You have more than likely heard of the “paleo” diet. It was the world’s most popular diet in 2013 and still has many devotees to this day.
But what is it exactly? Is it just a fad? Is it right for you?
Scientist and “Paleo Mom” Sarah Ballentyne, Ph.D. defines it as:
“The Paleo diet is a nutrient-dense whole foods diet based on eating a variety of quality meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. It improves health by providing balanced and complete nutrition while avoiding most processed and refined foods and empty calories.”
The name “paleo” refers to the “paleolithic” time when earlier humans (thousands of years ago during the time of the caveman) were hunters and gatherers. It is thought to represent the era of nutrition before agriculture.
What you can (and can’t) eat on the paleo diet
Of course, being a “diet,” paleo has food guidelines to stick to. The paleo diet was created to increase the amount of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods in your diet; while reducing the number of gut-disrupting, hormone-disrupting, and inflammatory foods.
Just because there are guidelines doesn’t mean there are only a couple of foods to choose from though. There is still a pretty wide variety of food to choose from in the paleo diet.
You can include fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat (including organ meats if you are into them), seafood, healthy fats, fermented foods, herbs, and spices.
The paleo diet excludes processed and refined foods (e.g. artificial sweeteners, sugar, vegetable oils, etc.), grains (e.g. wheat, oats, rice, etc.), dairy, and most legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, peanuts, etc.).
The paleo diet can be thought of as more of a “template,” rather than a strict set of rules.
It’s a diet that seems to be fairly easy to maintain, and with little to no negative side effects. There is no need to measure or count calories or carbs. And you can choose from plenty of delicious and nutritious foods..
Many subscribers to the paleo way of eating even encourage experimentation by adding in a few of the (healthy whole) foods on their list of exclusions. High-quality dairy, white rice or potatoes may be added to less restrictive forms of the paleo diet.
How does the Paleo diet affect health?
Several clinical studies have been done to find out whether there are real health benefits of eating this way.
Some of the research has indicated that the paleo diet can help with weight loss and belly fat. That alone may be reason enough to give it a try.
Furthermore it can have an effect on several modern-day chronic diseases. For example, it can improve risk factors for heart disease. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, improve glucose tolerance, and even reduce symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.
It’s also believed to be “gut-friendly” because it includes a lot of high-fibre foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds), fermented foods (which contain gut-friendly probiotics), as well as being full of nutritious natural foods.
Who should consider a paleo diet?
People with food intolerance’s or autoimmune diseases are often encouraged to try the paleo diet. Those at high risk for heart disease or diabetes may also be good candidates to give the paleo diet a crack.
This diet removes all grains and dairy which is great if you react to gluten or lactose.
Even if you don’t choose to switch over to paleo eliminating added sugars, processed and refined foods from your diet can (should?) be a goal to move towards.
The paleo diet is based on what hunters and gatherers ate thousands of years ago in times of the caveman. It is a whole-food based, nutrient-dense diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, seafood, and fermented foods.
Science has shown that it can help some people to lose weight, reduce risks of heart disease, improve glucose tolerance, and reduce inflammation.
At the very least, eliminating added sugars, processed and refined foods is a great goal, even if you decide not to give paleo a try.
Recipe (Paleo): Banana Muffins
3 large eggs
5 mashed bananas
½ cup almond butter
¼ cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup coconut flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with liners. In a food processor or stand mixer, blend eggs, bananas, almond butter, coconut oil, and vanilla.
2. In a large bowl mix coconut flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Add blended wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spoon batter into muffin tins, ¾ full. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden.
4. Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can top muffins with your choice of nuts before baking. Also, don’t over-mix the muffin batter as it will make the muffins denser once baked.