What is the Paleo Diet? A Straightforward Introduction for the Paleo-Curious.

Paleo Diet Foods

Table of Contents

Where does the Paleo Diet Originate?

As intimidating as the  “caveman diet” sounds, it’s really quite simple and doesn’t consist of tearing raw meat off bones, shunning veggies, and never entering a restaurant (although if that’s what you want to do, by all means go for it). 

The word Paleo actually originates from Paleolithic– a term used to describe the peoples of the Stone Age. In the Paleolithic era, the primary means of obtaining food for humans was by hunting, fishing, and foraging. Communities had not yet begun organized agriculture, starting to domesticate animals or grow crops, and the concept of eating/farming was totally different.

What are the Basics of a Paleo Diet?

In simple words, a paleo diet is when present day humans return to a way of eating that existed in the Paleolithic era.  A paleo diet involves unprocessed meats, healthy saturated fats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The most important aspect of the diet is to remove highly processed, nutrient lacking food in order to live a healthier life. While it can be a very restrictive diet, for most people this is unrealistic and unnecessary. The most devoted followers of the paleo diet would never be seen eating dairy, let alone touching rice or potatoes, but you can still call it paleo if you use butter or a few starchy vegetables now and then.

With the amount of diets being talked about these days, it gets really difficult to understand what they all are. The keto diet, for example, has some similarities but one major difference with the paleo diet. The primary difference between the two is that the paleo diet puts much higher importance on eating whole nutritious foods, whereas the keto diet is about maintaining the metabolic state of ketosis.

Who Should be on the Paleo Diet?

Paleo lifestyles are often recommended for a number of different reasons. It can sometimes help those who want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight for themselves, but in reality it is so much more than that. Because the focus is on natural, whole, and nutrient dense foods, it can be helpful for anyone suffering autoimmune diseases, IBS, or metabolic issues. Research has even shown benefits in using the autoimmune protocol diet, which is related to the paleo diet and focuses on reducing inflammation, for helping reduce autoimmune symptoms.

How to sustain a Paleo Diet

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, the following foods are recommended to maintain a balanced Paleo diet.

Foods to Eat:

  • Fruits, mostly berries 
  • Vegetables, non starchy
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Unprocessed meats, especially grass fed animals or wild game
  • Fish, those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna
  • Healthy fats, such as animal fats, olive oil, coconut oil, or walnut oil

Foods to Avoid:

  • Grains, such as wheat, oats and barley
  • Legumes, such as beans, lentils, peanuts and peas
  • Dairy products
  • Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Trans fats, vegetable oils, and seed oils
  • Potatoes
  • Highly processed foods in general

What are the effects of the Paleo Diet?

Several short-term clinical trials have suggested that following a Paleo Diet results in many benefits including:

  • More weight loss
  • Improved glucose tolerance
  • Better blood pressure control
  • Lower triglycerides
  • Better appetite management
  • Enhanced mental clarity


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