You’ve probably heard the words “Paleo Diet” floating around recently as it’s stealing the attention of “health nuts” while simultaneously creating controversial chatter. So, what exactly is the Paleo Diet, you may ask? Let’s get the facts straight and break it down so you can decide if it’s the diet for you.
Paleo Diet History
The Paleolithic Diet goes by many names: Paleo Diet, Caveman Diet, or Stone Age Diet, to name a few. It mainly consists of eating the food that was available to cavemen in the Stone Age, as its name implies.
High in Protein
While the key is to eat the same type of food that cavemen did, it is also important not to deny oneself of all the essential nutrients required to fuel and maintain the human body. Foods high in protein make up a large chunk of today’s Paleo Diet, accounting for 19-35% of the total caloric intake on a daily basis. Foods that are high in fiber and paleo-approved include animal meat, seafood, and high fiber fruits and veggies. Sadly, whole grains are not an option.
What to Eat
Along with more protein in your diet, you should also be eating more foods with fat. This is one of the most controversial aspects of the diet itself, with lots of debate surrounding good fat vs. bad fat. As well, the Paleo Diet does not consist of any processed foods. Moreover, sodium intake is cut as it is predominantly found in Western, processed food, whereas potassium intake is substantially increased.
Acidic or Alkaline (Basic) Food?
One of the key concepts of the Paleo Diet is the attempt to balance the intake of acidic food (meat, salt, fish) with the intake of alkaline food (some fruits and vegetables). To see if a food classifies as acidic or basic (and how acidic or basic it is), refer to this chart here.
List of Food You Can Eat
- Meat (ideally grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone free)
- Fish and seafood
- Fruits and veggies
- Health oil (olive oil, avocado oil, coconut, walnut, macadamia, flaxseed oil)
List of Food You Cannot Eat
- Cereal grains, rice, wheat, corn
- Beans and legumes
- Peanuts and peanut butter
- Refined sugar
- Processed food
- Refined vegetable oil (canola, rice bran)
Sure, with the list of foods you can’t eat being much more lengthy than the list of foods you can eat, this diet seems pretty strict! But people today generally don’t stick to these lists specifically. They tend to adapt the Paleo Diet to fit their needs and what they see is the most beneficial for them healthwise. Often, people make exceptions to include coffee, alcohol, beans, brown rice, legumes, and grains like quinoa. Others prefer to stick to the diet six of the seven days a week, leaving one day as an exception or a “cheat day.”
The Paleo Diet is likely to improve your overall health and even help with weight loss. However, weight loss is generally not the dieter’s main goal. While currently there is no solid evidence that the diet can improve things like your body composition or help metabolically, most agree that the cutting of sodium and processed foods is a step in the right direction!
Many people and health experts have brought up issues and health risks associated with the Paleo Diet. Some argue that our digestive abilities greatly deviate from the digestive abilities of many, many generations before us. Others believe that the diet can cause nutrient deficiencies due to the lack of Vitamin D from dairy products, predisposing us (particularly women) to osteoporosis and weak bones. Finally, some feel that the diet is based off an assumption of what our ancestors ate on a daily basis, but we cannot know for sure.
So, Is Paleo For You?
At the end of the day, it’s important to find the diet that is right for you, to eat well-balanced meals, and to make decisions that are the most beneficial for you and your overall well-being! If you feel like the Paleo Diet isn’t for you, that’s okay! If you have an interest in trying the diet, there are many recipes available for you to try.