The Paleo Diet: A Thorough Review on the Facts, Benefits, and Challenges
The Paleo diet is also known as Stone Age or Caveman diet, Loren Cordain, Ph.D., an author of The Paleo Diet, suggests fewer risks of getting diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and several other health conditions. Besides, the high-protein and high-fiber diet shed weight without counting calories.
What is the Paleo Diet?
It is a diet that eliminates processed and high-fat foods that lack nutritional value to improve your health benefits. With this, you are only allowed to eat like the hunters and gatherers of the stone age. The Paleo proponents advise that since anatomy and genetics have slightly changed since the old days, people should eat the types of food available then for health purposes.
Over two million years ago, the Paleo community would hunt and gather food from the forest. The diet is among the popular eating habits; therefore, you will not have a hard time getting paleo-friendly recipes. You can either search them online or on the bookshelves, either virtual or physical.
A paleo plan emphasizes loading up vegetables and fruits that burst with healthy minerals, vitamins, and fiber. A combination that fills you up very fast, so you don’t have to overeat, and as a result, it helps curb weight gain.
Lately, the paleo diet has evolved. Researchers have come up with other different versions that allow various healthy modern foods in the diets. For instance, gluten-free grains such as rice and quality grass-fed butter. Did you know that most people nowadays are looking at paleo as an online-based template to plan their diet and not a set of rules that they must follow?
What does Science Say about the Paleo Diet?
Research on the paleo diet and how beneficial it is to help treat certain conditions; however, some research claims that the health suggestions hold water. A review that analyzed four random trials with 159 participants showed that the diet provides more short-term benefits for chronic diseases than the controlled diets.
In other news, according to an author of the journal Australian Family Physician in January 2016, some reviewed clinical trials explored the paleo effects on health matters. Several studies potentially link the low risk of inflammation, blood pressure, and heart disease. The author added that it has also helped in fighting calories that result in weight gain, lower acne, and promote athletic performance and optimum.
In this study, most professionals were not sure due to the sample sizes, short duration, and the similar frameworks used in other studies. Therefore, more research is needed to prove the diet lives up to the health claims as outlined by its proponents.
The Paleo diet eliminates processed foods and salts, thus providing a low-sodium diet to individuals with high blood pressure. Other studies claim that there is a significant weight loss in the diet. In this case, there are no counting calories, and you will note practical health improvements.
Some studies have shown that the Paleo diet controls blood sugars and boosts insulin sensitivity for individuals with type 2 diabetes. Insulin hormone is known to regulate blood sugar levels, so high insulin sensitivity improves the ability of your body to make use of the hormone effectively. Besides, it supports and manages blood sugars.
For beginners who choose this diet, Dr. Cordain claims that they have to add exercise to their daily regimen. More so, they should strictly follow a diet that consists of hunted and gathered foods.
Despite the short-term effects, researchers expressed their concerns regarding the lack of definitive data to firmly claim the health benefits of the Caveman diet, particularly for long-term results.
Paleo Diet Food List: What to Eat and What to Avoid?
Individuals who have chosen to go Paleo are now living healthy lives. They are eating fresh fish and lean food, more beneficial fats, vegetables, and fruits. Here, there is no calorie counting since the fiber-rich vegetables and fruits make you feel full, just like the lean meat.
Though seeds and nuts are on a Stone Age diet, they are rich in calories; thus, those who are up to weight loss should limit their consumption.
A list of what to eat in this diet:
- Eggs. Here, you should not go beyond six eggs in a week; a free-range is enough.
- Seeds and nuts such as walnuts, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, and almonds
- Healthier oils, like olive oil, walnut oil, flaxseed oil, and coconut oil, in small bits
- Lean cuts of pork, beef, and poultry, mainly organic, grass-fed, or free-range choices
- Game animals, for instance, bison, venison, and quail, venison.
- Fish, such as shellfish
- Fruits like mango, figs, strawberries, and cantaloupe
- Non-starchy vegetables, for example, pumpkin, asparagus, peppers, and onions.
Although the scientists have not proven that the paleo diet works, suppose you want to try it out, you should be ready to prioritize lots of natural foods and fats.
On the other hand, various foods are not allowed in this diet, for example, processed foods. Remember that the prehistoric ancestors hunted and gathered their meals; they were not farmers; therefore, it’s time to bid goodbye to daily products, wheat, grains, legumes such as beans and peanuts.
Here is a list of more foods to avoid for you to fit in the diet plan:
- Dairy products, particularly low-fat, though some paleo diet versions allow full-fat diaries such as cheese and butter.
- Refined sugar, especially candies, sugar, and honey
- Refined vegetable oils, such as canola
- Starchy vegetables such as potatoes others include sweet potatoes too.
- Sweets, including all forms of candy as well as honey and sugar
- Sugary fruit juices and soft drinks
- Cured and processed meats, like hot dogs, deli meats, and bacon
- Grains like pasta, bread, wheat, rye, spelled, barley, etc.
- Legumes: Lentils, beans, lentils, and much more.
- Vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, soybean oil, grape seed oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, and many others.
- Trans fats in certain processed foods and margarine. Often referred to as “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” oils.
- Artificial sweeteners such as cyclamates, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, cyclamates, and saccharin. Instead, use natural sweeteners.
- Highly processed foods such as foods labeled “low-fat” or “diet” with numerous additives.
According to the above list, the foods were not available in the Paleolithic community. They were off-limit; therefore, they should not be included as part of the diet since the body’s proponents claim that the body cannot digest them. However, there are paleo diet versions that are less strict compared to others. Some allow legumes and dairy products.
The Basic of Paleo Diet: How the Plan Works
For the paleo diet plan to working out, you need to understand that the basic idea is to get rid of grains, sugars, and processed foods and focus on whole, healthy foods. As mentioned earlier, diet-friendly foods are lean fish, meat, seeds, eggs, veggies, nuts, and fruits, plus healthy oils and fats. As long as the food in the past was hunted and gathered, then you are good to go.
Your eating plan should mimic the prehistoric community’s whole foods that were theoretically hunted and gathered. The advocates of this diet are against the modern ways of eating processed foods; they trust that doing it the Caveman reduces health issues.
Paleo Diet and Weight Loss
The processed foods and dairy products that the paleo diet forbids are rich in calories that promote weight gain. This diet encourages healthy living that includes whole nutritional foods, thus limiting fat intake.
The diet is enriched with high levels of proteins that lower the amount of ghrelin in the body. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone, and the diet reduces its levels to keep you full longer.
Recent studies found that the paleo diet is an easy way to help reduce weight gain. For example, researchers sampled 70 women, and they concluded that following this diet for six months resulted in 14 pounds of fat reduction or rather 6.5kgs.
Also, they reduced their belly fat significantly. Another review of eleven studies claimed that the diet plan aids in weight loss. The participant lost around 3.5 kg or instead 8 pounds in a trial that lasted in 2 months.
If You Have Diabetes, Is Paleo a Good Choice for Blood Sugar Management?
Yes, of course. This Stone Age diet is an excellent choice for blood sugar management. Researchers have not come up with a suitable diabetes diet; therefore, some data suggest that diabetic people should focus on this diet plan to help manage the blood sugars, lose weight, and reduce blood pressure.
On the other hand, critics claim that the high amount of red meat in the paleo diet might cause severe effects on heart health in individuals with diabetes. This is as a result of research linking excess red meat consumption to heart challenges.
Therefore, diabetic people should moderate red meat intake. Otherwise, it could lead to a significant problem since they are more likely to pass on heart disease than those who do not have diabetes.
Is Paleo Diet Good for Heart Health?
Simply put, the Paleo approach is not an excellent option for men who have any predisposition to heart disease or have evidence of vascular disease.
Who Shouldn’t Try the Paleo Diet?
Paleo is a super-known diet that is no fit for everyone, especially men predisposed to vascular or heart disease. Therefore, a man intending to pursue this diet should be sure of his heart health condition first; more so, you should check the cholesterol levels if they are good-looking.
According to specialists, there are patients with huge cholesterol panels who registered high cholesterol levels even after repeating a paleo program testing. The protein sources are saturated with fats and could lead to a severe heart problem.
Benefits of Paleo Diet
There are a handful of benefits you’ll potentially reap from following the paleo diet.
Makes You Full for Long
You have come across diets that make you feel hungry constantly, though this Stone Age diet tends to make you feel full all the time. You get minimal instances of diet cheating or crashing since you will only eat when hungry.
Keeps Things Simple
Paleo keeps things simple. You don’t have to worry about what to eat or cook; your life becomes easy to handle when it comes to meals. You don’t have to think about food all the time.
It’s an effortless diet whereby you eat acceptable foods and avoid those that are not — there’s no prepacked meal plan or diet cycle to stick to; however, you’ll get many of the essential vitamins and minerals you need by eating fruits and vegetables.
This diet automatically consists of eating anti-inflammatory foods that cut out various foods that lead to inflammation. The diet plan contains phytonutrients and antioxidants that battle cancer and diabetes, as per scientific research.
Naturally, it helps you eliminate foods responsible for severe conditions, such as junk and fast foods. You get a natural version of health benefits.
The core factor of the paleo diet weight loss is to eat unprocessed food. It means that this diet is low in starch since it lacks foods like grains that need processing. In connection to getting rid of processed foods and warding off high-carb meals that severely affect blood sugar levels, it helps reduce body fats, consequently leading to weight loss.
Offers Detoxing Effects
Getting rid of foods such as caffeine, refined sugars, trans fats, gluten, processed foods, and many other products relaxes your body. You replace those foods with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber from fruits and veggies that purge the body of the built-up waste. It detoxifies your body; hence you feel more clear-headed and lighter after a few weeks.
Problems of Paleo Diet
Indeed, the diet is not everything, and for everyone, despite the potential benefits, it comes with some risk factors that you should know before delving into it.
The food group in the diet is costly. Organically grown grass-fed beef and other types of meat cost more than the processed foods. The fresh meats and fish produced are pricier than the processed versions that are canned or frozen.
For instance, model-based data in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) claimed that you would require an increment in your income of up to nine percent for you to follow the diet. While at it, you should also meet all other given micronutrient intakes except the calcium.
No Definitive Data
As earlier mentioned, the scientists are not satisfied with the few studies done. Therefore, more research is needed to prove that this diet aims to ward off poor health conditions. All the evidence out there is anecdotal.
Although a few studies support these benefits, most scientists feel that there is still little evidence to tell if the approach is healthy and lacks risks. There is no research on long-term effects to any degree.
Risks of High Meat Intake
The scientists claim that there should be new studies on a diet instead of recycling the old concepts. For example, the diet allows fats that might put your health in a bad state. According to scientists, a few studies show that red meat has saturated fats, and doctors link it to a higher risk of death, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. They have called for a need to get local beef whose origin and feeding methods are healthier.
This hunter-gatherer kind of diet tends to be hard to maintain, particularly for a long-term duration. Because most of its foods are taken plain, it becomes very uninteresting after some time.
Some of the foods excluded in the diet category could risk vitamin D deficiency, Vitamin B, and calcium. You will find these nutrients in the banned regularly eaten foods such as dairy products and whole grains in the diet. At the same time, you have to frequently read the labels on food in restaurants and supermarkets not to mess with your diet.
The Bottom Line
Despite the hiccups above, the paleo diet kills binge cravings and eating, particularly for those who are gluten and starch-sensitive. You fill up so quickly that you have no space for more.
It’s a program that hastily achieves some control over insulin levels and blood sugars, thus a great approach to preventing a vicious cycle of increased insulin levels and low blood sugars, which are the primary reasons for cravings.
As you emulate the diets of hunter-gatherer human ancestors, some data concludes that the diet increases weight loss, supports blood sugar controls, and promotes heart health. However, it might not be fit for every individual due to the restricted healthy food categories, and at the same time, it is more costly than other diets.
Also, the dietary restrictions might be hard to adapt to, so you should consult a specialist before enrolling in the program.