While low-carb diets have been around for years, the Paleo Diet takes the low-carb craze to new or perhaps more appropriate, really old levels. Also known as the Paleolithic, Stone Age, or Caveman Diet, this way of eating stresses consuming only the foods that were available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors over 10,000 years ago. Food choices are limited to what our ancient ancestors could hunt such as meats and fish or gather such as vegetables, seeds, and nuts.
According to UC Davis Health, “the underlying theory [of the Paleo Diet] is that the rise in chronic diseases in modern society stems from the agricultural revolution, which added grains, legumes, and dairy to meals, leading to a host of chronic diseases and conditions – from obesity to allergies.” So the Paleo Diet involves eating foods high in fiber and potassium. It promotes foods low in simple carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar. Some of what isn’t allowed are processed foods or any artificial colors and flavors.
What Foods Are Considered “Paleo?”
While some critics of the Paleo Diet have said they find the food choices a bit limiting, there are actually a wide variety of options from which to choose. Food items include:
- Lean meats such as pork, lean beef, turkey, chicken, and buffalo/bison. The diet stresses consuming grass-fed meats raised without hormones or antibiotics.
- Seafood. There is a wide variety of seafood available in most grocery stores. However, the Paleo Diet recommends using fresh, wild-caught seafood options whenever possible.
- Non-starchy vegetables, such as lettuce, green beans, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. With an emphasis on buying local food that is sustainably grown, the Paleo Diet can help not only your health but the planet as well.
- Fresh Fruit
- Seeds, including sunflower and pumpkin
- Nuts, including walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, and pistachios. Sorry, no peanuts!
- Healthy plant-based oils such as olive, coconut, walnut, and grapeseed
What Shouldn’t I Eat?
Part of the goal of the Paleo Diet is to eliminate unhealthy substances from your diet, while other foods are considered “off limits” because they would not have been available to our ancient ancestors. Items you should try to avoid are:
- Sugars. Eliminate unhealthy foods loaded with sugars such as soda, syrup, sports drinks, candy, cookies, cakes, jam or jelly, honey, and energy drinks.
- Processed foods or trans fats. Again, these can be found in many places with the biggest culprits being french fries, doughnuts, cakes, pies, processed fruit snacks, and mac and cheese.
- Salty foods. Chips, pretzels, crackers, many sports drinks, and sauces are very high in sodium content, which many people with high blood pressure are told to limit as much as possible.
- Starchy vegetables. Potatoes and corn are probably the two biggest starch offenders. All products made from them including potato chips, tortillas, and popcorn should be eliminated. White starches can cause spikes in blood glucose levels, causing a concern for increased incidents of diabetes and obesity.
- Grains. This one may be tough for many people to eliminate. Grains to avoid are oats, wheat, barley, and rice. Say goodbye to bread, pasta, cereal and crackers, which can also cause blood sugar spikes.
- High-fat meats such as salami, pepperoni, hot dogs, ribs, and bologna.
- Dairy products. Research is being conducted on the inflammatory properties of dairy products. Following the Paleo Diet means eliminating milk, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt.
- Beans, or legumes, such as peanuts and peanut butter. Eliminate beans of any kind. Soy is also removed from the diet meaning all soy-based products such as soy milk, tofu, and edamame.
Major Benefits of The Paleo Diet
According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, some of the major benefits to choosing the Paleo Diet include:
- You are more likely to eat a clean diet without additives.
- There are anti-inflammatory benefits from the plant nutrients in fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, and seeds.
- If you are eating more red meat, you will get more iron.
- You may see improved satiety — a feeling of fullness between meals, due to the higher intake of protein and fats.
- Many people lose weight primarily due to the limited food choices.
Whether you go full-on caveman or gradually phase out the forbidden food groups a few at a time, the Paleo Diet does seek to eliminate many items that time and again are seen as risks to our overall health.
Is the Paleo Diet Safe?. (2015, June, 10). retrieved January 20 2017, from UC Davis Health Website: http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/welcome/features/2014-2015/06/20150603_paleo-diet.html
Pros and Cons of the Paleo Diet. (2016, April, 2). retrieved January 20 2017, from UPMC.com Website: http://share.upmc.com/2016/04/pros-cons-paleo-diet/