The Paleo Diet theory has gained significant recognition within the health industry, and many individuals are embracing the diet for a variety of reasons. To put it as simply as possible, the Paleo Diet is based on the idea of eating what Paleolithic humans ate. This is why the diet is commonly referred to as “the caveman diet.” 1
The Paleo Diet consists primarily of foods regularly available Paleolithic humans, primarily meat, nuts, fish, leafy greens, and vegetables in the diet.2 Anything that requires processing like pasta, bread, cereal, or sugar is meant to be avoided on this diet.
The Paleo Diet is part of the new age of diets that don’t limit the number of calories consumed. While counting calories can be effective and is the inherent basis of successfully losing weight, its not the primary objective of the Paleo Diet. Instead, the focus is on the nutritional value of the foods being consumed rather than their calorie content. This makes the diet much easier to accept and implement for individuals that are looking to become healthier and lose weight.
Fundamentals of the Paleo Diet
High Protein Consumption
A Paleo diet largely consists of high-protein foods, like meat, fish, and eggs. However, the sources of each must be excellent, for example, remember to stick to the grass-fed meat.
Low Carbohydrate Intake
Another fundamental part of a Paleo diet is keeping carbohydrate intake at a minim. In an ideal world, you would avoid all types of simple carbohydrates. Instead, focus on consuming complex carbohydrates in moderation.
High Fat Intake
There is a common misconception among a majority of the population that correlates being fat with eating fat. The key is consuming a large amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats versus the common and known to be harmfully saturated and trans fats.
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The kinds of fats that you want to add to your diet are going to be healthy fats that are well-known for reducing inflammation throughout the body and promoting cardiovascular health.
No Calorie Counting
Unlike a majority of other diets, the Paleo Diet does not require calorie counting. Instead, it focuses on consuming plentiful amounts of some foods while cutting out others.
Why Does the Paleo Diet Avoid Grains?
Most Grains are Simple Carbohydrates
Grains are primarily composed of carbohydrates. Because carbohydrates effectively turn into sugar as fuel for energy, the sugar becomes the preferred source of energy. The sugar that is converted from carbohydrates is either burned or stored in the body as fat.
This is great for active individuals who require a lot of energy but isn’t great if you’re not getting a lot of exercises because excess sugar that is not burned as energy is going to be stored in the body as fat.
Because of this, a range of diets limits carbohydrate intake. For example, the principle of the keto diet is to avoid simple carbohydrates and put the body into a ketogenic state where it begins to use stored fat cells as the primary source of energy.
Grains Contain Gluten
By now, you have probably heard of gluten and how a large portion of the population is actually gluten-intolerant. When an individual is unable to properly digest gluten, consuming it can result in a variety of symptoms like acid reflux, digestive, joint pain, skin issues, and more.
Though lectins are not as widely-discussed as gluten, they are natural toxins that can be found in grains as a defense mechanism against consumption. Grains themselves have evolved to the point where they are inherently protected from being consumed by mammals. For some individuals, lectins can negatively affect the digestive tract, causing inflammation.
Despite all of this, it’s important to remember that though the Paleo Diet limits carbohydrate consumption, it does not eliminate them completely. In moderation, complex carbohydrates are still an important part of a balanced diet.
The premise of the Paleo Diet simply states that because Paleolithic humans likely consumed few or no grains, then perhaps following this model by eating limited amounts of complex carbohydrates could be equally beneficial to the digestion of modern humans whose digestive systems have not yet evolved to handle some aspects of grains, like gluten.
Benefits of the Paleo Diet
When you switch to a Paleo diet, you’ll likely experience higher energy levels. Rather than being reliant on simple carbohydrates and sugars to provide the body with the fuel it requires for energy, you will have switched the way in which your body goes about looking for food sources.
Instead of carbohydrates, it will be trained to look for fat stores and protein as fuel sources, which can allow for more sustained energy levels throughout the day.
Promotes Weight Loss
In addition to encouraging individuals to eat more whole foods, the Paleo Diet is also likely to put you in a calorie deficit because of how dramatic of a lifestyle change it will be for most individuals. Because the premise of successful weight loss is consuming fewer than you expend, the calorie deficit created by Paleo Diet has the potential to promote weight loss efforts.
Top Paleo Diet Foods
This is going to make up a large portion of your diet because the Paleo Diet is centered around meat consumption. Make sure that this meat is grass-fed, which allows it to be rich in omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids.
Because grains can ultimately cause some of the same issues in animals that it can in humans, consuming grain-fed meat could lead to some of the same types of inflammation that eating grains would. Additionally, it is likely that this meat will be lacking in nutrients compared to grass-fed meat.3
Fish is a great addition to a Paleo diet if you’re looking to maximize the number of healthy oils that you are able to consume through diet alone. Fish is full of omega 3 fatty acids which are known to be good for body and heart health.4
With eggs, you will be able to gain additional healthy fats and nutrients in your diet—especially in the mornings.
As long as you’re not cooking them in unhealthy oils, a Paleo diet allows you to eat essentially as many vegetables as you want guilt-free. This means everything from carrots, to broccoli, and even sweet potatoes, which have a significantly lower glycemic index than regular potatoes.
Another good addition to the Paleo diet would be various oils high in healthy fats like coconut and olive oil.
Fruit is a debatable addition to the Paleo diet. Some individuals choose to avoid fruit altogether because of its relatively high fructose content. However, when consumed in moderation, fruit can be a good addition to the diet.
Unfortunately, fruit tends to be very high in natural sugars which can have the same kind of impact on your body as converted carbohydrates. Therefore, you will want to be sure to consume fruit in moderation and try to consume the fruit alongside foods that can help slow down absorption rates such as a protein or healthy fat.
Nuts are extremely nutrient dense which makes them an ideal addition to the Paleo Diet. Not only are a lot of them high in vitamins and minerals, but they also contain high amounts of healthy fats. Some of the best nuts for a Paleo diet are almonds, macadamia nuts, and walnuts.
Beginners Guide to Paleo: Key Ingredients for Your Paleo Recipes
Now that you know the key food groups in the Paleo diet, highlighted below are a few specific foods that are staples in the Paleo Diet.
Ghee is made up from butter that has essentially had all of its solid components removed. Because of this, it can be effectively stored at room temperature without having to worry about it going bad. At the same time, it is also effective for cooking foods at high temperatures.
Coconut oil comes in both unrefined and refined options. Typically, you’ll want to use unrefined coconut oil unless you prefer the taste of refined coconut oil. Coconut oil is also great for cooking because of its stability even at high temperatures and is great for coconut lovers as it can provide a hint of coconut to many dishes.
This is easily one of the best flours to stock your Paleo pantry with. This is a great option because it is relatively high in protein per serving while also providing a mild flavor that allows for its seamless incorporation into a range of recipes.
Avocados are the epitome of a Paleo diet: they are high in healthy fats, protein, and vitamins, making them a great addition to any Paleo recipe.
The Paleo Diet is one of the fastest-growing diets in terms of popularity for a range of reasons. For one, it is a diet that simply makes sense and is sustainable in the long-term because it satisfies biological needs in terms of nutrition. It provides you with everything from healthy fats, to protein, fiber, and others vitamins and minerals. And the key to having success with the Paleo diet, like any other diet, is simply sticking with it.
While it does have a lot of restrictions that are likely going to completely change the way you eat, it is well worth it in the end. Being able to transition your body to rely on fat for energy can be a complete game-changer when it comes to creating sustainable energy sources and allowing your body to optimize weight loss processes. Because of this, the Paleo Diet is an excellent lifestyle change for improving overall health and quality of life.
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