So whats all the big fuss about the Paleo diet? With so many diet plan ideas floating around, it is really hard to choose the right one for your own personal needs, taste and more importantly, the one that actually works. Calories, fat, carbs, numbers – after a point, it becomes too much of a bother and many lose interest and/or the motivation to carry forward.
It is for such lazy folks that the paleo diet suits the most! Because, guess what? This is like the oldest diet plan ever to exist – as old as the cavemen. You don’t really have to keep counting the amount of food and what that food had, how many carbs etc. You can just keep eating till the hunger goes away!
Doesn’t sound like a real diet then! How can I keep eating to my heart’s content?
Well, somethings are just too good to be true. And just for the record, this is no marketing ploy or product. It’s actually just a very simple way of life, following ancestral food habits.
Now enough with the introduction, let’s get right into the matter.
What Is The Paleo Diet?
A paleo diet basically involves including only the foods that were available and edible way back in the age of the cave man – which means only non-processed and organic, natural foods that are found in Nature. You can bid goodbye to pastas and breads, and say hello to vegetables and meat!
A paleo diet can only include the items that could have been found by early man – fruits scavenged from plants or trees, vegetables, meant from all animals. It completely eliminates processed foods like breads, pastas, oils, cereals and grains like wheat and anything made from flour, and also dairy which was non-existent at that time. Basically, No more McDonalds for you.
Say YES to – Natura vegetables, limited fruits, natural animal meats
Say NO to – Processed foods (breads, pasta, canned goods, fries etc.) and human-cultivated foods (grains, and their many flour products)
How the Paleo diet works?
The Paleo diet is considered extremely useful and in no way harmful – it involves no “unique” pills, no starving for several days together, nothing violent or vigorous to the body.
All that is asked of you is to follow the similar diet to our natural ancestors from the Palaeolithic age, about 10,000 years ago. (Yes! In case you didn’t figure it out yet, THAT’s where the name of this diet comes from!). These are foods which our bodies have over the years evolved to efficiently harvest the nutrients out of and convert them to energy.
It is in fact the healthiest diet plan that actually joins forces with your body’s natural genetics and helps keep you slim, energetic and overall, at the top of your health!
A little bit of History
Let’s just look at a basic overall comparison of the quality of Human health and Life –
In the Past –Average Tall in height, Muscular build, energetic, quick, athletic and flexible and good health.
In the Present – Overweight or obese, Stressed and tensed, lazy, sedentary, suffering from quite a number of “preventable” illnesses
So, what really happened over the years, for such deterioration in human health?
Agriculture. That’s what happened.
Until the advent of agriculture, Man was used to a daily lifestyle of hunting for food, and gathering what is available from forests – a lifestyle filled with continuous and at time vigorous physical activities. Once agriculture was discovered, there was no requirement for the nomadic active lifestyle – man settles into communities and cultivated and harvested his own food. It all became too easy.
If you look at the timeline, if we shrink the entire existence of man to a 100 years, he has been a nomadic hunter-gatherer for 99 years and a settled community for only 1 year. Imagine the genetic evolution that would have occurred in those 99 years – we never really let our bodies adapt to this new settled lifestyle.
Instead of eating what was naturally available – fruits, vegetables and meat – we have given our bodies biological shock by shifting abruptly to processed foods – rice, grains, flour-items, pasta, corn etc.
It is no wonder that over 66% of the human population is considered to be over the average weight, of which half are obese. This situation is only becoming worse day by day.
The Problem with processed foods
The human body has been well designed to face any number of issues that may arise in any of its systems. It is great, but however, it is not invincible. The problems with metabolism that many people are facing now is due to the over-consumption of processed foods – let’s face it, that is all we eat these days. Almost everything is made from either flour, or rice or things which aren’t naturally harvested. Thus our bodies are finding it hard to effectively break down the foods into usable energy.
Paleo Diet Benefits… Why Should I Follow?
The following listed benefits are proven to arise from following the paleo diet:
- Healthier cells
All the cells in our body consist of both saturated and unsaturated fats in considerable amounts and it is important to replenish the stores of both of these fats through our food intake. The paleo diet has both of these in considerable amounts thus making it possible to have healthy well-fed cells. Most other diets usually reduce or totally eliminate one or both of these fats, which ultimately damages the cellular composition.
- Healthier Brain and nervous system
The best source for fat and protein in this diet comes from fish, which, incidentally, is also the highest natural source of omega-3 fatty acids! This means the body gets more DHA and EPA and thus consequently helps in improving the health of eyes, the heart and more than anything else the development of brain and the natural smooth functioning of the nervous system.
- Low on Fat, High on Muscle
Since the paleo diet includes more of animal meat than all other diets, it brings with a whole assortment and amount of healthy proteins which due to their anabolic property help in building muscle mass, and not fat.
This therefore improves your body’s metabolism by making most of its energy go to muscle cells as opposed to fat cells.
- Improved Gut health
Reducing the intake of processed foods is possibly the best thing for your gut’s health as it reduces the inflammation inevitably caused by intake of these foods – like sugars, breads, processed flours and so on. This may lead to further complications like leaking guts etc. Studies show a spike in the inflammatory enzyme cytokines after the consumption of processed foods (white rice, breads, sodas etc.)
- More natural vitamins and minerals
A Paleo diet includes majorly vegetables and fruits and it is nothing new that having a plate full of colourful vegetables means a more colourful life! Vegetables contain several vitamins and minerals like potassium, folic acid and also are a very important natural source of fibre (Which maintains healthy bowel movement).
- Controlled fructose-intake
The body reacts differently to sugars – a higher than normal amount of fructose intake can lead to insulin resistance. Thus the paleo diet suggests taking only 2/3 pieces of fruit in a day, and avoid fruits with known high fructose amounts – such as bananas.
- Better digestive system
This is a very obvious benefit from following the paleo diet. Our bodies have genetically evolved over the years starting with our ancestors to absorb and assimilate the natural foods, so there is no question at all of whether this will affect your body in any way. If you have frequent issues with your digestion, it is recommended that you follow the Paleo diet for at least a month and you can harness the benefits yourself.
- Less food-related allergies
Since the paleo diet reduces or eliminates intake of whole gains, this vastly reduces the risk of any foo-related allergies that some individuals might have. It is however recommended that in the case that you are an athlete, it tis necessary that you do not completely remove whole grains from our diet – consider taking a handful of oats or wheat in any form twice in a week.
- Less inflammatory diseases
Paleo diet is rich in foods which have high anti-inflammatory properties. This greatly reduces diseases and illnesses caused by inflammation – first and foremost heart attacks, and also arthritis, some forms of cancer etc.
- Increased energy
The recent rise in the amounts of energy drinks and energy bars must tell you something – that our diets are not anywhere near sufficient to provide the energy required for a day! The typical breakfast that most individuals eat is so much less satiating than our ancestors, and thus the reason for so much illnesses. The paleo diet, on the other hand, ensures that good food enters the system and stays there for long.
- Loss of weight
After all, more people would be most interested in this benefit! Yes, the most sought after goal for many, following the paleo diet can indeed help you in your goal to lose those extra pounds. By design, it includes very less carbohydrates due to the elimination of processed foods and glucose-drink sodas and so on – thus you never have to worry about weight gain ever again! And also, you don’t really have to keep any strict number count.
- Amplified sensitivity to Insulin
Familiarity breeds boredom, and sometimes, in a few cases, aversion. Imagine if you were made to eat a piece of chocolate cake every day after every meal for about a month – won’t you develop an aversion to it over time, no matter how delicious it may be? Similarly, if we load our bodies with too much of sugary foods in our diet, it becomes insensitive to it. The excess sugar is stored as fat in the body, after the saturation point of energy is reached. Over time, this leads to insensitivity to insulin leading to high blood sugar levels and other associated problems.
Studies show that following the paleo diet even for ass short as two weeks has significant improvements in Blood pressure and glucose acceptance, stimulates sensitivity to insulin, and progresses lipid profiles in adults.
- Lesser risks of Diseases
Processed foods are highly unhealthy and foreign to the body’s natural mechanism of working and will adversely affect it leading to diseases. With the paleo diet, this is greatly reduced as it naturally removes such foods from the diet giving you a holistic and healthier food habit.
- Smaller fat cells
One more way the paleo diet helps in weight-loss. Biologically, a fat cell either grows or reduces in size based on the individual’s diet habits. A slimmer person does not have lesser number of fat cells, he only has smaller fat cells! To maintain the smallness of fat cells, we need to reduce carbohydrates consumption and look for healthier fats to replace them – which is exactly the principle of the paleo diet.
Healthy fats are stored as small compact bundles in the cell and are instantly available should the body require more energy.
- Improves athletic performance
Each kind of sport has its own specific needs, but overall it boils down to two key factors- optimization of performance, and better recovery. The paleo diet is the most seamless solution for both. Lean proteins are great at boosting performance, as they are ergogenic. For muscle recovery, it is recommended to have some lean proteins within half an hour of vigorous aerobic exercise. Power athletes may require a higher dose of paleo-carbs to recover.
WHO Should Follow The Paleo Diet
Anyone who wants to follow a much healthier and authentic lifestyle can follow the paleo diet and reap maximum benefits. But there are some individuals who SHOULD definitely follow the paleo diet to regain lost health or reduce further deterioration. If you have any of the following issues, consider switching as soon as possible:
- If you are known to have Type 2 Diabetes of the insulin resistant variety. The paleo diet was found to actually reverse the symptoms of this disease, as observed from a study in comparison with the Mediterranean diet.
- If you have any type of cardio-vascular disease.
- If you suffer from any auto-immune disease (a condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells – these conditions usually result from a leaky gut, described above.) such as multiple sclerosis, vitiligo, arthritis and other far- related conditions like infertility and cancer.
- If you’re an athlete looking to improve your endurance on the field
- If you’restruggling to lose some weight and no other diet has really helped you in your goals
- If you find yourself losing energy too soon and become fatigued so easily and have to rely on those coffee breaks to stay awake at work
- If you simply are too lazy to play the calorie number game that happens in other diets
- If you want a new lease of life
Paleo Diet Food List – Things To Eat And Things To Avoid
When it comes to the question of what you should/should not eat, it is quite straightforward and simple to remember. Just ask yourself the question, “Did cavemen eat this?” – If you’re answer is yes, then go ahead; If the answer is No, then you can’t eat it.
The following list can help you in saying yes or no to which foods:
What to Eat
- Lean proteins -Seafood and fish
Consider fish got from natural rivers and wild streams as opposed to farm-bred varieties – the latter may have harmful chemicals used during their culture. These help in making muscles and bones stronger and healthier and optimise the functioning of the immune system. Protein is also more satiating and avoids over-binge eating.
- Grass-fed animal meats
A study compared the quantity and quality of fats found in the modern-day grain fed animals and traditional age grass-fed animals. It was found that the latter had a substantially lesser amount of saturated fats and more amounts of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, namely DHA and EPA.
- Fresh organic vegetables and fruits
These are known to contain large varieties and amounts of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients which combat and prevent diseases like cancer, neurological illnesses and even diabetes.
Keep control on the fruits though, as they have high amounts of fructose.
- Poultry meat and Poultry products -Eggs
This includes that of chicken (obviously), turkey, fowls, ducks etc.
- Nuts and seeds
A healthy mid-afternoon or evening snack, eat in restricted amounts as they are high in calories.
- Healthy oils
This will include all natural unrefined edible oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil etc.
What NOT to Eat
- Refined or processed foods and products– Pastas, breads, flour product like cakes.
Especially those which contain large amounts of carbohydrates and sugars.
- Cereal grains
Grains constitute of mainly only carbohydrates which is converted into glucose in our bodies for later use whenever energy is required – however the excess of glucose which will not be used is stored as FAT.
Grains also have a compound called gluten which cannot be tolerated by some individuals – hence the raise of gluten-free foods. If these people continue to consume gluten in their diet, it may lead to complications like acid reflux, dermatitis, problems with natural reproduction and bone joint pains.
Another factor to consider is the presence of grains’ natural defence mechanism against consumption – the compound Lectin. This will cause damage to digestive system and will also prohibit natural healing from day long working.
- Refined sugar and any foods which contain it
Sugar can cause immense damage to your system – it causes a sudden rise in blood sugar levels, will be turned into fat if it’s not burnt up soon after consumption and lead to various other complications.
Studies show that the elimination of the above mentions products alone are sufficient to cause drastic improvements in your body’s healthy functioning. There are also some losoe items that are best not consumed, such as;
- Dairy products – milk, cheese and everything in that order.
Several people are now either intolerant to lactose found in dairy products, or just simply do not like the taste or smell of it. Why? Because in the entire animal kingdom, not a single species is known to consume milk beyond the stage of infancy, especially the milk from another species. Our human body genetics are not programmed to consume such massive amount of dairy.
There are some people who live with zero carbohydrate diets too – these are not essential components of your diet. The lesser the carbohydrate intake, the more the body will utilise fat for energy. This is how we have been functioning since the beginning of time.
This doesn’t mean that all carbohydrates are bad – the vegetables and fruits that you consume in a paleo diet are sufficient enough to give the daily dose – and these are more naturally occurring carbohydrates and not refined or processed in any way. Besides, there is no limit to the amount of veggies that you an eat – they have so much nutrients with very less carbohydrates.
- Salt in general
- Refined vegetable oils
- Legumes which also includes peanuts
Paleo Diet Plan For Beginners
Now that you know what to eat and what not to, you might be wondering how to plan out this diet to get the maximum benefit. As mentioned in the beginning, a highly appealing factor of the paleo diet is that it is not as much of a “calorie number” game as the other diets –you don’t really have to keep an accurate count of how many calories, how many carbs and so on.
Keep it simple
Just eat when you’re hungry, and don’t eat when you’re not! No number games, no calculations.
Consider intermittent fasting
Basically, ditto what is said above. In olden times, man would go all day and sometimes even days together without eating at all, if he wasn’t able to find food – this is where fat reserves in the body come into play providing the required energy.
Thus, this leads to the statement that
Fat is good!
That probably sounds like the last sentence you would expect to hear in a diet plan, but that’s the actual truth – plain and simple! Fat is in fact much better than carbohydrates and it burns up as energy with no harm to the body. The modern day slogans claim that “low-fat is the way to go!” but don’t believe them – the only way you’re going with less fat and more added chemical preservatives is downhill. Cut them out of your life.
“Healthy fats” are naturally available. Load up on those and do adequate exercise, you got nothing to worry about.
The ideal meal plate
Ideally, your typical meal while following a paleo diet should have:
- a large load, to fill the half the plate, of colourful vegetables
- a good amount of healthy protein (from a natural source, of course – try fish, pork or some eggs)
- a small fruit (optional)
- If this seems like very less calories, then add a dose of healthy fats to the plate – a fistful of nuts like macadamia or almonds, some nut butter like peanut or almond, natural oils like olive or coconut.
The Ideal Paleo Diet Meal Plan
For breakfast- have a lot of protein to hold you out till the afternoon – consider a frittata or an omelette with a lot of vegetables. Stir-fry in natural oils, onion or mushrooms, with some peppers; add some eggs or any kind of meat to the recipe.
For lunches – Start the week with a large salad with a whole assortment of vegetables you like! Mixed green vegetables, tomatoes, raw onions, avocadoes, spinach, cucumbers, radishes, carrots with any nuts like walnuts or fruits like sliced apples or peach. Keep the salad within an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator. Every morning all you have to do is toss-in some fried or roasted meat – ground beef slices or chunks, chicken tossed with lemon or fish and seafood. Use natural oils, and lemon juice to taste.
For dinner- Spaghetti squash can replace all of your regular pasta dishes. You can mix it up with some home-made pesto, sauces like marinara and chunky meatballs. Roasted beets
Fruits can make an easy healthy dessert just before bed. Mix it with a healthy amount of nuts for a scrumptious snack too.
14 Day Paleo Meal Plan
For your ease of going Paleo, here’s a smart and easy-to-follow paleo diet designed to enable weight loss, maximise energy, boost digestion processes and maintain your overall health and keep the attitude positive.
This diet plan was designed to keep the cravings away- it include three meals and one snack in the middle post lunch; you can customize by either removing the snack or skipping a meal itself- it’s all relative to your needs. The breakfasts will be satisfying enough to last the stomach until lunch, and some mid-afternoon munchies to keep you sane until dinner. Desserts are also added for the little sweet-tooth in you.
All paleo-friendly recipes can be found in specialised blogs, tailor-made just for the paleo-diet conscious individual.
- Day 1
Breakfast –Sweet potato (not normal potato) with egg hashed into a nice scrumptious meal.
Lunch – Tuna with some avocado wrapped in lettuce. Tuna provides the protein while
The avocado gives the necessary fibres, fats and potassium minerals.
Snack – Any small piece of fruit, as per your taste.
Dinner – Natural oil-fried chicken roast and served with mushroom or cauliflower soup.
Dessert – Coconut cupcakes (no flour recipes)
- Day 2
Breakfast – Broccoli baked with egg – almost like a quiche – Broccoli is gold in fibre and the egg provides protein.
Lunch – A medium meatball sandwich with zucchini instead of the bread.
Snack – Carrot sticks served with mayo dip
Dinner – Ham skewered with some fresh pineapple pieces, roasted tomatoes for sides
Dessert – Coconut macaroons (no flour)
- Day 3
Breakfast – Smoked salmon fish for the protein, served with scrambled eggs or veggies
Lunch – Roasted chicken leftovers wrapped in greens -lettuce leaves and mayo sauce.
Snack – An all-berry shake with coconut milk or just plain. Rich in anti-oxidants.
Dinner – Cauliflowers roasted or toasted, served with meatballs
Dessert – Paleo-friendly brownies (no flour) made of almond butter and cocoa.
- Day 4
Breakfast – Coconut flour crust pizza with any assortment of toppings of your paleo-friendly choice
Lunch – Leafy salad of greens for starters, with chicken wrapor steak
Snack – Fistful of assorted healthy nuts
Dinner – Broccoli fried with beef served with cauliflower rice
Dessert – Any fruit of your choice
- Day 5
Breakfast – Nuts and seeds (no-grain) granola with fresh almond milk or coconut milk
Lunch – Shrimp, fried or toasted with fried cauliflower rice.
Snack – Apple sliced chips toasted with cinnamon spices
Dinner – Beef cubes fried in olive oil, with vegetables roasted
Dessert – Coconut cookie bars (no flour) – almond butter base.
- Day 6
Breakfast – Pumpkin fruit pancakes, for a change away from the eggs.
Lunch – All veggie salad tossed with oils, served in some tacos
Snack – A small fruit, of your choice
Dinner – Squash soup/ Mushroom soup with steak, and rosemary beets
Dessert – Coconut Choco-mug cake (no-flour)
- Day 7
Breakfast – Assorted Vegetable loaded omelette- frittata style!
Lunch – Roasted Shrimp tacos with vegetable salad
Snack – Kale chips
Dinner – Pot roast made slowly, with vegetables and meat
Dessert – Chocolate cookies, no-flour
- Day 8
Breakfast – Eggs with vegetable muffins, made fresh.
Lunch – Salmon salad tossed in ample mustard and vinegar
Snack – Any small piece of fruit, as per your taste.
Dinner – Broccoli roasted with garlic, and served with main chicken wrap
Dessert – Coconut flour brownies (no flour)
- Day 9
Breakfast – French toast (no bread) with coconut milk
Lunch – Cauliflower rice with meat and vegetable curry sides
Snack – Choco-banana shake.
Dinner – Chicken stir-fry in lemon with spices
Dessert – Nut cookies (no-bake with walnut or peanuts)
- Day 10
Breakfast – Stuffed garlic bell peppers with tossed vegetable salad
Lunch – Sausage casserole
Snack – Kale and mango smoothie
Dinner – Baked salmon with stir-fry vegetables
Dessert – Any fruit or berries
- Day 11
Breakfast – Hard-boiled eggs with vegetable salad
Lunch – Vegetable soup, with lemon chicken fry
Snack – Sweet potato chips friend in natural vegetable oils
Dinner – Toasted tomatoes and balsamic chicken
Dessert – Baked apples soaked in brandy
- Day 12
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs with onion and fruit
Lunch – Grilled lemon chicken with vegetable salad soaked in mustard
Snack – Avocado with salt
Dinner – Tomato soup with stuffed peppers
Dessert – No-bake lemon cake
- Day 13
Breakfast – Banana muffin with coconut flour and nuts
Lunch – Green salad tossed in olive oil and lemon, with a hard-boiled egg
Snack – Bananas and almond butter dip
Dinner – Garlic toasted mashed cauliflower
Dessert – Pumpkin fruit salad
- Day 14
Breakfast – Tomato and basil baked quiche
Lunch – Meatballs with mayonnaise salad
Snack – Guacamole dip with tortilla chips
Dinner – Cod roasted in garlic, with veggie salad or soup
Dessert – Any small Fruit, of your choice
Still not convinced about going Paleo?
There are several examples and success stories you can find on the web that show without doubt just how beneficial it is. If you’re looking for some inspiration, see which of your favourite celebrities swear by the benefits of the paleo diet:
- Jack Osbourne, after being diagnosed with the auto-immune disease of Multiple sclerosis, switched to follow the paleo diet owing to its anti-inflammation character, looking for a natural cure (Multiple sclerosis has no established cure yet.)
- Basketball icon Grant Hill claims that the paleo diet is the sole reason for his endurance and performance on the court. He goes further to say that he feels much younger at the age of 40 than he did 10 years earlier, all owing to his going paleo.
- Uma Thurman of “Kill Bill” fame follows a strict raw paleo-diet.
- Jessica Biel attributes her killer bod and striking health to her green paleo diet habits.
- Megan Fox rebounded from her pregnancy so fast – just 3 months! – with such a fit body owing to her cutting off of all dairy, which she says really messes up the female hormones.
- Miley Cyrus staves off of all kinds of processed breads, mainly due to her case of gluten intolerance.
Paleo Diet Guidelines
Yes, it is indeed very difficult to make such huge drastic changes in your eating habits. Letting go of those donuts and pastries is easier said than done, especially if you are a sweet tooth. So here are some tips on how to ease your mind, attitude and body into the paleo diet with no harm to any;
- Make the transition slow.
Don’t jump into the idea of a new diet and remove all the “NO” foods immediately – it may harm the body in some way. Minimize the foods a little, day by day, until they are non-existent from your diet – this goes for grains, rice and carbohydrates.
- Easing in is just as difficult as
- Keep it simple
Don’t try too much too soon. Know your body’s needs. Define your goals.
- Stick to the PLAN
Do not give up at any given point. Just stick to the plan, don’t lose in to cravings. Ask your friends to check on you
- Give it time
It will take on average atleast 30 days or so to show observable results. Since your body is now so conditioned to burning up carbs and sugar for energy, it needs at least a few weeks to learn to burn fat for energy instead.
It can be said that the paleo diet is the truest and most authentic diets that are followed by many people in the world – this is mainly because it goes back to our ancestral times which is where all this began. The natural aim of this diet is to bring our lifestyle and diet choices as genetically close to our humble natural beginning as possible and ultimately benefit in general overall health and well-being.
There are quite many people who will speak against this diet citing many reasons and drawbacks:
- The food expected to be eaten is too expensive and hard to find.
This is true, in a way, because all the “natural, organic and healthy” foods are no longer readily or easily available as they used to be. But if you’re ready to do some work, you can grow most of the natural vegetables at home and invest just a little extra in your own health. Besides, it will compensate for all those medical bills you might end up paying at the hospital.
- It’s really tough to follow in the modern day age and society.
Again, true. There is not a single restaurant you will find which follows a paleo-diet. It’s a lot of work, buying the right ingredients, and making most of your meals on your own, fresh and ready – but if you really care about yourself, this is no real excuse.
- Paleo means cavemen. And they lived for much lesser years than us!
IF you look at the average life-threats of a caveman and an average modern day man, the latter probably rank a one against the caveman’s 10 – think diseases and wild animals. Plus, we have so much advanced medical care that this is hardly a problem.
But overall, the pros far outweigh the cons.
The ratio of believers to non-believers is far high in favour of believers – the number of success stories are high and studies and researches prove these benefits. Old is gold, after all.