Have you heard of the “paleo” diet? It was the world’s most popular diet in 2013.
But what is it? Is it a fad? Is it right for you?
Scientist and “The Paleo Mom” Sarah Ballentyne, Ph.D. defines the diet this way:
“The Paleo diet is a nutrient-dense whole foods diet based on eating a variety of quality meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. It improves health by providing balanced and complete nutrition, while avoiding most processed and refined foods and empty calories.”
The name “paleo” is from the “Paleolithic” time when earlier humans (thousands of years ago) were hunters and gatherers. It is thought to represent the era of nutrition before agriculture.
What you can (and can’t) eat on the paleo diet.
Of course, being a “diet,” paleo has food guidelines. The paleo diet was created to increase the amount of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods while reducing the number of gut-disrupting, hormone-disrupting and inflammatory foods.
But this doesn’t mean there are only a couple of foods to choose from! There’s a wide variety of food to choose from in the paleo diet.
You can include fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat (including organ meats), seafood, healthy fats, fermented foods, herbs and spices.
The paleo diet today excludes processed and refined foods (such as sugar, vegetable oils and artificial sweeteners), grains (such as wheat, oats and rice), dairy, and most legumes (such as beans, lentils and peanuts). (Recent archaeological research indicates that the original paleo diet may have included barley and wheat.)
The paleo diet can be thought of as more of a “template,” rather than a strict set of rules.
It’s a diet that seems to be easy to maintain. There’s no measuring or counting of calories or carbs. And there are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods to choose from.
Many proponents of the paleo diet even encourage experimentation by adding in a few of the healthy whole foods found on their list of exclusions. High-quality dairy, white rice or potatoes may be added to less restrictive forms of the paleo diet.
How does the paleo diet affect health?
Several clinical studies have been done to find out whether there are health benefits of eating this way.
Some of the research has shown that the paleo diet can help with weight loss and belly fat. That alone may be reason enough to give it a try.
Not to mention the paleo diet’s effect on several modern-day chronic diseases. For example, it can improve risk factors for heart disease. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, improve glucose tolerance and even reduce symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.
It’s also thought to be “gut-friendly” because it includes a lot of high-fiber foods (for example, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds), fermented foods (which contain gut-friendly probiotics), as well as being full of nutritious natural foods.
Who should consider a paleo diet?
Some people recommend the paleo diet for those with food intolerances or autoimmune diseases. Those at high risk for heart disease or diabetes may also be good candidates to give the paleo diet a try.
If you react to gluten or lactose, this diet removes them both by eliminating all grains and dairy.
Be sure to check with your doctor before switching to a new or different diet.
There are ways to eat healthy besides going paleo. But even if you don’t choose to go paleo, eliminating added sugars and both processed and refined foods can (should?) be a great goal to move toward.
What do you think? Do you follow the paleo diet? Do you have an interest in going paleo? Please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.