The Diet Guide: Paleo

The Paleo Diet! I’m sure you’ve heard about this rising trend of this caveman style cuisine. But what is it?  What do you eat? Is it a fad or will it really improve your health?

Back to the basics

The idea is that you eat only things that primitive humans would eat back before factories, food trucks and even before farming. It is based on consuming what you could get by hunting and gathering between 2.5 million and 10,000 years ago. The concept of the diet is to bring our bodies back to how they were meant to eat in the first place. Paleo promotes a lot of meat, veggies and in-season fruit, and forbids any type of grain, legume, starchy vegetable and dairy product.

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Paleo differs from other diets in that it does not have phases (like the Atkins diet), and does not include calorie counting. It is a strict list of do’s and don’ts for eating, while including physical activity into the lifestyle. Here are the basics of the food list or Paleo:

EAT

  • Grass-fed meats
  • Fish/seafood
  • Select Fresh Fruits
  • Select Fresh vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Select Oils (olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut)

DON’T EAT

  • Cereal grains
  • Whole Grains (rice)
  • Bread
  • Legumes (including peanuts)
  • Dairy
  • Refined sugar
  • Potatoes
  • Processed foods
  • Refined vegetable oils
  • Candy/junk/processed food

The goal for many while following the Paleo diet is to maintain or lose weight. Another draw is to have a good system of meal planning or to have a support group while changing eating habits. We’ll dig down more into the good and bad of the diet itself so you can have the information to choose for yourself.

Pros

More Produce

The Paleo diet promotes (some) fresh produce! This is a good thing to focus on fresh foods, especially compared to the SAD (Standard American Diet), which includes very little fruits and vegetables. This way, Paleo users will be getting a lot of essential vitamins and minerals. Not to mention they will probably feel a lot better initially, if they had a poor diet and weren’t getting these to begin with.

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Meal Planning

Since eating Paleo strays from the norm of what you find in most restaurants, it takes some work ahead of time. One main focus of the diet is meal planning and preparation to make the week run smoothly don’t forget, more cost efficient.

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weight Loss

As mentioned earlier, weight loss is a big reason people choose to eat a Paleo diet. Though there are complications attached (which I will explain later), but if the sole goal is to lose weight, this can be achieved fairly quickly.
 

CONS

Strict Guidelines

While some people like having a definitive “yes” and “no” list when it comes to diet, most people find it discouraging over time. The Paleo diet has an extensive list of foods that the are forbidden to the diet-er including sugary drinks, baked goods, and processed foods, but it goes further and prohibits innately healthy foods such as black beans, oatmeal, potatoes and legumes (which are all a big YES to countless dietitians because of how nutritious they are).
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It can feel frustrating to have so many limitations with no exceptions. The diet-er will easily learn to resent the “rules” and become easily discouraged when they slip. This goes against a very important guideline of nutrition and that is that being healthy is a lifestyle, not a list of do’s and don’ts.

 Weight Loss

While many studies have shown dramatic and  immediate weight loss with Paleo, it tends to not stay off in the long run. One study in particular had a group of people following a low-carbohydrate diet and another following a low-fat diet for a year. Weight loss was higher for the first 3 months with the low-carb group, but as the year went on, there was no significant difference between the 2 groups overall.

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Another concern for weight loss is connected to physical activity. The purpose of focusing on meat as a main source of fuel comes from the fact that ancient humans hunted for a lot of their food. There wasn’t importing and exporting, so they were to find food with what was around. One problem with this concept is that those primitive humans hunted for probably a huge portion of the day to get their meal! Today, food is much more available and for someone with an office job or really anything that is less physical activity than vigorous hunting, the amount of meat and calories from that meat does not match up.

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Since calorie counting and portion size is up to the diet-er itself it could be easy for someone to over-eat and over-compensate with excess amounts meat (especially red) and fat which can later lead to more problems including Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes.

Ketosis

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel. When little to none are being consumed, the body has to look for other sources to use to keep going throughout the day. The body uses fat as an alternative source of energy, which then creates ketone bodies as a by-product. This process is known as ketosis.

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Many people are searching for a way to burn fat fast, so they see ketosis as something helpful, when really it can be very unhealthy and dangerous. When there is a build up of the ketones metioned above, it drastically raises the level of acid in the blood, resulting in ketoacidosis, which can poison the body and even be fatal.

 In Conclusion

The concept of the Paleo diet is a great one in that it aims to eat fresh and unprocessed foods, but there is a lot of misinformation out there about about what is healthy for us now as well as in the long run. Just like any diet or way of eating, there are both good and bad to any way, it comes down to the decision of what is best for you personally. The great thing about nutrition is that we get to choose what we put in our bodies!
Please let us know what you think in the comments below! Watch out for our next Diet Guide blog exploring the Mediterranean diet.


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