You may have heard of the paleo diet but are unsure what it is. The paleo diet is based on the premise that humans should eat the same way our ancestors did during the Paleolithic era. This means mainly consuming fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and seafood while avoiding processed foods, dairy, grains, and legumes.
The idea behind the paleo diet is that by mimicking the eating habits of our ancestors, we could improve our health. Advocates of the diet claim that this way of eating could also lead to weight loss, reduced inflammation, and improved overall health.*
Proponents of the paleo diet also explain that by eating the way our ancestors did, we could also try to reduce some of the chronic diseases common in modern society, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Advocates of the paleo diet also claim that it may improve energy levels, sleep, and overall well-being.*
What can you eat on the paleo diet?The paleo diet generally consists of food that can be either hunted or fished (meat, seafood), gathered (eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds) or consumed in small quantities if it is unsweetened and does not contain grains, legumes, or dairy products (oils, salt).
Those are some of the typical food people could consume on a paleo diet regimen:
- Proteins & fats: grass-fed beef, chicken, turkey, bacon, lamb, fish (wild-caught salmon, tuna), shellfish, and eggs. One additional example would be beef heart.
- Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, kale, onion, peppers (bell peppers), pumpkin squash, spinach, sweet potato, tomatoes, and zucchini.
- Fruits: avocado, berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc.), coconuts, grapes, melons, oranges, lemons, and lime.
- Nuts & seeds: almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia nuts, pistachios, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.
- Oils & fats: olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and ghee.
Carbohydrates are not off limits, but they should come from nutrient-rich sources such as vegetables rather than processed grains or refined sugars.
What can't you eat on the paleo diet?
The mainstay of the modern western diet such as processed foods and refined sugars; grains such as wheat, oats, barley, rye, and corn; legumes such as beans, lentils, and peanuts; soy, and dairy products.
So, what does a typical day on the paleo diet look like? A grilled chicken salad lunch follows a breakfast of eggs and bacon. For dinner, you might have salmon with roasted Brussels sprouts.
And for the snacks you consume throughout the day, you would reach for an apple or a handful of nuts instead of a bag of chips or a candy bar.
Potential benefits of the paleo diet
- Weight loss: because the paleo diet focuses on whole foods and cuts out processed foods and refined sugars, some of its followers may lose weight.*
- Blood sugar control: by cutting out foods that may cause spikes in blood sugar levels, those with conditions that may be related to sugar levels may see some changes in their situation.*
- Energy levels: some people who switch to a paleo diet report feeling more energetic. This could be due to a number of factors, including improved sleep, better blood sugar control, and increased intake of nutrient-dense foods.*
- Digestion: removing trigger foods such as gluten from the diet might improve some people's digestive symptoms.*
- Better sleep: By following a Paleo Diet and avoiding food additives, nightshades, caffeine, and other stimulants, some people find it easier to get a good night's sleep.
If you're thinking about trying the Paleo Diet, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, it's important to speak to your doctor or registered dietitian beforehand, as the paleo diet may not be suitable for everyone. For example, those with specific medical conditions may need to be cautious when making any sudden changes to their diet.*
It might also be important to ensure you're getting enough nutrients such as calcium, iron, and specific vitamins such as vitamins D & B12 if you exclude dairy and meats from your diet if you chose to follow other types of diets.
And finally, while weight loss is often touted as a benefit of following a paleo diet, it's important to remember that any lost weight will likely be regained if you return to your old eating habits.