There are some diets which have survived the test of time and suffice to say, the Paleo Diet falls right into this category.
It's something which is advocated by some of the biggest names in fitness and in short, it makes you eat like a caveman used to.
Bearing the above in mind, it's also a diet that won't be for everyone. However, if you are looking to curb your waistline without starving yourself, there's evidence to suggest that the Paleo Diet could be an absolute godsend for you. Here is a full lowdown of the diet, to show who it really is suited to.
What is the Paleo Diet?
As we've just mentioned, the Paleo Diet is based on how cavemen used to live. Back then, there weren't ready meals, crisps, pasta, cereal and all of the other grain-based foods that are now bulging off the supermarket shelves. Back then, everything was hunted and the results were simple. Cavemen were tall, muscular and just generally athletic. What's the typical person like in 2016? Overweight and just generally out of shape.
Cavemen didn't rely on foods derived from farming, they had to hunt for meats and consume vegetables. This is what our bodies were designed for - they weren't designed to consume the huge amount of grains that we do so in today's age. This is the reason why 66% of the population has become overweight.
So, in simple terms the Paleo Diet provides natural foods such as meats, fruits and vegetables. Sugar is pretty much kicked into touch - as this is something that spikes our energy levels and is eventually converted into fat. We should also add that unsurprisingly, any processed foods are out as well.
What is the problem with grains?
A large proportion of the previous section spoke about the havoc in which grains can wreak on our body.
The problem with grains is that they are largely comprised of gluten and lectins. This causes two problems:
- Gluten: Found in the likes of wheat and barley, it's understood that millions of people are now gluten-intolerant. If you fall into this category (and more and more people are doing), you can expect to suffer from acid reflux, joint pain and dermatitis, alongside many other conditions.
- Lectins: This is perhaps the bigger problem. Grains contain lectins, and this is a substance which can prevent our gastrointestinal tract from repairing. Immense damage can be caused to this area of our body, which obviously isn't good.
How will your body source its energy?
As some of you may know, grains contain a lot of carbohydrates. As this is a major source of energy, it seemingly poses a problem as to how our body is going to function normally.
Fortunately, when we do have depleted levels of carbohydrates, our body will merely turn to our fat stores as a source of energy. Scientifically, this is referred to as ketogenesis.
Hopefully, you've got the picture - eating less grains means eating fewer carbohydrates, which has the knock-on effect on helping you burn more fat.
Will you still be able to consume dairy?
As so much of this article has concentrated on cavemen, an obvious question might surround dairy. After all, cavemen were unlikely to consume much.
There's no right or wrong answer here really, although a lot of people on the Paleo Diet will choose to stay away from it. More and more people are becoming lactose intolerant and with that, our bodies are becoming less able to consume dairy.
It's also worth mentioning that no animal drinks milk into adulthood - which perhaps suggests that humans shouldn't either. Nevertheless - the choice is yours, there are no strict guidelines here.
What are some of the most common foods people on the Paleo Diet eat?
We've probably eradicated a lot of your current diet, so it's time to take a look at some of the foods which you can consume whilst sticking by the Paleo Diet. The list is quite extensive but as you'll now see, it's only comprised of those foods which could be sourced naturally:
- Meat: There's a huge amount of meat in the Paleo Diet, but let's not forget this is only meat which has been derived from grass-fed animals and not grain-fed ones. If you opt for the latter, you're left with all of the grain-based problems we have already spoken about.
- Vegetables: Another huge element of the Paleo Diet, any vegetable which isn't deep-fried is good to go here.
- Fruits: Due to the high amount of natural sugar which fruits contain, you should exercise caution. Still, they are natural and healthy, so you should look to consume them in moderation.
- Fowl: Classed as anything with wings, such as chicken, duck and turkey, these are great sources of protein.
- Eggs: Another fantastic source of protein, although if you can opt for eggs enriched with Omega-3 the benefits will be even more substantial.
- Fish: Fish is another core part of the diet, although you must be looking for wild fish. Anything that is farmed can contain toxic substances which are accompanied by their own set of problems.
- Nuts: Eaten in moderation, nuts are comprised of a perfect amount of nutrients which make them ideal for snacks.
- Tubers: If you stick with the likes of sweet potatoes and yams, you can consume "good carbohydrates" which can restore your glycogen levels if you have just hit the gym.
How do you know how much of each food to consume?
There are no hard-and-fast guidelines with the diet; the general advice is to just make sure that each meal is accompanied with a good source of protein.
Some people on the diet may still need more calories, and this is when they should simply add more healthy fats into the mix. These include almond butter and avocado - in other words, the types of fats that aren't going to give you cardiovascular issues.
How often should you eat as part of the Paleo Diet?
Again, the guidelines are very loose. There's no need to eat 'x' amount every 'x' hours, you just need to eat when you are hungry. This is because all the food you are eating isn't calorie-dense and will provide you with the sufficient nutrients to keep your body in-check.
Is it worth easing yourself into the diet?
There are some diets out there which are undoubtedly classed as "all or nothing". In other words, if you can't commit to them properly - you're wasting your time.
The same cannot be said of the Paleo Diet and if you don't feel you're in a position to commit fully to it - you can use a "halfhearted" approach, so to speak. In other words, even if you can just make a few changes that sway towards the Paleo approach, you'll improve your health no-end.
For example, a lot of people switch to the 80% method. This means that for 80% of the week you'll stick to a complete Paleo approach, but you'll give yourself the luxury of a day off. It means that there's still some motivation in there, and you can still have the likes of pizza and burgers but just one day per week.
Eventually, over time, there's a chance that you will start to feel that you can remove junk food from your diet and perhaps switch to a 100% Paleo Diet approach.
What are the drawbacks of the Paleo Diet?
When we talk about drawbacks, we're actually referring to the ammunition that the skeptics have. There is some criticism of the Paleo diet and out of everything that is branded about, the following points are worthy of a discussion:
- It can be expensive: This is a completely valid point although most of the time, any diet which focusses around healthy living is expensive. The trick is to source your foods efficiently. Supermarket prices for organic and free range products are high, but if you can find a local farmers market you can obtain the foods at much more reasonable costs. You'll still be spending more - but don't be under the immediate impression that Paleo will break the bank by inconceivable levels.
- There's too much meat: While it's true that the Paleo Diet consists of a lot of meat, don't be under the impression that this is all that will be entering your body. Vegetables are the biggest element of the diet and every meal which has been put together using Paleo-principles is healthy.
- Cavemen lived much shorter lives: We spoke a little on cavemen at the start of this guide, for the simple reason that the Paleo diet is largely modelled on their lifestyle. While they did have short lifespans, let's not kid ourselves that this was due to their diet. There were a lot of dangers back in the olden' days and with advances in technology and medicine, it would be unfair to cast such comparisons on lifespans.
- It's plain difficult to stick to Paleo: This is completely valid; sticking to the Paleo Diet is difficult. However, keeping to any type of diet is going to be a challenge. The biggest difficulty you'll have is when you're eating out, as restaurants will cater to the masses and subsequently serve a lot of processed grains containing high amounts of calories and carbohydrates. The trick is to plan in advance, and perhaps not eat out as frequently.
A summary on the Paleo Diet
Let's be frank, the Paleo Diet isn't something that's going to satisfy everyone. It's quite restrictive and for some people, as the drawbacks have just highlighted, it just might not be possible.
However, there have been some sterling results which have been posted. The fact that it's completely logical makes it promising for a lot of people, as is the point that you aren't really limited when it comes to portion sizes.
It’s something which has become immensely popular over the years and in comparison to other diets out there, there are plenty of recipes that you can therefore take advantage of. With umpteen success stories accompanying such material, it means that the Paleo Diet is one that should at least be temporarily considered if your circumstances allow.