The Paleo Diet Plan has quickly become one of the best-known and most popular diet plans out there. Studied and promoted most famously by Dr. Loren Cordain, it has gained a reputation as an effective way to not only lose weight but also to control and reverse common health problems like Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and autoimmune disorders.
The diet focuses not so much on restricting the amount of food eaten but on changing the types of food eaten. It promotes a high-protein, high fat diet that is rich in organ meats, fruits, and vegetables and low on many other foods such as grains, dairy, and legumes.
Supported by extensive research and clinical studies, and backed up by many testimonials, it has established itself as a potentially effective diet for many people. Following is an overview of the diet and answers to some of the questions frequently asked about it.
Paleo Diet Plan Basics
There are a few basic principles that underlie the Paleo Diet Plan. These principles allow you to successfully follow the plan without worrying too much about memorizing lists of specific foods. They also provide you with strategies to make following the diet easier, especially in the beginning, as you adjust physically and mentally to a new way of eating. Following are some of these basic principles.
People should eat as our ancestors did.
The driving force behind the Paleo Diet Plan is the belief that people should eat as our ancestors did. The argument is that these people enjoyed robust health without consuming many of the salty, sugary, processed foods that define the American diet nowadays. As a result, supporters of this plan argue that any food consumed by our ancestors is acceptable to eat today, while many modern foods (especially processed foods) should be avoided as detrimental to health.
Eat unprocessed foods.
This principle means that you should avoid most foods that have not been prepared in your own kitchen. Most boxed, canned, pre-made, or even dehydrated food (like dried fruit) is considered unhealthy because it often contains salt, sugar, and other ingredients that can damage your health. Instead, whole, organic foods and grass-fed, unprocessed meats are preferred.
Eat lots of meat.
The Paleo Diet Plan emphasizes the consumption of meat, including red meat. Any type of meat is acceptable, as long as it has been humanely raised and grass fed. In addition, the plan encourages participants to eat organs such as the heart, kidneys, and so forth in order to access their high nutritional content.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
The Paleo Diet Plan also encourages the consumption of large amounts of fruits and vegetables. In fact, no fruit or vegetable is off limits in this plan, nor are there limitations on the amount that can be consumed. The plan encourages participants to consume organic fruits and vegetables if possible.
Embrace healthy fats.
While many diet plans ask participants to avoid fat in order to restrict calories and encourage weight loss, the Paleo Diet Plan encourages the consumption of healthy fats. This means that all types of natural oils, nut butters, nuts (except peanuts), fatty meat, and so forth are not only acceptable but necessary parts of the diet. The Paleo Diet does not see these fats as contributing the many modern health problems. Instead, it argues that these fats contribute valuable fatty acids and other important nutritional aspects that encourage a health body.
Listen to your body.
Another distinguishing aspect of the Paleo Diet Plan is the fact that it encourages participants to listen to their bodies when eating. This means that if your body shows signs of not tolerating certain foods (Such as potatoes) while on the diet, you should cut those foods out of your diet.
It also means listening to your body when deciding how much to eat. There are no portion restrictions in this plan. Instead, participants are encouraged to eat as much as they want at each meal.
The plan also encourages participants to cut back on exercise in the first few weeks of being on the plan if they begin to feel sluggish or ill as their bodies adjust to the new way of eating. Even when back to their normal levels of exercise participants are encouraged to exercise moderately but not excessively.
Finally, the Paleo Diet Plan encourages participants to listen to their bodies by only eating when they are hungry. This means that participants should feel free to drop the three meals a day schedule and instead eat when hungry and stop when full.
Pursue an overall healthy lifestyle.
The Paleo Diet Plan encourages participants to pursue a lifestyle that is healthy overall. For instance, the plan encourages participants to get plenty of sleep and exercise and even to take Vitamin D supplements if necessary. As a result, the plan promotes a healthy lifestyle in order to improve the overall health of participants.
Paleo Diet Food List
While these basic principles guide the Paleo Diet Plan, there are specific Paleo Diet foods that can and cannot be eaten with the plan. Following is a Paleo Diet Plan food list that includes categories of food and examples of specific foods from that category that can be consumed.
Any type of meat may be consumed, as long as it is grass-fed and humanely raised.
Acceptable Paleo fats include healthy fats that are low in Omega-6 and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- Coconut oil
- Ghee (Clarified oil)
- Animal fats
- Olive oil
Any sort of vegetable may also be consumed on this diet. Organic vegetables combined with fats and oils are preferred.
- Brussel sprouts
Root vegetables are generally acceptable on the Paleo Diet.
- Sweet potatoes
- Squash of all kinds
Any kind of fruit is allowed.
Any kind of egg is allowed.
- Duck eggs
- Chicken eggs
- Goose eggs
Nuts and seeds
Most nut and seeds are included in the Paleo Diet Plan.
- Pine nuts
- Sesame seeds
- Macadamia nuts
Paleo Diet Prohibited Foods
There are also certain categories of foods that are prohibited on the Paleo Diet Plan. These foods are prohibited from the diet plan due to the belief that they contribute to inflammation and other health issues in the human body. Following are the categories of food that should be avoided on the Paleo Diet Plan.
- Dairy – Once the diet is well established, participants may be allowed to incorporate butter, or, occasionally, yogurt into their diet.
- Legumes – This includes peanuts and peanut butter.
- Fruit juice
- Soft drinks
- Energy drinks
- Processed meat
- Other Processed foods
- Refined sugar
Paleo Diet Clinical Studies
The Paleo Diet Plan has been an established diet plan for many years, and significant scientific research has taken place to examine its effectiveness and health benefits. Most of the research has been conducted by Dr. Loren Cordain, who has published a number of books and articles on the Paleo Diet and its effects.
Dr. Cordain’s and others’ studies have shown that those who follow a Paleo diet experience a number of improvements in their health. One of the most common is improved glucose levels. This means that their bodies become better at controlling the levels of glucose, or sugar, in their blood. In a study of people who had Type 2 diabetes, the participants who followed the Paleo Diet Plan experienced glucose levels that were .4 percent lower than average.
In addition, studies show that the Paleo Diet Plan helps participants to lose weight. In one study, participants lost more than 6.5 pounds more weight. In another study, they lost 5 pounds, with corresponding losses in waist circumference and BMI.
Finally, studies show that those who eat a Paleo diet experience improved cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. These clinical studies tended to be small, and sometimes to lack a control group. However, they do seem to indicate that the Paleo Diet Plan can have a positive impact on the health of at least some of those follow it.
Potential Paleo Diet Benefits
Supporters of the Paleo Diet Plan report that the diet provides a number of health benefits. The clinical studies mentioned above touch on some of these benefits. However, following is an overview of some of the potential benefits that this diet offers.
There is an array of autoimmune diseases that plague people nowadays. From thyroid problems to multiple sclerosis and more, these diseases cause people to suffer as their bodies attack them. Proponents of this diet argue that the Paleo diet prevents and, in some cases, reverses these diseases by healing inflammation of the intestines that can allow particles of food to escape into the bloodstream (called leaky gut).
Alkaline Balance in the Body
Supporters of the Paleo Diet Plan also claim that the diet allows your body to reach a healthy alkaline balance. The reason is that this diet focuses on eating foods that prevent inflammation in the body that would raise the amount of acidity in the body.
Improved Cholesterol Levels
As indicated by the clinical studies mentioned above, the Paleo diet may also help to improve cholesterol levels in the body. In particular, it may lower both the total cholesterol levels in the body, as well as triglyceride, LDL, and HDL levels.
Clinical studies have also supported the Paleo diet’s claims to regulating glucose levels. This includes lowering glucose levels and A1C numbers for people who already have Type 2 diabetes, as well as regulating glucose levels for people who do not yet have the disease.
Finally, the Paleo diet encourages weight loss among participants. While this is not the sole focus of the diet, Paleo diet weight loss is a significant benefit, especially for those who need to lose weight and BMI for their health.
How can the Paleo Diet Plan be tailored to my nutritional needs?
The basic principles and food lists in the Paleo Diet Plan offer a broad look at how the plan works. However, there are many ways to tailor the plan to the participant’s specific nutritional needs. For instance, Dr. Cordain is working on a book regarding how athletes can use the diet to meet their nutritional needs while undergoing the rigors of their sport.
In particular, the plan can be altered to achieve maximum support for participants with illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes and autoimmune diseases. For instance, those who suffer from autoimmune diseases are encouraged to follow the Autoimmune Protocol. This protocol requires participants, in addition to following the regular Paleo practices, to avoid nightshade vegetables (such as mushrooms and tomatoes), nuts, and some fruit. The goal is reduce the amount of inflammation in the body that supporters of the protocol believe to be the cause of many autoimmune disorders.
In another example, people who suffer from elevated glucose levels are encouraged to cut back on the amount of certain fruits. These fruits, such as bananas, grapes, and kiwis, have higher levels of sugar in them and can, therefore, make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels.
Is the Paleo Diet Safe?
Some fad diets prove to be harmful in the long-term to participants’ bodies and health, even if they lead to greater weight loss. As a result, it is a common to wonder whether the Paleo diet is safe to follow or not.
In general, people should take the time to consult with their doctor before they begin a diet plan. However, experts tend to agree that the Paleo Diet Plan has the potential to improve health but also runs the risk of leaving people with nutritional deficiencies that can affect their health in the long-term.
For instance, as described above, the Paleo diet has been shown to improve glucose levels, cholesterol levels, and weight loss success. Yet, this diet also excludes certain major categories of food. Omitting these foods from one’s diet can lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals that can harm your health. For instance, calcium is an important component in strong bones. Without calcium, you may develop osteoporosis (weak bones). Omitting grains can result in you not getting enough carbohydrates for energy and brain health.
If you do choose to follow the Paleo Diet Plan, you will need to make sure that you are filling in these potential deficiencies in other ways. For instance, supporters of the Paleo plan suggest that you can make up the calcium you would normally get in calcium in other, Paleo-approved foods. Some Paleo followers also choose to take Vitamin D supplements.
Can the Paleo Diet Plan Be Vegetarian or Gluten-Free?
Some diet plans can be revised to accommodate the needs of people with other dietary needs, such as vegetarians. While the Paleo plan works for people who wish to also eat gluten-free, it does not work for vegetarians and vegans. The reason is that meat takes up a large part of the Paleo diet. As a result, it is virtually impossible to omit meat and still enjoy all of the health benefits (and nutritional benefits) of the diet.
Paleo Diet Reviews
Paleo diet reviews are overwhelmingly positive. These reviews report significant improvements in health in a variety of areas. For instance, many people report improved glucose levels, weight loss, increased energy, and a clearer mind. Perhaps the most impressive reviews come from those who experienced reversals of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and MS. Paleo Diet reviews that are negative mostly note a flu-like feeling that sometimes causes them to stop the diet. Proponents of this plan, however, report that the feeling fades after a few weeks as the body adjusts, and that there are steps they can take to alleviate the symptoms in the meantime.
The clinical studies and reviews indicate that the Paleo Diet Plan might be a good choice for some people looking for improved health as well as weight loss. In consultation with your doctor, you should determine whether the plan will work for you, and whether you will require any assistance in avoiding nutritional deficiencies while on the plan. However, you might also find that you can improve your health and alleviate some chronic health problems by following this diet plan.