The Paleo Diet Explained: What You Need to Know Before Trying It

by Alan Gregor
This image shows Salmon Skewers with Zucchini

The Paleolithic era was a time of immense hardship and struggle.

Without modern amenities such as indoor plumbing, advanced medicine, organized societies, and the internet, humans were far more vulnerable to disease and environmental hazards.

Despite this, paleo diet followers cling to the idea that paleolithic humans ate a superior diet, and this fad has taken off in the past decade.

Celebrities such as Blake Lively, Channing Tatum, and Phil Mickelson have jumped on the paleo bandwagon, while Whole30 and paleo-based food blogs have become household names.

Even Whole Foods has paleo options at their hot food bar!

But now that we’re in 2023, is paleo really the way to go? Is it feasible and necessary to eat only fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and animal proteins?

And does replacing grain-based products with paleo alternatives truly benefit our health?

We’ve done the research and spoken to experts, so read on to find out if paleo is really worth it.

Is that grass-fed burger on a lettuce wrap better for you than one on a bun?

Will paleo meatballs with zucchini noodles be any healthier than regular spaghetti and meatballs?

And is cauliflower really a better substitute for rice?

We’ll answer all your paleo questions and more!

This image shows grilled steak
Image: Monica Bonica | Flickr

A healthy outside starts from the inside.

Robert Urich

How Paleo Diet Has Evolved Over Time?

The Paleo Diet Explained: What You Need to Know Before Trying It

Although the general principles of the paleo diet remain the same, it has evolved over time since its emergence in the 1970s.

Initially, paleo dieters were encouraged to restrict entire food groups and eat only foods that would have been available to Paleolithic humans.

This included lean meats, fruits, and vegetables as well as some nuts and seeds.

Over time, however, the definition of “paleo” has become broader and more inclusive.

This can vary from person to person but may include consuming some modern foods such as dairy, legumes, and even dark chocolate.

Additionally, some paleo advocates now recommend healthy fats such as avocados and coconut milk in moderation while limiting the consumption of refined vegetable oils and added sugars.

In addition, many paleo dieters now emphasize grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish to ensure they are consuming the highest quality proteins.

They also avoid processed foods, frozen vegetables, and fruit juices as much as possible.

Furthermore, some experts suggest adopting a ketogenic diet — an eating plan that promotes low-carb intake — as an extension of the paleo diet.

Ultimately, the way in which people interpret and follow a paleo diet has changed over time.

However, the underlying principles remain focused on eliminating processed foods and emphasizing whole, unprocessed nutrient-dense foods as much as possible.

What Does A Paleo Diet Consist Of?

The Paleo Diet Explained: What You Need to Know Before Trying It

A paleo diet typically consists of foods that paleolithic humans would have had access to and could hunt, gather, or forage.

These include lean meats such as grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, healthy fats such as olive oil and coconut oil, eggs, some dairy products (depending on who you ask), and occasionally some paleo-approved sweet treats such as dark chocolate.

It’s important to note that paleo dieters are encouraged to choose organic, locally sourced foods and high-quality proteins whenever possible.

What To Avoid When On A Paleo Diet?

This image shows Baked Chicken Drumsticks

On a paleo diet, there are certain foods that are excluded due to the fact that they were not available during the Paleolithic era.

These include grains such as wheat, barley, oats, and rye; legumes including beans, lentils, and peanuts; dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt; processed sugars like white sugar or raw honey; and processed foods such as refined vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, and processed meats.

In addition, paleo followers avoid certain types of seafood like shellfish or any type of fish that are farmed instead of wild-caught.

It is important to note that paleo dieters aim to stick to the most natural forms of food available and seek out organic, grass-fed, and wild-caught ingredients.

By avoiding these foods, paleo followers embrace a diet rich in whole foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, and lean proteins.

Eating this way allows paleo dieters to focus on nutrient-dense food sources while also avoiding refined sugars, processed grains, and unhealthy fats.

So while paleo diets may limit certain food groups, it is essential to recognize the potential health benefits of eating in a paleolithic fashion.

By avoiding processed foods and focusing on nutrient-dense whole foods, paleo dieters can enjoy improved health and well-being.

What Are The Side Effects of Paleo Dieting?

The Paleo Diet Explained: What You Need to Know Before Trying It

Vitamin and Nutrient Deficiencies
The paleo diet doesn’t allow dairy products, so could lead to calcium and vitamin D deficiencies over time. Long-term deficiencies in these two nutrients could weaken your bones.

That said, you can still get adequate amounts of calcium from dark leafy greens and vitamin D from eggs and seafood—both paleo friendly!

Additionally, paleo diets are quite low in fiber due to the lack of whole grains, which can lead to constipation.

But, hey, paleo isn’t all doom and gloom. If you stick to it long-term, you can enjoy a host of health benefits like increased energy levels and improved digestive health.

So keep your spirits up!

The most commonly reported side effect of paleo diets is feeling lethargic and experiencing headaches, sore muscles, and fatigue.

This is often referred to as “carb flu” or keto flu for those on ketogenic diets.

According to Teresa Fung, a professor at Simmons College and a clinical nutritionist, the cause of these symptoms remains a mystery.

However, it’s likely that your body is adjusting to the change in diet.

This side effect usually subsides within a few weeks of starting paleo.

The Pressure of Dieting
The paleo diet, which strictly limits an individual’s intake to only paleolithic-era eating habits, can be a very challenging regimen to follow.

Not only does it present certain physical health risks such as the increased risk for cardiovascular disease and constipation, but it can also take a toll on someone’s mental health.

Many people find it too difficult to keep up with paleo’s strict regulations, and this can be quite draining. “All that time spent worrying about making your next meal match your diet is really exhausting” says Barnes.

“But it doesn’t have to be so complicated; eating for health can be simple and enjoyable.”

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.

Albert Camus

Is Paleo Good For Weight Loss?

The Paleo Diet Explained: What You Need to Know Before Trying It

The paleo diet, also known as the Caveman Diet, has been gaining traction in recent years as a popular weight loss tool.

The idea behind it is to mimic the eating habits of our prehistoric ancestors and revert back to a time before processed foods and modern agricultural practices.

While its proponents claim that paleo is an effective way to lose weight, research indicates that this may not be the case.

In a study published in JAMA in February 2018, it was concluded that low-carb diets were not any better than low-fat diets when it came to long-term weight loss success.

So while paleo may be an interesting way to eat, don’t rely on it solely as a weight loss strategy.

It’s important to remember that calories still count and paleo doesn’t provide a magical solution.

Eat paleo in moderation, get plenty of exercise, and you’ll be well on your way to reaching your weight loss goals!

Is Paleo Healthy?

The Paleo Diet Explained: What You Need to Know Before Trying It

Is Paleo healthy? It is a controversial topic that has divided dietitians, doctors, and nutrition experts.

While some believe that the paleo diet can be beneficial in certain ways, many do not recommend it due to its restriction on certain food groups.

The paleo diet eliminates grains, dairy, and legumes, leaving many to question why these food groups are so restricted. Kristen Kizer, M.S., R.D., of Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, says that paleo’s emphasis on real foods is one of its positives.

However, she believes paleo can be too restrictive for most people and does not recommend it due to the lack of whole grains, which have been proven to lower the risk of heart disease.

Similarly, legumes are a great plant-based source of protein and fiber that paleo eliminates.

Overall, paleo can be beneficial in certain ways but is not necessarily recommended by dietitians and nutritionists due to its restrictions.

People wanting to take more control of what they eat may want to consider paleo, but should be aware of the potential risks that come with it.

6 Simple Tips for Making The Paleo Diet Easier To Follow

Making the paleo diet more sustainable is important for those who want to make it a long-term lifestyle.

Here are some tips to help you stay on track:

1. Eat seasonally.
Take advantage of seasonal produce, as it is usually cheaper and fresher than out-of-season options.

2. Purchase in bulk.
Buying meats and nuts in bulk can help you save money and reduce excess packaging waste.

3. Meal plan ahead of time.
Planning meals ahead of time can help you stick to your paleo diet and make sure you have all the right ingredients on hand when it’s time to cook.

4. Get creative with pantry staples.
Use ingredients like canned tomatoes, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and coconut milk to make delicious paleo-friendly meals.

5. Support local farmers.
Buying from local farmers can help support sustainable agriculture and provide you with the freshest produce possible.

6. Buy frozen if you can’t get fresh produce.
Frozen fruits and vegetables can provide the same nutritional benefits as fresh, without the waste of over-ripening.

Following these tips can help make the paleo diet more sustainable and accessible for those looking to stick with it in the long term.

This image shows a meal
Image: Joanna Alderson | Flicker

So, What Is The Best Way To Lose Weight?

When it comes to sustainable weight loss, dieting alone isn’t enough to guarantee lasting results.

In 2007, UCLA researchers conducted a five-year study that showed one-third to two-thirds of people gained more weight than they lost while on the diet.

This has been echoed in a 2020 review study published in The BMJ, which looked at 121 clinical trials involving different diets (low-fat, low-carb, paleo).

The findings showed that while most dieters had initial success with weight loss and improved cardiovascular health markers over the first six months, by the one-year mark most people had regained nearly all of their lost weight.

Andy Yurechko, M.S., R.D., of Augusta University Medical Center in Georgia believes this is the problem with all these fad diets: they aren’t sustainable.

To improve your diet and maintain lasting weight loss, he suggests decreasing processed foods, increasing healthier carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and reducing added sugar.

“A healthier type of diet is something you can do every day of your life,” he says.

So, if you’re looking for a sustainable way to lose weight, it’s time to start making long-term changes by incorporating paleo and other healthy eating habits into your lifestyle.

You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel!

This image shows a cookie
Image: Jess | Flickr

Why Is Paleo Diet So Popular?

The Paleo Diet Explained: What You Need to Know Before Trying It

The paleo diet movement is growing in popularity among people who are looking to lose weight and improve their overall health.

People following the paleo diet can avoid processed foods while still finding ways to enjoy delicious meals.

While it has many potential benefits, it is important to consult a registered dietitian or clinical nutritionist before embarking on any major changes in eating habits.

Overall, the paleo diet emphasizes fewer processed foods, more whole foods, and increased consumption of healthy fats while avoiding added sugar and low-fat dairy products.

Keep in mind that this type of eating plan may restrict some food groups and be associated with certain health risks if not followed correctly – so make sure to research thoroughly before starting the paleo diet!

No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.

Moses Maimonides

Final Thoughts

The paleo diet is based on the eating habits of our ancestors during the Paleolithic era – a period when humans lived as hunter-gatherers.

This diet excludes all processed foods, refined sugars, grains, legumes, and dairy products in favor of unprocessed whole foods including fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, lean meats, nuts, seeds, and seafood.

It is often referred to as the “stone age diet” or “caveman diet.”

The modern paleo diet follows the same principles as the original Paleolithic nutrition but with some modifications. For example, paleo dieters no longer restrict entire food groups as our ancient ancestors did.

Instead of avoiding all grains, some people may include whole grains in their meal plans while others stick to gluten-free alternatives such as buckwheat and quinoa.

Paleo diets also now allow for some dairy products like yogurt and cheese made from grass-fed cows as well as wild-caught fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

This image shows a meal
Image: Mark Bonica | Flickr

The goal of this eating plan is to reduce the intake of highly processed foods and increase the consumption of nutrient-dense, whole foods.

Studies have linked the paleo diet to a number of health benefits including improved cardiovascular health, reduced risk of chronic diseases, and weight loss.

Eating on the paleo diet may also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Paleo recipes often focus on lean proteins such as grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, free-range poultry, and eggs.

Healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds are eaten in abundance along with an array of vegetables like dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin seeds.

Fruits such as oranges and apples are also encouraged in moderation.

This image shows a meal
Image: Sbsine | Flickr

By following these basic principles, you can start to reap the benefits of eating a paleolithic diet and living a healthier lifestyle.

If you are interested, you can check out our step-by-step guide on how to perform the Sissy SquatBulgarian Split SquatHack SquatShort Head Bicep ExercisesLong Head ExercisesTop Push-Up Exercises For A Bigger Chest, or the 7+1 Proven Health Benefits Of Scent Leaves.

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