Do you know that you can shed excess weight by eating more? “Eat like your prehistoric ancestors and shed pounds”. This is the slogan of the Paleo diet. The Paleo diet is the only nutritional approach that works with the genetics to help you to stay lean, energetic and strong. It claims that eating like cave dwellers can prevent the possibilities of several diseases.
The aim of the Paleo diet is to prevent and control many “diseases of the civilization” like heart diseases, cancer and diabetes.
Paleo diet, also known as the Caveman’s diet, is a high protein and fiber program designed to prevent the onset of diseases. A diet high in carbohydrate and processed foods is the culprit behind most of the health conditions today. Around 10,000 years back, our diet was not full of junk foods and pastas. Hence, people lived a disease free life. Paleo diet advocates that people should eat the way their ancestors ate by hunting and gathering animal proteins and plants.
How does the Paleo Diet Work?
Paleo diet is based on the principle that “if the caveman didn’t eat it, you shouldn’t eat either”. It is based on the fundamental concept that an optimal diet is one in which we are genetically adapted. Hence, you have to limit the refined sugar, dairy, legumes and grain consumption and eat fruits, vegetable, meat, fish and poultry instead. Obviously in this diet also the quantity and food selection depends on your target weight.
There are no restrictions on the amount of foods to be consumed. You can eat like a champion while following this diet. Neither does the diet require you to keep a track of calories or micronutrients. However, if you want to lose weight, limit eating nuts and potato.
Stick to the diet for at least 30 days. You might feel terrible due to the sudden drop in the carbohydrates, especially in the initial few weeks. If you can make through the initial period of sluggishness, that you can definitely carry on with the diet for at least a month or even more.
Exercise and physical activities are highly recommended in this diet! Even the hunters and gatherers of the Paleolithic times were always on the move and had an excess of physical activity. While following this diet, you need to do a 2 ½ hours of moderately intense exercise every week along with muscle strengthening activities.
The Paleo Diet Book:
You can refer the Paleo Diet book for reference. The book not only outlines the principles to be followed in this diet, but also gives hints at the different levels of cheating allowed. Depending on the levels, you can also get transitional condiments like low fat salsa dressing, salsa sauce, and drinks like coffee or beer to wash down the meat and plants. The Paleo Diet book offers sample meal plans, recipes, list of approved foods and tips for sticking to the plan while eating out and traveling. You can also get some assistance online on money saving tips, shopping lists and quick starter guides.
Food to Eat:
1. Fruits and Vegetables:
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients that have shown to reduce the possibility of several diseases including cancer. Apples, oranges, avocados, strawberries and blueberries are among the healthy fruit options. For vegetables, you can consider potatoes, yam, sweet potatoes, turnips, broccoli, kale, onions, carrots and tomatoes.
2. Lean Meats:
Lean protein is required to make strong muscles and bones and support immune functions. It also keeps you satiated for longer time. Beef, lamb, mutton and chicken are recommended in this diet.
Seafood is remarkably lean and contains relatively low amounts of saturated fats, while supplying beneficial amounts of omega 3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA. Salmon, trout, haddock, shrimp and shellfish are some healthy options.
4. Nuts and Seeds:
Nuts like almonds, macadamia, walnuts, hazelnuts and pistachio are highly recommended in this diet. Seeds of sunflower, flax and pumpkin should also be consumed.
5. Healthy Fats:
Scientific research has shown that diets rich in monounsaturated and omega 3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity. In this diet you can consume olive, coconut, avocado and tallow oil.
6. Spices and Condiments:
For spices and condiments, you can use sea salt, Himalayan salt, garlic, turmeric and herbs.
Foods to Avoid:
Avoid foods that can harm the body by causing systematic inflammation and derailing the metabolic process. Some of which include:
Avoid milk and milk products, including the low fat varieties. However, some versions of Paleo diets include butter and cheese.
2. Grains and Grain Products:
These include breads, pastas, wheat, flour, rye, chapatti, buckwheat etc.
Beans like kidney, Lima, navy, white and all the lentils should be avoided.
Sugar, soft drinks, candy, pastries, ice cream and high fructose corn syrup should be avoided. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, cyclamates and saccharin should not be eaten. Use natural sweeteners instead.
5. Processed and Junk Foods:
Processed, ready to eat meals and junk foods should be avoided at any cost.
6. Trans and Saturated Fat:
The fat found in margarine and various processed foods usually contain hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oil, which can be very harmful to the health. Vegetable oil like cotton seeds oil, soybean, corn, safflower and mustard oil should not be consumed.
Alcohol was not a part of the original Paleo diet. However, as mentioned in the book, you can have a glass of wine or beer during a cheat meal. Alcohol adds empty calories and hence must be avoided.
Simple Paleo Snacks:
In this diet you do not need to eat more than 3 meals a day, but if you feel hungry, you can consider eating some healthy snacks.
- Baby carrots
- A serving of fruits
- A handful of Nuts
- Apple slices with butter
- A bowl of berries
- Two hard boiled eggs
Health Benefits of Paleo Diet:
Several physicians, biochemist and other researchers have started accepting the benefits of ancestral nutrition. People who adopt a Paleo diet have shown significant improvements in their health, body composition and energy levels. Some of the benefits include:
1. Weight loss:
According to some studies, dieters following the Paleo diet lost about 5 pounds after 3 weeks of the regimen. You can expedite the weight loss process by eating fewer calories than the daily-recommended amount or burning off the extra by working out daily.
The high levels or protein and fiber in this diet will not leave you hungry. A studies conducted in 2009 found that Paleo dieters felt as satiated and full as people following a Mediterranean diet.
3. Cardiovascular Health:
Some researchers have found that Paleo diet could help control blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
A study conducted on the diabetics found that people following the Paleo diet could help lower the levels of hemoglobin A 1C, a measure of blood sugar. Paleo diet incorporates foods with low glycemic index and eliminates foods like refined sugar. This will help diabetics keep their blood sugar levels in check by limiting glucose absorption.
5. Gluten Intolerant People:
Paleo diet is good for people who are intolerant to gluten. Gluten is a protein composite found in barley, wheat and rye, which are restricted in this diet.
6. Digestive System:
The high amounts of fiber present in the fruits and vegetables help in the nutrient absorption and clear the food stuck in the colon. This keeps the digestive tract in optimal health.
7. Prevents Cancer:
Following the Paleo diet can also help to prevent cancer. The fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, antioxidants and vitamins that can reduce the possibility of cancer.
Our immune system protects us from bacterial, viral and parasitic infections. It identifies the foreign invaders, attacks it and clears it from the body. Autoimmunity is the process in which our own system attacks us. The tissue is confused as a foreign invader and the immune system keeps attacking it. The common form of autoimmune diseases is rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and vitiligo. The autoimmune protocol of the Paleo diet can help you with autoimmune diseases.
Other Benefits Include:
- Improves the athletic performance
- Improves the skin complexion and diminish acne.
- Increased libido
- A healthier and more active life
- Improves the mental outlook and clarity
A Sample Paleo Menu:
Early morning: 8 am
- A glass of warm water with one squeezed lemon
Breakfast: 9 am
- Scrambled eggs with vegetables, fried in olive oil
- 1 serving of fruits
Lunch: 1 pm
- Chicken salad with olive oil dressing
- Cucumber sandwich
Evening snack: 4 pm
- A handful of nuts
Dinner: 9 pm
- Salmon fried in butter, with stir fried vegetables
- The diet is not suitable for vegans and vegetarians as it emphasizes on meat and fish consumption. It is impossible to follow this diet without eating eggs, seafood and meat. The vegetarian protein substitutes like beans and other legumes are also prohibited on this diet.
- Shunning grains and dairy can lead to deficiency of several essential nutrients.
- Eating fatty meat could increase the risk of heart problems. So be careful in your meat choices.
- If you have any known health complications, it’s best to consult your doctor before making any changes to your meal plans.
For those who can follow this diet, it’s a blessing and a sure way to get their health back on track. We hope this diet will help you in the right way. Do share if you have any recipes or ideas on loosing weight.