The paleo diet is a high-protein, low-carb eating plan that is based on the supposed diet of early humans. It is based on the belief that these hunter-gatherer ancestors had lower rates of chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and is said to be attributed to differences in their diet. However, while some claim that the paleo diet can improve health and increase weight loss, others note that it is too restrictive and can be difficult to follow.
What is the Paleo diet?
A paleo diet is a dietary plan based on foods similar to those that might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era, dating from approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. A paleo diet generally includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, foods that in the past could be obtained through hunting and gathering. A paleo diet limits the foods that became common when agriculture emerged about 10,000 years ago. These foods include dairy products, legumes, and cereals.Paleolithic, Stone Age, hunter-gatherer diet, and caveman diet are other terms for a paleo diet.
Benefits of following the Paleo diet
The paleo diet can provide a wide range of benefits for people with diabetes, derived from eating real, natural foods and eliminating processed foods. The most prominent benefit is weight loss, which can be achieved through reduced carbohydrate and sugar intake in the diet.The paleo diet’s other common advantages include:
- Increased sensitivity to insulin
- Improved heart health
- More energy
- Less inflammation
The core aspect of a paleo diet is eating raw foods. This generally means that a paleo diet tends to be low in carbohydrates, as it excludes foods like grains that require processing. In combination with cutting out processed foods and avoiding carbohydrate-rich foods that negatively affect your blood sugar levels, the paleo diet can help reduce body fat and consequently lead to weight loss.
Increased sensitivity to insulin
Improved heart health
Several studies have reported that the paleo diet may have benefits for heart health. This is particularly helpful for people with diabetes, as heart disease is one of the most common complications related to diabetes.
Too much inflammation in the body can increase the risk of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, but eating low-carbohydrate, low-GI foods, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, can protect against excess inflammation.
Foods on the Paleo diet to eat and avoid
What to eat
Although the paleo diet has not been proven to work, if you want to try this eating plan, you will need to prioritize eating lots of natural foods and natural fats, including these options:
- Lean cuts of beef, pork, and poultry, preferable selections from grass-fed, organic, or free-range animals
- Game animals, such as quail, deer, and bison.
- Eggs, but no more than six a week, preferably free-range
- Fish, including shellfish
- Fruit, such as strawberries, cantaloupe, mango, and figs.
- Non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus, onions, bell peppers, and squash.
- Nuts and seeds, including almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds
- Olive oil, linseed oil, and walnut oil, in moderation
What to avoid
Similarly, any food that was not readily available to Paleolithic humans is prohibited on this diet, Holley explains. That means processed foods, many of which contain added butter, margarine, and sugar, shouldn’t be part of the paleo diet. The same is true of dairy, which may not have been accessible to Paleolithic humans, and legumes, which many diet advocates believe are not easily digestible by the body. Keep in mind that some versions of the paleo diet are less strict than others and allow some dairy or legumes, such as peanuts, Holley says.
Foods to avoid
- All dairy products, including milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter.
- Cereal grains, such as wheat, rye, rice, and barley.
- Legumes, such as beans, peanuts, and peas.
- Starchy vegetables, like potatoes (and some even say sweet potato)
- Candy, including all types of candy, as well as honey and sugar.
- Artificial sweeteners
- Sugary sodas and fruit juices
- Processed and cured meats, such as bacon, cold cuts, and hot dogs
- Highly processed foods
Paleo diet to lose weight
High protein content
Protein is the most important nutrient for weight loss. It can increase your metabolism, reduce your appetite, and control various hormones that regulate your weight. Paleo diets encourage the consumption of protein-rich foods such as lean meats, fish, and eggs.The average paleo diet provides between 25% and 35% of calories from protein.
Low in carbohydrates
Reducing your carbohydrate intake is one of the best ways to lose weight. More than 23 studies show that a low-carbohydrate diet is more effective than traditional low-fat diets for weight loss. Paleo diets reduce carbohydrate intake by eliminating common carbohydrate sources like bread, rice, and potatoes. It’s important to note that carbohydrates are not necessarily bad for you, but restricting your carbohydrate intake can lower your daily calorie intake and help you lose weight.
Reduce calorie intake
To lose weight, you usually need to reduce your calorie intake. That’s why it’s important to choose foods that fill you up, as they can combat hunger and help you eat less. If you’re struggling with hunger, then a paleo diet might be great for you, as it fills you up incredibly.
Eliminate highly processed foods
The modern diet is one of the main reasons obesity is on the rise. Encourage the consumption of highly processed foods, which are full of calories, low in nutrients, and can increase the risk of many diseases. The paleo diet restricts highly processed foods as they were not available during the Paleolithic time period.Instead, encourage the consumption of lean sources of protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats, which are lower in calories and rich in nutrients.
Eliminate added sugar
Like highly processed foods, eating too much added sugar can be detrimental to your weight loss efforts and your overall health. It adds calories to food and is low in nutrients. Not to mention, high added sugar intake can increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The paleo diet eliminates added sugar and instead promotes the natural sources of sugar from fresh fruits and vegetables.Although fruits and vegetables have natural sugars, they also provide many essential nutrients like vitamins, fiber, and water, all of which are beneficial for your health
Tips to maximize weight loss with a Paleo diet
- Eat more vegetables: They are low in calories and contain fiber, which helps you stay full longer.
- Eat a range of fruits: Fruit is nutritious and incredibly filling. Try to eat 2 to 5 pieces per day.
- Prepare Ahead: Avoid the temptation by preparing a few meals ahead of time to help you on busy days.
- Get enough sleep: A good night’s sleep can help you burn fat by keeping your fat-burning hormones regular
- Be Active: Daily exercise helps improve weight loss by burning extra calories.
|Rich in nutrient-dense foods||Eliminates food groups|
|Helps some people lose weight||Unclear impact on gut health|
|May promote heart health||Small risk of iodine deficiency|
|Linked to longevity||Costly and time-intensive|
|Emerging research on possible benefits for patients with MS||Difficult to follow long term|