Up until the last four years, the Paleo diet was unknown to the world, with the exception of a few dedicated fans. While the scientific community made the initial push of this idea into the public space, the celebrities who have tried and promoted this nutritional approach have had an enormous role in making it popular.
Some of the A-listers who swear by Paleo include Megan Fox, Jessica Biel, Kobe Bryant, and Matthew McConaughey, so you can see how it rose to its current status. The increased popularity of organic food and mindful eating, particularly among the Millennial generation, is an additional factor that contributed to the rise of Paleo eating.
However, there is one thing that the Paleo diet has in common with most of the diets out there – there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding it. So, if you are interested in Paleo, here are some things you need to know.
What is the Paleo diet?
The Paleolithic or Paleo diet revisits ways people ate more than two million years ago, during the Paleolithic era. Addressing the “new age” dietary problems with old solutions is justified by the fact that our anatomy hasn’t changed a lot since that period.
Our ancestors ate simpler meals and used simple tools to make them. They based their diet on fresh fruits and vegetables available at the moment, and on fish and meat, they’ve caught and prepared. Because of that, advocates of the Paleo diet believe that prehistoric humans suffered fewer modern-day diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart conditions.
The basic principles of the Paleo diet
Source: screenshot from ultimatepaleoguide.com
Also referred to as the Stone-Age or Caveman diet, Paleo puts an emphasis on fresh or frozen foods (these manage in preserving most of the nutrients). It is a diet high in protein and fiber, moderate in fat and low in carbohydrates. It particularly restricts high glycemic index carbohydrates, refined sugars, and sodium.
Debatable aspects of the Paleo diet
You have probably, at some point, heard how bananas no longer taste like bananas or how tomatoes are different than they used to be. And truly, modern-day fruits, vegetables, and even animal meats cannot be compared with what our ancestors ate in the Stone Age.
This makes it difficult to determine which products to include in the nutritional plan. Also, there are regional differences that make it difficult to establish the “one true” Paleo diet.
There is, however, a consensus on some ingredients that can be used in a wide variety of Paleo recipes while keeping in mind the basic principles of this type of diet.
The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, along with the Omega-3 fatty acids, come from olive oil, coconut oil, marine fish, avocado, nuts, and seeds. Lean meats are the basic source of protein with an emphasis on grass-fed beef, which also contains Omega-3 fats.
Fruits and vegetables are recommended with the exception of high-nutrient ones, such as potato and cassava, which are recommended in moderation.
We have already mentioned that processed foods are a big no-no in the Paleo diet. Other things that shouldn’t have a place on your plate (or in your cup) are:
- whole grains
- dairy products
- refined sugars and grains
- refined vegetable oils (e.g., canola)
- alcohol and coffee
It is important to note that portion sizes are not defined and that some diet plans allow a cheat day or two, especially when you are still in the process of transitioning to a healthier lifestyle.
The benefits of eating the Paleo way
While it is a restrictive diet because you are excluding entire food groups, Paleo can be a healthy alternative to today’s way of eating.
This is largely because it offers an eating regime completely free of processed and fried foods. Eliminating fast food and carbohydrates can result in weight loss. You may also experience improvement in triglyceride levels and blood pressure.
Furthermore, it is believed that the Paleo way of eating reduces inflammation, which is one of the main symptoms of autoimmune diseases. That’s why there is a specific type of the Stone-Age diet aimed to treat autoimmune conditions, called the Paleo autoimmune protocol or AIP diet.
The potential cons of the Paleo diet
Like any restrictive diet, Paleo has its potential pitfalls when it comes to health and lifestyle. Like any healthy eating regime, it requires time and effort to get all the appropriate ingredients and prepare meals. As a result, sticking to the diet and planning meals consistently can come off as complicated, especially for those with busy lifestyles. Fortunately, the solution to this obstacle lies in organized and efficient meal prep.
Additionally, fresh and organic meats, fish, and other Paleo-friendly products can be pricier than canned and processed versions.
The exclusion of some food categories can increase the risks of deficiencies in B and D vitamins, as well as calcium. By eliminating whole grains from your diet, you are depriving yourself of valuable nutrients, including fiber.
High meat intake can also cause some health concerns, such as the increased risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
The best thing about the Paleo diet is that it promotes a life without processed foods that have no positive contribution whatsoever to our health. The worst thing is that it deprives you of fiber and dairy products.
There is no doubt that certain people, especially those suffering from inflammation and autoimmune conditions, can gain a lot by following the Paleo principles.
However, it is crucial to understand that there is no one true way to go Paleo. You can adapt this nutritional approach to your own needs and make sure you get the best of it while avoiding the potential risks.
About the author
Caitlin is a student and one passionate lady of a keyboard. When she is not trying to find the meaning of life and the Universe, Caitlin is studying, researching and writing about various nutrition, fitness, and health-related topics. She is happily addicted to art in all its forms, grilled tofu, and hiking. To see what Caitlin is up to next, check out her Twitter dashboard.
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