The Paleo Diet is also known as the Caveman Diet and Stone Age Diet, Paleo consists of anything that was found two million years ago – meat, seafood, berries, nuts, seeds, water, and vegetables. Fortunately, today’s version has a lot more variety than back then (yay!) but the basic principles are still the same... natural, organic, clean.
Before our ancestors began to farm (roughly 10,000 to 2 million years ago) they foraged all their food and ate whatever they had the means to spear, capture, and cook.
To follow a Paleo diet, is to eat foods closer to those of our hunter and gather ancestors during the Paleolithic Era. The Paleo diet along with moderate exercise can detox your body, help you to lose weight, and improve your overall health.
Here are a few specifics of this popular diet - including some pros and cons - to help you to decide if you should be eating what your ancestors did. There are many really great Paleo recipes out now days that are crazy delicious so keep in mind that the following lists are by no means complete and are only an example of what to expect.
Off-limits Foods Include:
- No processed foods like bread, crackers, chips, and cookies.
- No pastries like cakes, cookies.
- No foods that contain salt or whole grains.
- No dairy.
Allowed Foods Include:
- Great protein sources you can eat on a Paleo diet include:
- Meats: seafood, beef, bison, deer, moose, rabbit, chicken, wild turkey, salmon, cod, shrimp, tilapia, halibut, tuna, and eggs.
- Vegetables: lettuce, kale, spinach, broccoli, cucumber, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.
- Fruits: strawberries, blueberries, bananas, apples, avocado, oranges, kiwi, grapes, coconut, mango, lime, and lemons are allowed
- A lot of flavor in Paleo recipes comes from seeds, mushrooms, nuts, spices, and herbs.
Pros & Cons of the Paleo Diet:
Pro – A Paleo diet is full of protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates, which will allow you to feel full for a longer period of time. It aids in digestion and helps you to lose weight more quickly than your regular diet ever could.
Con – Studies show difficulty for beginners to completely stop using sugar, dairy and fatty meats. With persistence your body will begin to crave more healthy foods rather than the sugar it once did.
Pro – Because the Paleo diet doesn’t allow for added sugar, sodium or dairy, those very restrictions will promote successful weight loss once you get used to (and stick with) the plan.
Con – Athletes burn off more energy than our ancestors did. Scientists doubt that the Paleo diet can fulfill an active person’s nutritional requirements.
Pro – Eating whole foods will be released slowly in your blood stream, which gives you steady energy throughout your day.
Con – Cost. Buying free-range eggs, grass-fed chicken and organic fruits and vegetables can cost more than other foods; therefore, the diet can be a bit more expensive.
Pro – When you buy free-range eggs, and grass-fed chicken and beef, you are not only supporting your own health but also the health and wellbeing of the animals that you are eating. Stress-free chickens are happier chickens. Happier chickens lay better eggs.
Pro – Eating organic fruits and vegetables means that no pesticides are used in growing them. It is also an excellent way to support the local farmers that take the extra care and expense to do it right - a trend that is continuing to grow.
Con – Unprocessed foods such as whole foods aren’t always available when you need them. Processed foods are cheaper and more convenient to purchase and prepare than fresh vegetables and raw meats.
Pro – More grocery stores are carrying a wider variety of organic fruits and vegetables as well as hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats. Because the public is demanding more transparency in how the animals were raised and how the vegetables are grown, many savvy grocery store owners are beginning to jump on this healthy trend and are offering more selections.
Con – You need calcium for strong bones, and a caveman diet doesn’t allow you to have dairy, a common calcium-rich dietary staple.
Pro – Calcium can be found in a variety of leafy vegetables like: Collard Greens, Spinach, Turnip Greens, Kale, Mustard Greens, Beet Greens, Bok Choy, Okra, Swiss Chard, and Broccoli.
The Bottom Line
The Paleo Diet can give you a great start to your healthy lifestyle. The foods that it includes are full of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that will help you feel better long-term.
As with any diet, it requires patience to adapt to the new food options, and there will be a learning curve in making it work best for your lifestyle in a way that you can sustain. Today there are loads of incredible recipes to prepare foods that our ancestors couldn’t even fathom back then.
Be sure to check back often for our upcoming section on delicious Paleo recipes and cooking tips!