Dieting is something of a fad these days. Everyone from your university friend to your neighbour is on some kind of diet. Some of the popular ones are keto, intermittent fasting, Mediterranean, raw food, and vegan. People follow different diets for a variety of reasons. While some want to lose weight, others simply want to lead a healthy life. Many people’s food choices are based on ethical and environmental considerations.
One popular diet that many are getting on board with is the paleo diet. Based on the foods that early humans ate thousands of years ago, the paleo diet plan is diverse in nature. Let’s look at it in detail to see how.
What Is a Paleo Diet and How Does It Work?
Do you know what early humans ate? Some might say they ate plant-based foods like fruits and nuts, while others believe that they ate a lot of meat. Although it’s difficult to determine an exact answer to this question, a general understanding of Stone Age eating habits is the basis of the paleo diet.
Also called the caveman diet, paleo is designed to reflect what hunters and gatherers ate ages ago. It emulates the eating habits of humans of the Paleolithic period (2.5 million to 10,000 years ago). Following a paleo diet plan means returning to the way these early humans ate.
As you may have guessed by now, a paleo diet plan usually consists of foods that are obtained from nature by hunting and gathering. They include fresh, whole foods derived directly from nature and various types of meats obtained by hunting.
The Foundation of the Paleo Diet
- About 44% of adults in Canada have at least one of the common chronic diseases. They include hypertension, diabetes, cancer, heart ailments, osteoporosis, and anxiety disorders.
- Cancer remains the leading cause of death in Canada, followed by heart diseases and stroke. Like many other countries, the nation is also facing alarming rates of obesity, which is a leading factor in several health issues.
- A report from 2017 places Canada amongst the most overweight countries, with 25.8% of the population 15 years and over being considered overweight.
Unhealthy eating habits, along with sedentary lifestyles and high stress levels, can contribute to health issues. The food you eat impacts the health of your mind and body. Maintaining a healthy diet is known to have positive mental and emotional effects. Reducing stress and anxiety also results in better health.
Paleo diet proponents believe that the emergence of farming changed the way people ate. It added dairy, grains, legumes, and other foods to their menu. These advances led to the modern diet, which is loaded with sugary and processed foods. These foods aren’t compatible with the natural system of our body and lead to an increase in health problems.
The paleo diet emphasizes whole foods - nutrition in its purest form - as a solution to various modern health problems. By eating these foods, you’ll get more nutrients, improve your energy level, boost your immunity, lose weight, decrease inflammation, stabilize your blood sugar levels, and keep chronic conditions at bay.
Taking in a high volume of nutrients in their natural forms and reducing the intake of unhealthy, processed foods, sugar, and salt is a sound practice. The paleo diet goes the extra mile to cut out grains, legumes, and dairy items, which came into the picture as a result of farming.
Foods to Eat and Avoid While on a Paleo Diet
People of the Paleolithic period ate what they could find in the region they lived in, so there’s no one way to follow a paleo diet; however, paleo focuses on healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals in their purest forms. This rules out any processed, sugary, or farmed foods. Under such restrictions, it might be difficult to figure out your paleo meals.
The key to a paleo diet plan is to include foods that can be easily hunted or gathered. Here’s what you can eat if you’re on a paleo diet.
Fresh Meat and Seafood
The humans who existed in the Stone Age hunted animals to fill their stomachs. Therefore, most paleo diet plans include meat and seafood.
Proteins are the building blocks of your body, and meat is a great source of this nutrient. Considering the premise of this diet, grass-fed meat is ideal. It’s leaner and rich in omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fats that promote heart health. Similarly, wild seafood - preferably caught sustainably - is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Some common choices of meat and seafood are chicken, tuna, salmon, beef, turkey, cod, pork, and bacon. If you’re not a meat-eater, you can find vegan paleo protein in a variety of flavors to supply your daily requirement of this nutrient.
Whole Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and veggies are colorful foods, full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, that offer numerous health benefits. These foods are known to heal a variety of physical ailments, from digestion issues to anemia.
However, certain fruits and vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, and mangoes, are starchy or high in sugar. Since paleo discourages sugar-rich foods, some of these items might not be part of your diet plan. This is especially prudent if you’re trying to manage your blood sugar level or lose weight.
As paleo is all about eating whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables are a major component of this kind of diet. Include vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and spinach in your meals. Have apples, berries, bananas, citrus fruits, peaches, or plums for your paleo breakfast or as snacks during the day.
Nuts and Seeds
The benefits of nuts and seeds cannot be stressed enough, they’re packed with healthy fats, proteins, and fiber. A paleo diet allows you to load up on these highly nutritious, filling foods.
You can eat almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and brazil nuts. They make great paleo snacks. You can also add them to your breakfast or salads.
Note that peanuts are not part of a paleo diet because they are considered legumes.
When it comes to good sources of protein, eggs are at the top of the list. Eggs are rich in B vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. As part of a paleo diet, opt for eggs that are organic and cage-free as the most natural source possible.
From cooking vegetables to mixing salad dressing, oils are an essential ingredient in cooking. Like many other diets, paleo advocates consuming oils that reduce inflammation and promote heart health. A paleo diet plan usually includes olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia, and walnut oil.
While these paleo diet foods can be incorporated liberally into your daily diet, there are certain foods that you can have only in limited amounts.
Although strict paleo diets eliminate dairy products altogether, some diet plans allow certain types of dairy because of their nutritional value. For instance, grass-fed dairy products like butter, which is rich in omega-3s, or fermented items like kefir, which is low in casein and lactose, are acceptable because of their nutritional content.
If you’re avoiding dairy, you can substitute nut milk and nut milk-based products.
Like many other diets, paleo does not allow certain food products, such as:
- Cereal grains
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Sugary beverages and soda
You might be surprised at seeing legumes and grains on this list. Not only are they a result of agriculture, but some products made from them are refined and contain lectins and phytic acid.
Possible Benefits and Risks of a Paleo Diet
There’s no doubt that eating paleo foods will nourish your body with a healthy dose of natural vitamins and minerals. Since the diet can be low in carbs and eliminates processed foods, it can help with weight loss. Research also shows that paleo is good for managing blood pressure and maintaining a healthy appetite.
But, there’s a flip side to it, as well. The diet can get boring because the variety of fresh, simple foods is limited. Since it is an extreme kind of diet that cuts out certain food groups, you might risk missing out on essential nutrients. For instance, paleo eliminates dairy, which can result in lower calcium and vitamin D levels, putting you at risk of bone issues. Meat-centric diets should also be followed with caution because they might lead to cardiovascular issues.
While it might seem like a chore, following a paleo diet in modern times isn’t that difficult. You don’t have to compromise on taste while achieving your dietary goals. You can find a range of healthy paleo diet foods and mixes at affordable prices on Healthy Planet Canada.