There are so many diets and dieting suggestions out there, how do you know which is right for you? Well, your first crucial step is educating yourself on nutrition. Once you have a more thorough understanding, you will recognize the true benefits of various diets.
The Paleo diet is no exception, as many have noticed the benefits it brings. This is due to the foods that the Paleo diet focuses on, while eliminating ingredients and options that are detrimental to your health.
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What is the Paleo Diet?
This diet consists of all foods that our ancient ancestors would have eaten. Basically, it’s a diet that eliminates all modern processed foods, refined ingredients, and items that were not available during the ‘caveman’ era. If you could hunt or find your food, then you can eat it.
This diet focuses on whole, natural foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have utilized. When followed correctly, this diet is said to not only improve health, but lead to substantial weight-loss. So, what can you eat, and what should you be avoiding?
EAT THESE: Fish, meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits, spices, healthy fats, oils, nuts, and seeds.
AVOID THESE: Sugar, processed food, grains, most dairy products, legumes, sweeteners, trans fats, vegetables oils, margarine, soft drinks.
As you can see, the items that you’re able to eat, provide you with various nutrients. The foods to avoid do include highly processed, low-nutrient options. However, beneficial ingredients are also mentioned. We will discuss this below.
Does the Paleo Diet Work?
This diet is still highly controversial amongst professionals. Some believe that it’s healthy, while others believe that it’s damaging. The logic behind this diet makes sense. Obesity has skyrocketed since we began eating highly processed and refined foods.
We have adapted to react to food scarcity. However, we’re exposed to an abundance of unhealthy choices. These more ‘modern’ foods are said to be high in calories and low in nutrients. Although calories are essential regarding weight-loss, counting or cutting calories is not the solution.
This diet is said to work with your body, not against it. For example, you are not limiting food intake to lose weight. Once you switch to a Paleo diet, you will be consuming nutrient-rich foods. You can combat nutritional deficiencies without needing to pay much attention.
There have most certainly been positive results seen from this diet. Participants in a number of human studies have lost weight in comparison to their control groups. These individuals naturally consumed fewer calories and limited their portion sizes without being conscious of their true intake (counting calories for instance).
How to Start the Paleo Diet
If you believe that this diet is for you, then here are some tips to get started:
- Clean out your fridge, freezer, and cupboards: Collect all your cereal, packaged, canned, and processed foods. It’s time to give your kitchen a food make-over. You will need to begin stocking your shelves with whole foods that follow the Paleo diet guidelines.
- Go slow: You can ease your way into this diet. At first, you may start with 70% Paleo diet ingredients, 30% non-Paleo ingredients. From there, you can begin to eliminate more and more processed foods, diary, or grains.
- Experiment: Start cooking, getting involved in your consumption. Since all of your foods will be fresh, cooking will be your new hobby. Get creative and make some nutritious meals. You can also incorporate more fresh, raw ingredients.
- Know your labels: When shopping, understand that some options are off limits. Yes, lunch meat is technically meat, but have a look at the ingredients. There are many additives that do not match the Paleo diet.
- Rethink your plate: We often hold a spot on our plate for grains, but this will need to be adjusted. Focus on lean meats and a lot of vegetables. When you do eat meat, make sure you’re purchasing high quality meats.
- Switch the sweets: If you’re used to reaching for a slice of cake after dinner, it’s time to re-think your choices. Grab a mixture of fruit instead.
Paleo Diet Criticisms
There are some beneficial aspects of the Paleo diet. However, there are some aspects that conflict with your nutritional needs. It is most certainly beneficial that processed and refined foods are eliminated. These do not provide your body with high levels of nutrients. They do tend to be high in calories however, so eliminating these is great for weight-loss.
Sticking to a more whole food diet is also great. With that being said, this diet restricts certain food groups. That makes this diet unbalanced, lacking various nutrients. For example, eliminating grains and legumes isn’t necessarily beneficial.
Complex carbohydrates, for example, are essential for our energy levels and overall health. Legumes provide your body with so many nutritional benefits, especially for those that are vegetarian. It doesn’t make sense to restrict your body of these items. Just because these items were not available during the stone-age, does not mean that they should be avoided.
Even if you were to strictly stay on the Paleo diet, it would not match the foods that were available to hunter-gatherers. Our food has evolved with us. Animals have been bred to produce more meat, seeds have been carefully selected to yield the best crops; food has simply changed.
So, what does this all mean? Well, the Paleo diet is beneficial in the sense that un-healthy, processed foods are eliminated from your diet. This will decrease a vast number of high calorie choices, which provide little nutrients. These options are also related to weight-loss struggles.
However, do not strictly limit yourself regarding foods that were available to our ancestors. In reality, our ancestors hunted and ate the way they did because they HAD to. Many Paleo enthusiasts now follow this diet because they WANT to.
If you want to lose weight, focus on eliminating all processed foods, simple carbohydrates, refined sugar, and fast food. Replace these choices with lean meats, legumes, complex carbohydrates (whole grains), nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and plenty of water.