The past decade has seen an explosion in different diets, meal plans, and nutritional eating guides.
As people become more conscious of their eating habits, they seek plans to help them make the right nutrition choices. Some of the most famous diets and meal plans include the Keto diet, Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting, and the Paleo diet.
I’ve written an article comparing the Keto and Paleo diets Keto vs Paleo – What are the Differences?
The theory behind the Paleo Diet is that thousands of years ago, humans thrived on eating whole foods from hunting or gathering. These food sources include fish, lean meat, vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts.
The Paleo diet, in particular, draws attention due to the inspiration behind it. Also, some ideas it advances may seem radical to conventional nutritional information.
What Is The Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet is a meal plan and food choices that mimic prehistoric humans’ diet and eating habits in the Palaeolithic age. About 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago, humans sourced food through hunting and gathering during this age. As such, the Paleo diet asks you only to consume food your ancestors could have obtained through hunting and gathering.
In its strictest terms, the Paleo diet follows this simple rule; ‘if the cavemen did not eat it, then you should not eat it.’ The Paleo diet has several other names, such as the caveman diet, stone-age diet, or hunter-gatherer diet.
Then agriculture happened and with it the modern setup of society as we know it. Legumes, dairy products, and grains all became part of the human diet. And that does not even include the highly processed foods from soft drinks to fries and other confectionaries.
However, according to the Paleo diet advocates, the human body has not evolved to process these foods properly. Because of this, they attribute the increase of several conditions from obesity to heart disease to the change in our diets.
Where Did The Paleo Diet Start?
Beyond its inspiration from the Stone Age, the Paleo Diet draws its origins from the 1985 work of S. Boyd Eaton, M.D. His study on Palaeolithic Nutrition appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.
It later became a full-blown craze following Loren Cordain Ph.D. work, an expert in evolutionary medicine. He published a book in 2002, The Paleo Diet, and it has become the leading authority on the subject. However, people have modified the guides to suit their needs.
Paleo Diet Principles
It can be hectic trying to keep up with all the information regarding the Paleo diet. To simplify this, you can follow a breakdown of the whole diet using these principles.
1. Increase Your Meat And Fish Intake
The Paleo diet is unique in its recommendation for higher amounts of red meat. Following the diet of the caveman, protein served as the primary source of energy. Specifically, the diet requires you to look out for fresh, grass-fed, and naturally raised or wild varieties.
You should avoid corn or grain-fed animal meat sources, processed and cured meats. The diet also encourages the consumption of fish especially fatty ones and shellfish.
While it faces criticisms for its preference for red meat, advocates of the paleo diet note that it provides an alternative to the current reliance on carbs for energy. You can also consume poultry meat, eggs, and pigs if they meet the conditions.
2. Lose The Grains On The Paleo Diet
The stone age man did not cultivate crops and did not eat grains such as wheat, rice, and even corn. Paleo diet advocates also note that grains require a level of processing that was not possible for troglodytes. Besides, grains tend to be high in calories and low in nutrition.
Humans also have a tendency to overeat grains which messes up with the blood sugar levels. Furthermore, the grains contain antinutrients like lectin, which affect the gastrointestinal tract. It also prevents the absorption of other nutrients. Most grains also contain gluten which is hard to digest and, over time, causes problems in your digestive system.
3. Cut Out Or Limit Your Dairy Intake
Dairy products were also not part of a caveman’s diet since they did not rear livestock. A significant portion of the population is lactose intolerant. Even for those who can digest lactose, the ability decreases as we grow older. There is recent evidence that shows dairy milk may have a significant negative health impact. You may decide to exclude dairy entirely from your diet or in limited amounts.
4. Increase Your Plant Intake But Remove Legumes
The Paleo diet is heavy on vegetables and fruits. If you want to get on a Paleo diet, you will need to be familiar with the farmer’s market. It would help to increase your intake of leafy greens, tubers, berries, and other fruits. Vegetables and fruits keep you satiated and are rich in nutrients.
On the other hand, you must get rid of the legumes. Legumes like beans, chickpeas, peanuts, and peas, are high in carbs. They may not have gluten, like grains but have phytic acid and lectins, which are antinutrients and can cause digestive tract problems.
5. Increase Intake Of Healthy Fats
Fats are a vital part of Paleo diets. They replace most of the carbs in your meals and, as such, keep you full and energetic. The diet promotes healthy fats from nuts, olive oil, avocados, fish oils, and coconut oil.
You must avoid saturated fats like processed butter and trans fats in baked foods and other processed foods. Vegetable oils also have polyunsaturated fats; you should steer clear of them.
6. Stay Away From Packaged Foods
An easier way to sticking to a Paleo diet is avoiding any packaged foods. This means no more food deliveries for you or picking prepared foods on the shelves. You also must check any paleo-friendly foods to ensure their ingredients do not contain sweeteners, sodium, and wheat.
7. Limit Sugar Intake To Natural Sugars
The cavemen did not face sugar-rich foods at every turn, as is the case in present times. They did have the occasional treat from honey or sweet fruits. The Paleo diet allows limited consumption of natural sugars like dark chocolate, stevia, and raw honey.
Why The Paleo Diet Works
The Paleo diet has strong advocates for it as well as critics. That is common for all diet plans, and each side will even have the science to back it up. It is essential to understand that different diet plans tend to impact people differently depending on a wide range of factors.
Several people have observed significant changes while on the Paleo diet. Such change includes weight loss, reduction of digestive problems, and increased energy, among other aspects.
The Effectiveness Of The Paleo Diet Comes Down To The Following Factors
- It makes you cut down on most junk calories. You are eating only meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, and other whole foods. These foods are not dense in calories but will make you full faster, unlike the grain-dense diet you usually consume. You will therefore be able to burn more calories than you consume which helps in weight management.
- It makes you eliminate unhealthy foods from your diet, from highly processed meals to sugar-rich snacks. These foods not only add to your calorie intake but also contribute to several health risks in your body. Eliminating them reduces your risk for conditions like diabetes.
- You improve your gut health by eliminating hard-to-digest and toxic compounds like gluten, lectin, and phytic acid. Unhealthy fats and toxins do not overwhelm your liver, and your body can absorb essential nutrients better.
- Finally, your body becomes better suited to burning fats for energy, preventing fats’ build-up in body cells.
Paleo Diet Food Guide (What To Eat And What To Avoid)
A proper breakdown of the food you can and cannot eat on a Paleo diet will help you observe the diet.
Foods You Can Eat On The Paleo Diet
- Meats: all forms of animal meat that have been grass-fed and organically bred. You can also eat all parts, including organs and marrow.
- Poultry and fowls: all duck, chicken, hen, turkey, and other bird meat
- All fish, including cod, salmon, and tuna
- Eggs only if they are cage-free and rich in omega-3.
- Vegetables: including broccoli, spinach, zucchini, cabbage, kale, onions, carrots, etc
- Herbs and spices: pepper, ginger, tomatoes, cloves, etc.
- Oils: olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil, avocado oil
- All fruits: apples, strawberries, bananas, citrus fruits, grapes, and pears.
- Nuts: macadamia nuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, almonds, and their kinds of butter.
- Fats: animal fats, ghee, and lard.
Foods You Can Not Eat While On The Paleo Diet
- All grains: wheat, corn, barley, and oats.
- All legumes: beans, peanuts, peas, soy, lentils, etc.
- All dairy products
- Artificial sweeteners
- Diet and low-fat products
- Highly processed food items
- Hydrogenated or trans fats
7-Day Paleo Diet Meal Plan
While the Paleo diet takes away several staple foods from the meals, it is still varied enough to accommodate various needs and tastes. You are also not counting calories, so it is very flexible and offers more freedom.
Here is what a 7-day meal plan can look like.
You are free to adjust it as it suits you and ease of finding the various food items.
Day 1 – Monday
Breakfast: a simple smoothie of apple, avocado, banana, and kale with almond milk and an omelet.
Lunch: Tuna with garden salad may have items like carrots, cucumber, walnuts, and lemon juice dressing. For cooking oil, you can use olive oil or coconut oil.
Dinner: steak with any leafy vegetables steamed or baked, and a fruit of your choice
Day 2 – Tuesday
Breakfast: grilled bacon, along with grilled vegetables and an apple.
Lunch: grilled chicken with avocado salad and steamed broccoli.
Dinner: baked salmon with asparagus and garden salad
Day 3 – Wednesday
Breakfast: scrambled eggs with spinach and a fresh fruit
Lunch: bunless burgers from lean minced or ground beef, lettuce or kale, and onions along with fresh fruit.
Dinner: roasted chicken stuffed vegetables and spices
Day 4 – Thursday
Breakfast: boiled bananas topped with almonds and leafy vegetables fried in coconut oil.
For boiled banana recipes, check out boiled green bananas recipes at healthier steps
Lunch: any leftover chicken or fish with mixed vegetables as a salad dressed in olive oil with a fruit.
Dinner: fried pork with sweet potato fries and garden salad.
Day 5 – Friday
Breakfast: bacon with hard-boiled eggs and a fruit smoothie.
Lunch: meat and fresh vegetable sandwich in a lettuce leaf.
Dinner: salmon stir-fry, grilled spinach and broccoli, and a fruit.
Day 6 – Saturday
Breakfast: nuts and salmon served with fruit.
Lunch: baked tuna with vegetables and avocado.
Dinner: grilled chicken wings and mixed vegetables
Day 7 – Sunday
Breakfast: butternut squash and chicken soup with vegetables
Lunch: grilled lamb chops along with steamed spiced cabbage and fruit.
Dinner: ground beef stir-fry, mushrooms, and fried vegetables in olive oil
Paleo Meal Preparation Tip
You can always use leftovers to create the next meal. Cooking various foods in advance will also give you much more flexibility when pressed for time. This is especially true for recipes that require time, like slow-cooked beef and pork meals. Play around with your salads and dressing for the extra flavor taste.
If you need help or ideas, check out my article 10 awesome meal planning ideas.
Snacks and desserts are allowed in a Paleo diet, and again only your creativity sets the limits. They include options like;
- Ice cream from coconut milk
- Hard-boiled eggs
- A bowl of mixed berries with coconut cream
- Baked fruits
- Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts
- Homemade beef jerky
Health Benefits Of The Paleo Diet
Paleo diet offers several benefits to users such as;
1. Paleo Aids In Weight Loss
Paleo diet can aid your quest to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. While the results may vary depending on the individual, the make-up of a paleo diet offers a way to lose weight. You cut out on many calorie-dense foods and consume foods low in calories but keep you satiated longer.
The diet also stimulates your body to burn fats for energy, helping you lose your body reserves. Several studies have backed the effect of a Paleo diet on weight loss.
2. Paleo Provides Sufficient Proteins For Your Body
The Paleo is high in proteins which are essential building blocks for your body. Protein is responsible for several body functions, including building and repairing tissues. It also helps regulate blood sugar, heals wounds, circulates oxygen in the blood (hemoglobin), and builds muscle mass. The Paleo diet ensures you have the required intake of proteins in every meal.
3. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is usually the body’s defense mechanism against bacteria and other foreign elements in the body. However, when it becomes chronic, it becomes a cause of many health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The Paleo diet insists on taking plenty of leafy green vegetables and fruits in every meal. It also has plenty of nuts. All these foods are high in antioxidants, which are nutrients that neutralize free radicals, which cause inflammation in the body. By reducing inflammation in the body, the nutrients help prevent autoimmune and chronic conditions.
4. Paleo Helps Regulate Blood Sugar
The Paleo diet helps regulate blood sugar by reducing the carbs you consume. You not only do away with cereals but also processed foods that contain sweeteners too. These foods frequently spike your blood sugar levels and increase your risk of developing diabetes. You consume proteins and fats, which digest slower in their place and to help stabilize your blood sugar levels.
Research backs up this Paleo diet benefit. One study shows that after two weeks, it led to better insulin sensitivity improvements than the usual diabetes diet. The diet also had positive results in blood sugar levels.
5. Paleo Lowers Blood Pressure
Paleo diet can help lower blood pressure and lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Several studies show that using the Paleo diet for three weeks led to improved systolic blood pressure. It also led to lower body mass index and weight. Further research shows that the diet also helps to reduce the blood lipid profile.
6. Promotes Nutritious Foods
Beyond proteins and antioxidants, the Paleo diet allows your body to have a generous intake of all nutrition. Better yet, you get the nutrition that does not come with any toxins. By taking whole, nutritious foods, you avoid incidents of empty calories and nutritional deficiencies.
7. Boost Your Gut Health
The Paleo diet is good for your gut health now and in the long run. You eat food that your digestive tract can digest easier. It prevents inflammation along the digestive tract and other digestive complications. In turn, this boosts your general body health and wellbeing.
The Paleo diet seeks to get you back to your primal diet, which your body is well suited to the process. More importantly, it allows you to get rid of the harmful empty calories you are currently consuming. Such food is toxic and denies you essential nutrients. While it may appear too radical for you to change from the onset, you can always start with small steps. You can start by consuming only whole foods and no processed items.
Then you can start to weed out the grains and later legumes. Try it out for 30 days before making a complete change to see how your body adapts. You can choose a whole Paleo lifestyle that matches the diet change with a lifestyle change for the most benefits. A Paleo lifestyle calls for you to make changes like incorporating a physically active lifestyle and more sleeping time.