The Paleo Diet Beginner’s Guide, Including Best vs. Worst Foods
In the past few decades, our diets have changed dramatically. Processed foods are more common than fruits and vegetables, and it’s impossible to go more than a few miles down the road without spotting a dozen new fast food chains that have cropped up. Enter the Paleo diet plan, a diet that seeks to ditch the modern convenience foods in favor of the foods eaten by our ancestors.
The Paleo diet has been associated with many health benefits from better blood sugar levels to reduced inflammation. Considered one of the best diet plans for weight loss because it’s high in protein and fat and emphasizes nutrient-rich foods, it may also increase satiety and help correct nutrient deficiencies. Still, the diet has remained the subject of much controversy in recent years.
Despite this, the Paleo diet plan remains one of the most popular diets today, and there is a massive community of people who swear by it, claiming that it can be a convenient, easy to follow and effective way to attain better health.
So what is the Paleo diet and does it work? Here’s your Paleo diet beginner’s guide, complete with explaining what the Paleo diet exactly is, how it came to be, its profound health benefits, Paleo foods to eat vs. avoid, Paleo recipes and meal planning, how it compares to the popular keto diet, and more.
What Is a Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet definition is simple: Eat only foods that were available to our hunter and gatherer ancestors thousands of years ago during the Paleolithic Age. This means that things like processed foods, refined grains and cereals are off the table, and instead your plate should be full of fruits and vegetables, meats, nuts and seeds.
The idea is that these are the foods that our bodies were designed to eat while many of the heavily processed modern foods that fill our diets today contribute to chronic disease and health problems. Proponents of the diet suggest that a well-planned Paleo diet could lead to improvements in many aspects of health, such as enhanced weight loss and reduced inflammation.
Because it is essentially a grain-free diet, it tends to be lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein and fat than some other diets. However, it also eliminates several food groups that contain beneficial nutrients, such as legumes and dairy, which has made this diet a subject of much debate among experts.
The Paleo diet can be traced back to gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin, who brought up the idea of eating like our ancestors in 1975 in his book “The Stone Age Diet.” A decade later, researchers Melvin Konner and Stanley Boyd Eaton published a paper on the Paleo diet in the New England Journal of Medicine, which is considered one of the foundations of the Paleo diet as we know it today.
However, scientist Dr. Loren Cordain is most often credited with founding the modern Paleo movement when he wrote “The Paleo Diet” in 2002 along with a multitude of other books on the Paleo diet in the following years.
It wasn’t until the last five or six years that the Paleo diet really started to catch on, though. By 2013, it was ranked as the most searched weight loss method on Google. Today, the Paleo diet remains one of the most popular diets and has a huge fan base of dedicated followers that enjoy the flexibility and health benefits it provides.
Keep reading to learn more about the Paleo diet pros and cons as well as how you should follow it to help maximize the potential Paleo diet results.
1. Promotes Weight Loss
Is the Paleo diet good for weight loss? Although results can vary quite a bit, following the Paleo diet can cause a substantial amount of weight loss for many people. By swapping processed foods and refined sugars for nutrient-rich proteins and healthy fats, you can cut calories and kick-start weight loss.
The specific foods included in the Paleo diet plan can also amp up weight loss. The plan encourages fruits and vegetables, which are high in slow-digesting fiber, along with healthy fats and protein, which increase satiety and reduce appetite.
Keep in mind that the amount of Paleo diet weight loss can vary depending on many factors, such as what your diet was like beforehand. While some people may see the inches and pounds slide off after starting the Paleo diet, others may not see such dramatic results.
2. High in Protein
Getting enough protein in your diet is essential to maintaining overall health. Protein is vital for repairing and rebuilding tissue cells, maintaining normal blood sugar, transporting oxygen, healing wounds, and building muscle mass.
A protein deficiency can lead to a host of negative side effects, including low energy levels, decreased immunity, poor concentration and slow wound healing.
Protein is one of the staples of the Paleo diet plan. In fact, the plan encourages filling your plate with plenty of protein foods, such as grass-fed beef, poultry and seafood.
3. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal bodily response triggered by the immune system to protect against foreign invaders. Prolonged or chronic inflammation, however, is at the root of most diseases, including chronic conditions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
The Paleo diet plan encourages eating plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, which help neutralize the harmful free radicals that contribute to inflammation in the body. Meanwhile, nuts and seeds tend to be high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
Reducing inflammation can also be beneficial in reducing symptoms of inflammatory or autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or ulcerative colitis.