Unless you've spent the last 10 years or so living in a cave, you've probably heard of the Paleo diet. Then again, if you were living in a cave, you probably were eating the Paleo diet without realizing it. After all, it isn't affectionately known as the "Caveman Diet" for nothing. The Paleo diet isn't a diet inasmuch as it's a lifestyle change that requires completely rethinking the way most people eat.
What Foods Can You Eat?
The Paleo Diet seeks to get people off the processed foods, chemicals and garbage the human body doesn't recognize and isn't able to efficiently process in favor of the natural foods our body was designed to consume. The basic premise behind the Paleo Diet is, "If a caveman didn't it eat it, then neither should you."
Here are the foods that are allowed on the Paleo Diet:
- Lean meats (chicken, pork, turkey, trimmed beef, etc.).
- Poultry and eggs.
- Fish and seafood.
- Most vegetables.
- Most seeds and nuts.
- Natural plant oils like coconut oil and unrefined olive oil.
So, What Foods Can't You Eat?
There are quite a few foods that are disallowed on the Paleo Diet, some of which might surprise you at first glance. The reason behind many of these foods being disallowed is the human body has been designed over the course of millions of years to consume certain types of foods and these foods have been added in only the last couple thousand years. In the case of processed foods, they've only become a part of the human diet in last 100 or so years.
The human body doesn't recognize many of the compounds in these foods and has trouble figuring out what to do with them. This can lead to inflammation in the body, which can lead to all sorts of health problems.
Here are the foods that are disallowed in the Paleo Diet:
- Foods containing grains and corn.
- Salty foods.
- Processed foods.
- Processed meats and meats that are high in fats.
- Foods containing chemical additives or trans fats.
- Sugary foods.
- Legumes and beans. This includes peanuts and soy products.
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes.
- Dairy products.
You might be surprised to see grains and milk on the list. Grains are on the list because they weren't added to the human diet until 10,000 or so years ago when agriculture and farming became a way of life. A large group of people are intolerant to gluten and it's thought that even those who don't show outward signs of intolerance may be affected by it internally.
Dairy is excluded for a similar reason to grains. The milk of other animals didn't become part of the human diet until the Agricultural Revolution and a large number of people are intolerant to the lactose in milk. Some Paleo dieters opt to include fermented dairy in their diets because it's easy for the body to digest and contains probiotics, but strict Paleo diets forgo milk products altogether.
The Pros of the Paleo Diet
There are a number of definite benefits associated with the Paleo diet. Here they are:
- There's a pretty good chance you'll lose weight because you're cutting a lot of the sugars and bad fats from your diet.
- You're eating a natural, clean diet that's largely free of chemicals, pesticides and preservatives.
- The diet is heavy on fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables.
- The meat in the diet will meet the protein needs of your body.
- You'll feel full because of the fats and proteins contained in the foods. Paleo dieters don't have to starve themselves.
The Cons of the Paleo Diet
Like any diet, the Paleo Diet isn't perfect. Here are the cons:
- It's tough to completely eliminate grains, dairy and sugars from your diet.
- Buying the foods for this diet can get expensive, but you should be eating most of them anyway.
- Eating too much of any one type of food can create a nutrient imbalance.
- There are no limits placed on the amounts of each food you can eat, so you could potentially overeat foods like red meats and fatty nuts.
- It may be tough for athletes to meet their carbohydrate needs with no grains in their diets.
Is the Paleo Diet Right for You?
In the end, that's a decision only you can make. It has its definite benefits, since it gets the dieter off the really bad foods that proliferate the Western Diet, but going true Paleo is difficult and is going to require a lot of discipline, especially when you're at a party and somebody shows up with boxes of bacon maple cupcakes. I will say this...You could do a whole lot worse than the Paleo Diet, and you probably are if you currently aren't watching what you eat.
If you're interested in the Paleo diet, there are a lot of delicious and tasty Paleo recipes out there. The following guide contains more than 350 of them and is a great way to test the waters of the Paleo diet to see if it's a good match for you: