One of the many diets to have ever gotten a huge following is the Paleo diet. Other than a diet that promotes weight loss and healthy wellbeing, its many proponents suggest the paleo diet is the first diet followed by our ancestors.

Its basis comes from how our cells, organs, hormones, and every little thing in between that makes us human was shaped by the paleo diet. And because what shaped our body was the paleo diet, it would be a good argument to say the many deviations from this diet have not only paved the way for our body to be less than optimal, but also made us more prone to diseases.

Does the Paleo diet actually do all that it was described to do? Should we trace our roots and go back to eating what our ancestors ate? Read this Paleo diet blog post to find out!

What is a Paleo diet?

The Paleolithic Diet, shortened to the Paleo Diet and sometimes referred to as the caveman diet, is a type of diet consisting of foods that were presumably present before the days of agriculture dawned on man (1). The Paleolithic period began more than 2.5 million years ago back when our ancestors just started using stone tools, and this period ended when we learned how to grow our own food some 10,000 years ago.

Unlike many diets, the Paleo diet wasn’t founded specifically on how it can help you lose weight. More than weight loss, the Paleo diet saw the connection between modern-day lifestyles and eating and the prevalence of diseases and conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (1).

The Paleo diet, therefore, sought to eliminate these diseases, or at least reduce your risk of getting one, by going back to what our ancestors did; going back to a time where these health issues were practically non-existent.

Maybe there is a connection with habits and illness as some studies do say some of the common causes of many diseases stem from lifestyle - with many chronic illnesses prevalent in highly urbanized societies.

What makes a diet Paleo?

Movement

It’s no secret that our ancestors, before learning agriculture, were most likely nomadic in a sense that they always had to move according to the changing seasons and food availability. And because they had to often move, they also naturally trained their body to be strong and resistant to ever-changing conditions.

Our ancestors would climb trees, hills, mountains, and cross rivers and vast distances of desert and snow. They would tirelessly train themselves to hunt for prey or to run from predators. They would carry the weight of their tools, weapons, and supplies on their backs. These activities, though mundane, actually enabled them to be fit enough to survive almost anything that comes their way including disease (2).

Compare that kind of lifestyle to what we have now - sitting around all day in front of a computer, browsing our phones while munching on potato chips with a can of ice cold soda on the table - and you can’t help but agree that maybe our bodies have become weak.

As far as exercise is concerned, the Paleo diet wants us to at least be physically active.

prehistoric painting

Food

While exercise was a major factor in what allowed our ancestors to survive, the Paleo diet’s main selling point was the exclusivity of kind of food you are supposed to eat.

The Paleo diet wants their followers to abide by one simple rule: Eat only the type of food our ancestors ate millions of years ago.

It may sound daunting, but it’s actually quite doable provided you’re perfectly fine with some alternatives.

In fact, the diet actually sounds easier to follow if you just omit foods that are highly processed and foods that aren’t nutrient dense. These foods are the ones you see in the supermarket all the time: Breakfast cereals, processed meat and dairy, candies, chocolate and energy bars, cakes and pastries, sodas and boxed juices, and foods that come in cans with a lot of preservatives.

Basically, stick to whole foods or foods comprising of fruits, vegetables, and cuts of lean meat and fat without any preservatives. Nuts and seeds are good too, but they can be quite high in calories and if you’re on a weight loss type of Paleo, limitations will have to be imposed.

If the food is made up of more than a line of ingredients, your best bet is to avoid it if you want to be Paleo.

Benefits of a Paleo diet

As mentioned, proponents of the Paleo diet push for its benefits for weight loss. However, Paleo diet experts agree that going Paleo is more than the food; it’s the lifestyle you are supposed to adapt.

When you adopt the Paleo lifestyle, you are inclined to receive some of its benefits including:

1. More energy throughout the day

Most processed foods rely on sugar and hydrogenated fat, two things that give you a jolt of energy for a short time.

While we have nothing against companies that spray sugar or hydrogenated fat, it’s hard to deny the fact that the energy people get from foods with a lot of these ingredients often have to eat more frequently to be energized again. Eating frequently begets caloric surplus. This surplus leads to fat storage and therefore weight gain (3).

The Paleo diet wants you to dine on foods that are in their purest, untouched forms as much as possible. In their natural states, these foods offer a lot of nutrients and lets you have sustained energy even with just one meal.

2. You will burn more body fat

The Paleo diet also includes a bit of intermittent fasting. The logic was, our ancestors ate sparingly and waited long hours, sometimes half a day, before the next meal. This has more to do with the fact that they likely ate a lot of food during the day because hunting and gathering food at night, back when only stars and the moon illuminated were the only light sources, wasn’t good advice.

As such, studies show intermittent fasting can lead to more fat loss (4).

3. Preserve more muscle mass

The Paleo diet wants you to focus on eating nutrient dense foods and lean proteins. What makes the muscles really grow is not the workout, but the recovery period. During recovery, the body is in a state of repair, fixing damaged muscle tissue and recovering lost nutrient stores by using the vitamins and minerals it gets from the food we eat.

By naturally eating foods high in nutrients, and not in preservatives, we are actually promoting muscle growth and preservation.

4. Helps suppress appetite

Vegetables, meat, and fat are all known to help suppress appetite.

Vegetables offer a lot of fiber. This fiber can expand, absorb water, and make the stomach think it has more food than what it actually has.

Meat is largely made up of protein. Protein is a type of nutrient that takes a long time to digest. Longer digestion means you stay fuller for longer.

Fats are also known to promote satiety, especially since foods that contain a lot of fat are usually foods that are found in heavy meals.

5. Can help lower some diseases

The Paleo diet opposes the idea of consuming highly processed food because these foods, while they are undeniably tasty and sometimes even addictive, they can end up promoting bad habits that lead to some of the common diseases we see today: Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, liver problems, obesity, and even certain cancers.

Since the Paleo diet requires followers to stick to Mother Nature as close as possible, it should help reduce your risk of incurring said diseases. Then, there’s also the fact that the foods available to a Paleo diet are nutrient dense which help fight off those types of illnesses.

What can you eat on a Paleo diet?

As highlighted earlier, the types of food you can eat on a Paleo diet has to be comprised of foods our ancestors ate. However, there are some good twists with those foods.

Below is a list of some of the common and surprising foods you can eat on a Paleo diet.

  1. Fruits and vegetables. As with any common diet, fruits and vegetables are often always included, it’s just the amount you eat varies. Low-carb and keto diets advise against high carb fruits and vegetables, and gluten-free and low glycemic diets want you to remove certain fruits and vegetables completely.

    The Paleo diet sort of follows on what a typical low-carb diet has when it comes to fruits and vegetables, but you are allowed to have more. The only thing that makes the Paleo diet unique is you also have to consider the seasons of the fruits or vegetables you’re eating.

    Is the berry you’re eating naturally abundant this time of year? Did your ancestors have access to pineapples or bananas? Was eating kale a thing back in those days?

    Granted, many don’t follow the seasonal rules, but it’s a nice concept and a way for Paleo dieters to distance themselves from other diets.

  2. Animal sources. Of course, our ancestors dined on meat regularly. Beef and pork are often eaten liberally whereas poultry and fish are subject to the person’s level of Paleo strictness. We didn’t exactly raise chickens nor did our ancestors always had time and resources to fish in rivers or seas.

    Then there’s also the matter of whether you’re eating something from the wild or from a farm, as well as the cooking methods. At the very least, Paleo dieters have access to crock pots and broths which make use of animal bones as ingredients.

  3. Beverages. Water is always here, but what about coffee and tea? Most proponents of the Paleo diet advise against coffee not because it wasn’t present during Paleolithic times, but because of high amounts of caffeine. The same argument can also be said of tea and its many leaf variants.

    However, if there are exceptions to some rules then beverages are definitely one of them. While our ancestors didn’t exactly chat over a cup of coffee, science does say they are really good for you if taken in manageable portions and frequency.

    Naturally, alcohol is also not allowed, but you can’t really tell a drinker to completely remove alcohol, so the alternative is the occasional red wine for its antioxidant properties.

    Other foods include chocolate, as in really dark chocolate, and some recipes that are certified Paleo which can include anywhere from appetizers and main courses to cakes and cookies. The idea is these foods must use Paleo ingredients no matter what.

Who is the Paleo Diet for?

Naturally, the Paleo diet can be one of the most notoriously difficult diets to follow largely due to food choices. However, much of the community has become more or less tolerant in accepting other foods that, while not exactly Paleo, are really good for you. This tolerance has allowed the Paleo community to grow and become one of the largest diet communities in the world.

However, even with its much more accepting community, the Paleo diet is still quite strict and there’s a good chance you might not thrive in it. If that is the case, there are other diets you can try. It’s all a matter of finding the shoe that fits.

References:

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2787021/

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11965522

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26468490

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5803575/

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