to know what exactly they ate in different parts of the world. Many people believe that the foods for paleo diet are those, to which our species is adapted to, as our body is getting food for which it is programmed.
The dietary habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors consists of the basic foods, eaten by human beings since the time we first put our foot on the land, millions of years ago, until the time when agriculture was invented, which is merely 10,000 years ago.
Researchers assume that their diet must have consisted of whole foods, but many of the foods that hunter-gatherer man consumed no longer exist. So, the foods for paleo diet imitate the foods, which we might have had consumed in the past during the times of hunter-gatherer.
Our ancestors probably had a considerably low rate of lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease as they used to have a whole-food-based diet and very physically active lives.
Studies even suggest that this diet can help in losing weight significantly that too without calorie counting and major improvements in health.
Even though Dr. Loren Cordain is considered to be the inventor of The Paleo Diet, he prefers to emphasize that he hasn’t created it and gives all the credit to nature and says it was the job of nature. For more than three decades, Dr. Cordain, along with many of his colleagues from the various different fields, discovered the science that stands as the foundation of the diet.
When a modern Western Diet is compared to The Paleo Diet, the results show stark differences.
Many of the typical Western Diet foods have only been introduced in the past 1 to 2 centuries, including vegetable oils, refined sugar, and processed foods. In fact, 70% of the foods in the modern Western diet were introduced very recently, like a few generations ago. Because of how quickly these changes took place, our bodies couldn’t adapt properly to digest such food items.
Paleo diet’s supporters reject modern diets full of processed foods. They believe that subsiding with hunter-gatherers’ diet, may lead to a reduced risk of health problems, but this diet isn’t safe for everyone. Its effects on children, pregnant women, or older adults are still unknown. People suffering from chronic disorders should consult a doctor before trying the diet.
Foods For Paleo Diet
There is no particular diet plan, which fulfils the needs of everyone and paleolithic humans used to live on a variety of diets, according to what was available at the time and where in the world they lived. The Paleo Diet closes into a straightforward idea of eating lots of fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats, and nuts and eggs in a restricted manner.
Nevertheless, it starts becoming a bit complicated when you start getting into particular foods that don’t fit satisfactorily into a classification, or that you really like. Foods for paleo diet include fewer processed foods, but you’ll also need to stop consuming all grains, legumes, and most dairy. This is just a general guideline, not something written in stone.
Here are some basics:
Eat: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats, and oils. People following a paleo diet tend to choose grass-fed, organic meats because these are the least processed.
Avoid: Processed foods, sugar, soft drinks, grains, most dairy products, legumes, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils, margarine and trans fats.
What to avoid? – Foods for Paleo Diet
- Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup: Soft drinks, fruit juices, table sugar, candy, pastries, ice cream and many others.
- Grains: Includes breads and pastas, wheat, spelt, rye, barley, etc.
- Legumes: Beans, lentils and many more.
- Dairy: Avoid most dairy, especially low-fat (some foods for paleo diet do include full-fat dairies like butter and cheese).
- Some vegetable oils: Soybean oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil and others.
- Trans fats: Found in margarine and various processed foods. Usually referred to as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils.
- Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame, sucralose, cyclamates, saccharin, acesulfame potassium.
- Highly processed foods: Everything labeled “diet” or “low-fat” or that has many additives.
Note: It includes artificial meal replacements also.
The heart of the paleo diet is on the consumption of foods that would have been available in the Paleolithic era. The paleo diet is known with different names in different parts of the world like the stone-age diet, hunter-gatherer diet, or caveman diet.
In simple words: If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it.
Note: Always read ingredient’s lists, even on foods that are labeled as “health foods” they might have ingredients which you should avoid while on paleo diet.
What to eat? – Foods for paleo diet
Base your diet on whole, unprocessed foods:
- Meat: Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork and others.
- Fish and seafood: Salmon, trout, haddock, shrimp, shellfish, etc. Choose wild-caught if you can.
- Eggs: Choose free-range, pastured or omega-3 enriched eggs.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, kale, peppers, onions, carrots, tomatoes, etc.
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, avocados, strawberries, blueberries and more.
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and more.
- Healthy fats and oils: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and others.
- Salt and spices: Sea salt, garlic, turmeric, rosemary, etc.
Tip: Always prefer grass-fed, pasture-raised and organic meat. If affordability is a problem then just make sure to always go for the least processed option.
You can assume it as one of the rules for paleo diet to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Many people who follow a paleo diet also drink black coffee or green tea, in place of all soft drinks and juices with added sugar.
Getting regular exercise can be said as another one of the rules for paleo diet.
Some versions of Paleo diet are more lenient than others as they allow some dairy products or legumes, like peanuts.
How Paleo Diet Works
The Paleo diet, also referred to as the caveman or Stone-Age diet at some places, advises to eat only lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Followers of the diet emphasize consuming low-glycemic fruits and vegetables.
Several aspects Paleo diet like, what foods literally existed at the time, the divergence in diets depending upon the region (like tropical vs. Arctic), the resemblance of modern-day fruits and vegetables to prehistoric wild versions (which is actually very less) and disagreement among researchers of Paleo diet on what to and what not to include in the diet are few of the debatable topics.
And all these differences are the reason behind the fact that there is not any specific Paleo diet.
For example, even though the white potatoes are said to be available during the Paleolithic era, yet they are avoided on the Paleo diet because of their high glycemic index. Paleo diet lays emphasis on fresh foods so the processed foods are obviously off-limits, but some Paleo diets permit the consumption of frozen fruits and vegetables, as the freezing process helps in preserving most nutrients.
Altogether, the diet is a high-protein, moderate-fat (mainly unsaturated fats), low-moderate-carbohydrate (restricting high glycemic index carbohydrates), high-fiber, and low-sodium and refined sugars diet. The marine fishes, avocados, olive oil and nuts and seeds supply monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (including the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA) to the body.
Grass-fed beef is often featured on the diet, as it is emphasized to comprise more omega-3 fats than the conventional beef (due to being fed grass instead of grain). But it contains small amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an ancestor of EPA and DHA. Nevertheless, only a small fraction of ALA can be converted in the body to form long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).
The amount of omega-3 is also highly uncertain as it depends upon the specific feeding regimen and variations in fat metabolism among the cattle breeds. But the quantity of omega-3 in grass-fed beef is considerably lower than in oily marine fish. For example, a cooked salmon contains 1000-2000 mg of EPA/DHA per 85grams, whereas 85grams of grass-fed beef contains only about 20-200 mg of ALA.
Paleo Diet Rules
Rules for paleo diet #1: The foods for paleo diet should be gluten and grain-free
Gluten is an anti-nutrient and not a part of the Paleo Diet. Nevertheless, the popular growing gluten-free trend and Paleo Diet are not on the same page. Just swapping to gluten-free flour is not going to make your food healthy. The Paleo Diet emphasizes eating few, if any, grains which are low in vitamins and minerals and high in anti-nutrients.
Nowadays, “gluten-free” has turned into such a buzzword that it’s hard to not find an isle of “gluten-free” products in any supermarket. The problem is that “gluten-free” cookies, cakes, and breads are not healthy foods but are presented as one.
Gluten is a protein, which is found in some cereal grains, especially in wheat. Gluten comprises various anti-nutrients (molecules that are inflammatory or damaging) including a lectin called gliadin, which is the main reason behind Celiac’s disease. A lectin is a protein, which is produced by plants to protect itself from predators.
Wheat not only contains Gluten (one of the most prominent and problematic anti-nutrients) but also a lectin called wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) and amylase trypsin inhibitors. Most of the grains contain their own forms of anti-nutrients even if they don’t contain gluten.
These anti-nutrients (particularly lectins and saponins) have an extraordinary ability to cease the functioning of our intestinal barriers which will result in inflammation.
Products made of grains such as breads, pastries, and pastas have many other issues that go way beyond their anti-nutrient content. Firstly, products made of grain tend to be very low in valuable nutrients. Secondly, they tend to contain enormous quantities of both sodium and simple sugars, which has a serious effect on our acid-base balance and our glycemic load.
The glycemic index is a criterion of how much a meal can inflate blood sugar levels. This index is measured by comparing the foods to a standard which is either glucose or white bread. Both top the scale at a value of 100. Just below glucose and white bread, there are other products of grain, which includes other kinds of bread, bagels, rice, cereal, and instant oats on the top of the glycemic index list. A high glycemic load diet is one that is overwhelmed by grain products which helps in contributing to insulin resistance, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, and obesity.
And due to the anti-nutrients in all grains as well as the problems with acid-base balance and glycemic load, simply swapping wheat products with “gluten-free” options doesn’t make a diet healthy. Most of the problems are still there.
As an outcome, The Paleo Diet proposes reduction or elimination of all grains, not just wheat. Throughout our evolutionary chronology, humans we’re never required to eat grains. In fact, grain products were installed to our diets just around 10,000 years ago.
The simple fact that almost all the grain products have to be substituted with nutrients like folic acid and iron tells us that we need to acknowledge their health benefits, as no one has ever had to fortify broccoli or an apple.
If you want to eat an anti-inflammatory, healthy diet, go for a piece of fruit rather than baking with gluten-free flour for your dessert. Try this Gluten-Free Pancakes recipe.
Rules for paleo diet #2: Foods for paleo diet should avoid simple sugars
There are only a few foods that people crave for more than simple or processed sugars. No wonder that sugar is added to most of the processed food items that you find at grocery stores and the worst part about it is that it became a trend which coincides with the increasing obesity and metabolic diseases. Unfortunately, that is no coincidence.
Carbohydrate is now a universal term that a lot of people don’t understand and is often used synonymously with bread and pasta. But there also are a lot of dietary sources of carbohydrates too, including fruits and vegetables.
Even after the endless misunderstandings, carbohydrates are the core of many nutritional debates, to be specific whether we should eat a high-carb diet or low-carb diets. But the main problem is that every carbohydrate is different from one another.
All carbohydrates are made up of some combination of three simple sugars, namely glucose, fructose, and galactose. Simple carbohydrates can be both, a single sugar molecule or just a few bound together according to the chemical properties. Due to which, they broke down quickly. Complex carbohydrates are made up of chains of dozens to hundreds of sugar molecules that break down slowly and might have many health benefits. For instance, if we consider fiber, which is a complex carbohydrate, we can not break it down but it plays an important role in digestion.
Most people think of different kinds of breads and pastas when they hear the word carbohydrates, but they don’t know that these contain mostly simple carbohydrates. Candy is also a carbohydrate source made solely of simple sugars, whereas, fruits and vegetables are inclined toward complex carbohydrates.
Humans crave sugar, nearly more than any other food. A growing body of research is showing that simple sugars have a property to make people addicted to it. This tells us why most of the processed foods generally contain high levels of glucose and fructose, typically in the form of table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
And the terrifying part about the increasing introduction of simple sugars into the Western diet is that overeating is being linked to nearly every inflammatory disease. In 2016, two studies, published in JAMA and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition—respected peer-reviewed journals, showed that in the 1960s the sugar industry saw the growing body of research finding a connection of sugar to heart disease and funded new research to put the blame on fat instead. Which resulted in the low-fat craze of the 1980s and 1990s. Ironically, this was also during the time, when the obesity epidemic took off.
Even after the industry’s continued push-backs, a gigantic body of research linked high consumption of simple sugar to a vast array of diseases, which includes the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, liver disease, cancer, heart disease, and even neurodegeneration.
The high glycemic load of a diet high in simple sugars is one of the major reasons why it is so harmful. All food items are ranked from 1 to 100 on the glycemic index. In which the high mark is set at 100, is of glucose (simple sugar) and white bread. A diet consisting of foods with a high glycemic index is said to have a high glycemic load. And a high glycemic load diet linked with inflammation and insulin resistance, and these contribute to diabetes, heart disease, neurodegeneration, and cancer, over time.
Like sugar, humans crave for salt too, due to which most of the processed foods have salt in them. And some people in the Paleo community have even started claiming that consuming more than the RDA of 2,300 mg of sodium per day is healthy. But the reality is, consuming extra salt has a variety of health consequences and it also does not satisfy the Paleolithic template. Sodium is a vital nutrient; we would die if we do not consume it.
Past that, there isn’t much of a mystery to salt. Even though there are claims that less processed salt like sea salt carry health benefits, all salt is mainly sodium chloride and a lot of the health effects of salt are due to the sodium in the compound. Whether it comes from a salt shaker or a pink rock to our body it’s just sodium chloride.
The ethnographic data indicates our Paleolithic ancestors used to consume a maximum of 1,000 mg of sodium per day. To be factual, it would not have been possible for hunter-gatherers ancestors to consume even the current RDA for sodium, according to the availability of the natural foods to them.
Yet, there is a notion growing famous among some people in the Paleo world that our hunter-gatherer ancestors used to consume a high salt diet. They even claim that consuming more than the RDA is good for us. They even try to support this claim by explaining that our ancestors used to follow animals to salt-licks or receive their sodium from the animal’s blood. Neither of the theories holds considerable scientific weight.
The truth is that science has proved that humans crave salt and sugar above all other foods. The negative impacts of excessive consumption of sugar are already known, and salt isn’t any different. In fact, in Western society, most natural unprocessed foods are not deemed very delightful without a pinch of salt.
A series of studies in the mid-2010s claimed that eating more salt is healthy, as they showed that the relationship between sodium consumption and mortality is a J-shaped curve which means that the people who consumed a lot of salt had higher rates of mortality, just like people who ate a low-salt diet. Dr. Loren Cordain, the founder of the Paleo Diet movement, wrote extensively about some serious methodological flaws of these studies, and after the flaws were rectified, the relationship turned out to be a straight line, which means that intensifying the salt consumption correlated with inflating mortality rates.
Since then, Dr. Cordain along with his team have written considerably about the adverse effects of excess sodium on our health and how it leads to many diseases like hypertension and heart disease, cancer, autoimmunity, and insulin resistance.
The ratio of sodium-to-potassium is just as important as the quantity of sodium in our diets. Increasing the potassium in your diet can help in moderating many of the negative effects of salt, and the simplest way to develop this ratio is to reduce the quantity of salt in your diet and increase the fruits and vegetables as both are high in potassium.
Rules for paleo diet #3 the foods for paleo diet should be Dairy-free
How can we say that our hunter-gatherer ancestors never consumed dairy? Try to imagine a fierce, furious herd of 30 African Cape buffalo snorting and pawing the earth with their powerful hooves supporting their one-ton bodies crowned by enormous threatening horns. Now, is anyone interested in trying to milk one of these cows? Said enough.
Before the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago and the subsequent domestication of dairy animals, foods like milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt were never a part of our ancestors’ menu.
Although, 10,000 years ago appears to be unimaginably distant when compared to a single human’s lifespan, but it is relatively very recent on an evolutionary time scale. Only 333 human generations have come into existence since we first started to domesticate animals like cows, sheep, and goats, to consume their milk. Therefore, as a species, we have had barely sufficient evolutionary experience to adapt to food that now constitutes almost 10 percent of the calories in the American diet.
To put it all together we can say that we are the only species on the planet that consume another animal’s milk throughout our adult lives. Humans do not have a nutritional necessity for the milk of another species, nor do any other mammal. And a growing body of scientific evidence favours the evolutionary warning that this dietary practice may be harmful.
About 70 percent of the world’s adults are lactose intolerant, this means that they can’t drink milk without any digestive discomfort because they lack lactase-phlorizin hydrolase, an enzyme necessary to digest the milk sugar, lactose. This reflects that milk and dairy products couldn’t have been an element of the original adult diet that shaped the human genome until very recent times.
Some people have the gene for lactase persistence (LCT), which allows them to digest milk sugars in their adulthood. But, that doesn’t protect them from a lot of physiological fallouts of drinking fresh cow milk, which contains the entire complement of enzymes and hormones present in cow blood.
Once, it was even assumed that these bioactive compounds in cow’s milk were reduced in the human gastrointestinal tract and our immune systems eventually hindered their entry into our bloodstreams. In fact, cow’s milk seems to elevate a key human hormone (IFG), which is known to affect insulin and glucose metabolism and promote various cancers. Other elements in cow’s milk are inoculated in human cancer and disease, including microRNAs and stimulate the mTORC1-signaling. Recently, a few studies have even tied the consumption of dairy products to prediabetes and type-2 diabetes in adults and children.
Therefore, Dairy products are not counted as foods for Paleo Diet.
Rules of paleo diet #4 avoid Legumes and Nightshades
Both legumes and nightshades are high in various anti-nutrients that intensify intestinal permeability which can cause a myriad of health concerns.
“Dry beans and peas are nothing new, they’re just the mature forms of legumes like kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils. Foods like these are an excellent source of plant protein and also provide other nutrients like iron and zinc. They are similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution to these nutrients. A lot of people consider dry beans and peas as vegetarian alternatives for meat.” -recommended by the USDA MyPlate guidelines.
It is incredibly deceitful to analyze the nutritional and health effects of beans and other legumes by just correlating a few of their nutrients to other foods, as done by the USDA.
Prior to making such a claim, it is necessary to determine how food simulates within humans. Beans are not promising sources of either zinc or iron. In reality, foods like these (even when properly cooked) are nutritional lightweights as a source of protein in comparison to meat, fish, and other animal foods.
On a caloric level, legumes store far less protein than any lean poultry, beef, pork, and seafood. Beans, peas, and other legumes have 66 percent less protein than lean chicken and turkey, and 61% less protein than lean beef, pork, and seafood.
The USDA also does not inform you that our bodies do not process bean and legume proteins almost as efficiently as animal proteins. Legumes are chock full of anti-nutrients that weaken the body’s ability to absorb and comprehend potential beneficial nutrients.
If legumes are not cooked for long term or pressure-cooked, the anti-nutrients in legumes will remain active and may even damage the gastrointestinal and immune function. About 24 years ago imports of red kidney beans into South Africa were legally banned as they are potentially toxic for humans.
Nightshades like potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, chili peppers, eggplants, and tomatillos are another newly introduced food group, from an evolutionary standpoint and have been consistent in resulting in increased intestinal permeability.
But, we generally make an exception for tomatoes, as the ripe red tomatoes have very low concentrations of α-tomatine, and they are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and other healthful nutrients, only people with an autoimmune disorder or allergies should consider limiting their fresh ripe tomato intake.
In the U.S. people consume nearly 230 pounds of nightshades per person on an annual basis. These common foods have become such staples in people’s diets that rarely anyone, if ever, considers that they are pretty recent additions to worldwide human nutrition.
On The Paleo Diet, we advise eliminating white/yellow potato consumption, and for autoimmune and allergy patients, we suggest warning when it comes to tomatoes, chili peppers, and eggplants.
Ideally, you should be getting pretty much all of the key nutrients you need from the foods you eat. Yet, if you really need supplements, that can be a sign of poor dietary habits. There are only a few cases where supplementing may be beneficial.
Modified Paleo Diets
Over the past few years, the paleo community has evolved quite a bit.
Many different foods for paleo diet have now been included to the pre-existing list. Numerous of them allow some modern foods also that science suggests are healthy.
Including the quality grass-fed butter and even a few gluten-free grains like rice. Few foods and beverages are perfectly fine if consumed in small quantities:
- Wine: A good quality red wine is high in antioxidants and beneficial nutrients.
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolates with 70% or higher cocoa content are very nutritious and extremely healthy.
Many people now think of paleo as a sample to base your diet on, but not certainly, there is a strict set of rules that you must follow.
7-day paleo diet plan
We have created a 7-day paleo diet plan to provide a guide for the people who want to try this way of eating.
People can make modifications to each meal according to their taste and preferences. Fruits, nuts, and seeds are excellent snacks or desserts.
Breakfast: Bacon and eggs with a piece of fruit.
Lunch: Mixed salad leaves with fried seabass, pumpkin seeds, and an olive oil dressing.
Dinner: Roast chicken with a stuffing of onions, carrots, and rosemary.
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with wilted spinach, grilled tomatoes, and pumpkin seeds.
Lunch: Baked salmon with vegetables and avocado.
Dinner: Oven-baked salmon with asparagus and broccoli fried in coconut oil.
Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables fried in coconut oil.
Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil. A handful of nuts.
Dinner: Beef stir-fry with mixed peppers, using coconut oil to fry.
Breakfast: Broccoli fried in coconut oil with toasted almonds and a poached egg.
Lunch: Mixed salad with tuna, boiled eggs, seeds, and olive oil.
Dinner: Harissa-baked chicken wings with steamed broccoli.
Lunch: Butternut squash, broccoli, and tomato omelet with mixed salad.
Dinner: Burgers (no bun) fried in butter, with vegetables and some salsa.
Breakfast: Bacon and eggs, with a piece of fruit.
Lunch: Leftover burgers from the night before.
Dinner: Grilled lamb chops with wilted spinach and spiced red cabbage.
Breakfast: Spring onion, tomato, and mushroom omelet.
Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil. A handful of nuts.
Dinner: Salmon fried in butter, with vegetables.
Generally, there is no need to track down the calories or macronutrients (protein, carbs or fat) on the paleo diet, not at the beginning at least.
Nonetheless, if you need to lose a lot of weight, it is a good idea to consume less or none of carbs and limit your intake of high-fat foods, like nuts.
Simple and Healthy Paleo Snacks
Three meals per day are more and enough, yet if you still get hungry, here are some paleo snacks that are simple and easily portable:
- Baby carrots
- Hard-boiled eggs
- A piece of fruit
- A handful of nuts
- Leftovers from the night before
- Apple slices with some almond butter
- A bowl of berries with some coconut cream
- Homemade beef jerky
Paleo snacks are pretty easy to prepare and take with you on the go. A few ideas even include fruit, nuts, hard-boiled eggs or baby carrots.
How to Make Restaurant Meals Paleo
It is relatively easy to make most restaurant meals paleo-friendly.
Here are some basic guidelines to make your restaurant meal more paleo:
- Order a meat- or fish-based main dish.
- Get extra vegetables instead of bread or rice.
- Ask them to cook your food in olive oil or coconut oil.
If you’re on a paleo diet, eating out won’t be a problem. All you need to do is select a meat or fish dish on the menu and swap in some extra veggies.
How is the paleo diet better than the western diet
There are a lot of benefits to eating the way we were built to eat. Nevertheless, the easiest way to simplify it is to discuss the consequences of eating a Western diet. This highly processed diet leads to low-grade inflammation, which in turn most of the chronic illnesses.
The Paleo Diet is also known as an “evolutionary diet”, it is centred around the idea that for ideal health we should consume foods that are closely related to what our ancestors ate during their time, the time of human evolution.
Everyone who owns a car understands the significance of using the right fuel and motor oil for our vehicles and the outcomes of putting diesel fuel in a gasoline-powered car can be disastrous.
The same is the case for our bodies if we put the wrong foods in our bodies, it’ll have disastrous effects. Putting it simply, the established Western diet is an inflammatory diet, which means that it results not only in chronic and inappropriate low-grade inflammation but also intestinal permeability which burdens the immune system.
This inappropriate inflammation shouldn’t be underrated because the more we continue to research the mechanisms behind the most chronic illnesses, the one mutuality found by researchers is that they are all preceded by inflammation. For example, most of the autoimmune disease is associated with an inappropriate increase in the concentrations of TH17 (a highly inflammatory immune cell).
Similarly, we know that atherosclerosis is due to the build-up of a unique type of inflammatory immune cell called macrophages. Not only this, but even cancer is also linked to inflammation, as well as to several other dietary attributes of a Western diet also, like the high intake of processed sugar and salt.
The Western diet is packed with simple sugars, which is correlated to numerous inflammatory conditions like heart disease and neurological disorders. Overeating of sugar also causes high glycemic load which can, in turn, lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. Paleo Diet is low in glycemic load, that significantly decreases simple sugars.
Many of the most beneficial aspects of the Paleo Diet are still unknown to many people, like, the ratio of sodium-to-potassium and the ratio of omega-3-to-omega-6. High salt when paired with low potassium, has numerous inflammatory consequences that are associated with a variety of conditions like cancer, autoimmunity, and even osteoporosis. Similarly, the diet which is higher in omega-3s in relation to omega-6 fatty acids is known for being anti-inflammatory.
Jointly with both of these ratios is the acid-base balance of our diet plan. A Western diet is an acidic diet with many negative health consequences.
On the contrary to the Western diet, the Paleo Diet is an anti-inflammatory diet that helps in avoiding, rather than promoting these varied chronic illnesses. Furthermore, no sign of these “Diseases of Civilisation” has been found in any studied hunter-gatherer societies. Consuming the foods that our bodies were made to consume allows our bodies to function optimally, that means better skin, hair, and nail quality, lesser nasal congestion and brain fog, increased overall energy, and improved ageing.
18 Health Benefits of Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet contributes a lot of fibre to your diet, and together with sufficient water consumption and lesser intake of sodium will help in decreasing the bloat, which several people experience on a Western diet. Moreover, the Paleo diet also helps to enhance the gut flora which is vital in maintaining healthy digestion.
“Hangry”-a hybrid of hungry+angry, which is a common symptom in a lot of people experiencing acute or chronic hyperglycemia. This might also happen when there is a drop in the blood sugar level and the person suffers from a rapid assault of hunger along with irritated, fatigue, disorientated and a foggy mind. Meals rich in protein and fat are fully satisfying. The energy obtained from fat, protein and some glucose from low GI carbs are gradually and evenly released in the body throughout the day. Which helps in stabilising the blood sugar levels and you rarely experience energy drops. It also helps in the development of hunger gradually without any mood swings.
The fats in the Paleo diet or Palaeolithic diet are healthy fats from grass-fed meat, poultry, seafood, coconut, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Which means that there are no trans fats. It also promotes a healthy ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. Good fats like Omega-3 and Omega-6 are essential in keeping the arteries healthy, a healthy brain function, healthy skin, as well as decreasing systemic inflammation.
People who follow Paleo/Primal/Palaeolithic diet experience various benefits listed below:
- Increased and more stable energy levels
- Improved sleep
- Clearer skin and healthier looking hair
- Mental clarity
- Improved mood and attitude
- Improvements in those suffering depression or anxieties
- Less or no bloating, decreased gas
- Sustained weight loss
- Muscle growth; increased fitness
- Lowered risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer
- Improved immune system with a general feeling of well being
- Improved glucose tolerance; decreased insulin secretion and increased insulin sensitivity
- Improved lipid profiles
- Healthier gut flora
- Foods for paleo diet results in better absorption of nutrients
- Reduced allergies
- The Paleo diet is anti-inflammatory, and a lot of people also experience a reduction of pain associated with inflammation
- Improvements in those with respiratory problems such as asthma
The basic logic behind the paleo diet is that we should eat what we are meant to eat, what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. The way they hunted and ate high-fat, animal protein, seafood and vegetables as whole foods, we should consume them the same way. And just like they never had diverse options – like processed food, grains, carbohydrates, dairy products, salt, vegetable oil and refined sugar (among others) – of the present, we should avoid these food groups as if they do not exist.
Some studies show weight loss and overall health improvements in people following the Paleo Diet. Yet many people remain suspicious of its overall effectiveness. From a nutritional point of view, clinging to certain parts of this diet may result in severe consequences.
The Paleo diet is heavily depending on fresh foods. You need to be committed to timely planning, purchasing, preparing, and cooking meals. Which might turn out to be a bit of a challenge for people with busy lifestyles and also for those with less experience in cooking.
Fresh meats, fishes, and produces tend to be costlier than their processed versions (frozen or canned).
Paleo Diet excludes the entire categories of foods like whole grains and dairy. One has to read the label before buying anything in supermarkets as well as in restaurants. It may cause deficiencies such as calcium, vitamin D, and B vitamins.
Thus these nutrients are to be consistently eaten from the allowed foods or a vitamin supplement. Collard, Turnip greens and Salmon are some non-dairy calcium-rich foods that are absorbed well by the body. However, you would have to eat at least servings to meet recommended calcium needs.
A lot of studies ascertained a risk of death, cardiovascular disease and diabetes due to massive amounts of intake of red meat.
Low-Moderate carbohydrate intake.
Paleo Diet excludes cereal grains like wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn and brown rice. These consist of huge amounts of fiber of, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and selenium. Grains also help our bodies in controlling blood sugar levels, lowering cholesterol and fighting the risks of chronic diseases. Uniformly low intakes carbohydrates may cause the body to overuse fat for energy, which is also known as ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic condition which occurs when the by-products of fat (aka. ketones) breakdown, build up in the bloodstream. Increased levels of ketones may cause dehydration and ultimately coma due to these intense metabolic abnormalities.
Likewise, following a low-to-moderate carbohydrate diet can make exercise a physical battle for the followers of Paleo diet. During aerobic workout (longer exercises like running, biking, swimming and walking), our bodies use the carbohydrates for fuel. Without sufficient carbohydrates in the diet, our body starts using both fat and muscles for energy generation. This causes breaking down of muscle mass, which increases our metabolism and helps us to burn more calories per day.
1) The sensation of physical fatigue and exhaustion, throughout the day and during exercise, can be indications of muscle breakdown.
2). Restrictions over dairy products can lead to deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, which are vital for healthy bones.
3). Amounts of consumption of saturated fat according to the recommendations of the Paleo Diet can increase the risk of kidney and heart diseases, as well as certain cancers.
There is no one-size-fits-all “best diet” approach. People prone to black and white/all-or-nothing thinking should not categorise foods for paleo diet into good and bad. As it may lead to feelings of guilt, shame and low self-worth when the “rules” of paleo diet break. It can be an accident or any other reason. Don’t be too harsh on yourself
Following the same eating pattern as of our ancestors is not mandatory to live a healthy lifestyle. In fact, it can even lead to adverse effects (as shown above). Our hunter-gatherer ancestors who lived millions of years ago might have gotten by on this diet. But evolution has altered our genetic disposition and how we digest food.
If you are interested in changing your eating habits, what’s most important is making sure your health background and nutritional requirements are considered. A professional dietitian can help to ensure the most appropriate plan for you and your unique lifestyle.
85:15 Paleo Diet Plan
Strictly following a paleo diet might just not be enough to provide our bodies with sufficient nutrients. So, this 85:15 approach is set up. In this, you consume 85 percent of your calories from clean foods for paleo diet and the remaining 15 percent from non-Paleo foods that you enjoy. Taking this approach will still provide the vital health benefits of adopting a modern Paleo diet.
On categorizing the contemporary foods for paleo diet or non-Paleo foods, there will only be 15% of paleo calories (unprocessed, nutrient-dense natural foods) in a typical western diet. On considering the benefits of consuming Foods for paleo diet, switching from a typical western to 85:15 paleo diet will provide incredible health benefits. Even if it’s not purely paleo, it’ll provide significant improvements in health.
Whereas some people try to consume 100 percent Paleo. Unless you have a health condition that demands it, we would recommend to not be too strict when starting the Paleo Diet for the first time. It can be demoralizing and often leads to quitting and going back to old habits.
One can make several modifications which result in variability with respect to adopting a Paleo Diet. Like few people can attain goals with a 70:30 approach, while few might need a 90:10 approach. So, if the expected results are not visible by adopting The Paleo Diet, you might need to be more strict and increase the ratio of foods for paleo diet to non-Paleo foods in your diet.
For instance, autoimmune patients have ascertained that 100 % obedience is required to stay in abeyance from their disease. Every one shall consider following a strict Paleo diet plan for 1 to 2 weeks, periodically per year to maintain optimal health.
Eating 85:15 may turn out to be restrictive. As it won’t leave a lot of room for the foods we actually enjoy. But eating 85:15, over time, may lead to a change in our palates which makes it easier. And in many cases, it can even lead to an increase in the amount of foods for paleo diet we consume, simply by preference.
This 85:15 template is sufficient for almost everybody for better health. Alongside that it also allows the body to deal with the negative consequences of the 15 % non-Paleo foods without any consequence. In fact, consuming a small amount of non-Paleo sustenances may help the body to maintain the physiological mechanism needed to handle less healthy anti-nutrient-containing foods.
Following the 85:15 Paleo Diet, don’t feel shy to request menu changes when dining. Usually, they offer a healthy protein with non-Paleo side dishes, like potatoes or legumes. Asking them to replace those items with healthy Paleo vegetables can help you to maintain 85 percent. Make these slight adjustments to your meals so that they add up over time. So, even those who dine a lot can improve their diet considerably following the 85:15 Paleo Diet template.
The Paleo Diet is generally criticized for being unrealistic or too difficult to follow. But the 85:15 template helps in making it attainable at home and also when eating out.
6 Popular Myths related to foods for paleo diet
As the paleo diet is getting popular, the number of myths about what the diet is and isn’t is increasing. Sadly, a lot of the criticisms are biased as they are based on the myths and not the actual diet. Whereas, the truth is something else. Some of the most common myths as observed are:
- Eliminating grains and dairy causes nutrient deficiencies
- The Paleo Diet is an all-protein/meat diet
- The Paleo Diet is anti-carbohydrate or ketogenic
- Our Paleolithic ancestors died young, so why should we eat their diet?
- We’re guessing at what our ancestors ate
- The Paleo Diet is not based on science
Dr. Loren Cordain expressed his views about the myth very elegantly in an article from 2016. He professed that excluding dairy and grain actually improves nutrient density. Following the paleo diet allows you to eat fruits and vegetables, as much as you want.
These fruits and vegetables contain way more essential nutrients than any grain or dairy product. Paleo Diet replaces the grains which are poor in nutrition with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, is less likely to cause nutrient deficiencies.
The dilemma is The Paleo Diet never having claimed to be all protein or meat. In reality, if we consider the volume, the diet is more plant-based than animal-based. As stated by Dr. Loren Cordain, Dr. S. Boyd Eaton, and Dr. Staffan Lindeberg in their very first published papers about paleo diet, the general plant-animal ratio of most hunter-gatherer societies ranged from 35:65 – 65:35, but none of the societies ate all animal or all plant diet.
The range of protein intake was 19-35 % of their diet, but never more than 35 % due to the risks of something called “rabbit starvation.” Rabbit starvation, also known as protein poisoning, refers to a non-verified acute form of malnutrition, some specialized as a result of consuming excess lean meat leading to deficiency of fat from the diet.
It is true that the Paleo Diet is lower in carbohydrates than any regular Western diet. But that is only because the sole way to get the recommended 60 % of your calories from carbohydrates is by consuming different kinds of breads and simple sugars.
Similarly, it is also true that our Paleolithic ancestors might have periodically gone into short periods of ketosis, especially those who lived in colder regions — but it was not by choice. It is believed that a long-term keto diet is not healthy.
Typical hunter-gatherer diets contained 22-40 % carbs by calorie, which is low- but not an anti-carbohydrate diet. More importantly, the source of the carbs in paleo diet is fruits and vegetables and not any highly processed sugary foods.
It is true that our hunter-gatherer ancestors had a considerably shorter life expectancy. But life-expectancy and aging are totally different things. Having a life expectancy of 35 does not mean you will look like a withered old man/woman at the age of 30. Life-expectancy deals with infant mortality, disease, and violence.
A more important metric is the modal age of death, it refers to the age at which most of the people die. And the hunter-gatherer society’s modal age is similar to the modern day’s modal age. However, they did not suffer from chronic diseases and debilities of the modern era.
This belief is true, even though it is just a very educated guess, established on the basis of a large body of ethnographic data.
Paleo Diet: A Good Choice For Sugar Management for a diabetic patient?
Even though there is no perfect diabetes diet, some studies suggest that the paleo diet might help people suffering from type 2 diabetes. As the paleo diet includes only whole foods, it helps to manage their blood sugar level, lower their blood pressure and lose weight.
However, critics do argue about the unlimited amount of red meat allowed by the paleo diet, as it may have an adverse effect on heart health – especially in people suffering from diabetes. Because various studies link eating red meat in excess to poor heart health.
If you have diabetes and you do not suppress your red-meat intake, this may cause a big problem. Because people with diabetes are twice likely to die of heart disease in comparison to people who do not have diabetes.
Expected Results of Paleo Diet
Following the Paleolithic diet, you’ll lose weight drastically and quickly, depending on how strictly you’re following the diet and how much physical exercise you do in your daily routine.
If following the diet for long-term, you should make sure you’re getting calcium and other nutrients which you’re missing by excluding dairy products and certain grains. Several paleo-approved sustenances, like salmon and spinach, contain calcium, so make sure that you’re including them in your diet. Check with a registered dietitian too, to make sure your body’s needs for calcium and other nutrients are satisfied.
In total, paleo diet is not a bad choice. If someone follows the diet by cutting out processed food, processed meats, and sugar-sweetened beverages and substitutes them for more fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, they’re prone to see a few health benefits at least.
“One thing to consider is how extreme you want to take it,”- Holley, pointing out that some modifications of the diet are more restrictive than others. It might turn out to be overwhelming, cutting a bunch of food groups at one time. Holley even suggests trying small incremental changes instead.
Foods for paleo diet are composed of whole fresh and encourages its followers to stop consuming highly processed foods containing added salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats. Nonetheless, the exclusion of whole grains, dairy, and legumes can cause a suboptimal intake of important nutrients. People might not be able to continue paleo diet in the long term due to its restrictive nature. More high-quality studies like randomized controlled trials with follow-up of more than one year, comparing the Paleo diet with other weight-reducing diets are required to demonstrate a direct health benefit of the Paleo diet.
Followers of paleo diet aim to consume sustenances that our prehistoric ancestors (hunter-gatherers) did. They seek whole, unprocessed foods and try to avoid consumption of processed foods, grains, legumes, and dairy.
Paleo advocates contend that our bodies are not able to process foods that developed due to the development of farming.
A paleo meal plan supports weight loss, enhances insulin sensitivity and also reduces blood pressure in the short term. The results of small – initial researches support a few of these health effects, but more research is necessary to validate them.
The paleo diet might not be safe enough for everyone. It would be best to consult a doctor or dietitian before making any significant dietary changes.
Those who are interested in trying the paleo diet, the 7-day meal plan mentioned above is a good place to start.
The paleo diet is designed according to dietary habits, hunter-gatherers are likely to have followed. As there are various ways to follow the paleo diet, the fundamental is to avoid processed foods and focus on healthy, whole foods.
Foods for paleo diet consist of meat, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, fruits and veggies, together with healthy fats and oils. In the meantime, avoid processed foods, grains and sugar.