Benefits of The Paleo Diet

Benefits of The Paleo Diet

Virtues of eliminating processed foods

The Paleolithic diet, Paleo for short, is a dietary plan based on the habits of our ancestors during the Paleolithic era - which lasted until around 10,000 BCE. Also called a Stone-Age diet, Paleo is designed to have us eating only the foods that could have been available to our ancestors during the aforementioned period.

What characterizes this diet is its absolute rejection of processed foods. This means no packs of chips, yes, but it also means no bread, pasta, or dairy, all of which were only incorporated into human diets after the agricultural revolution.

The theory behind this is that Paleolithic nutrition was well suited to our natural gut biomes and metabolisms. The convenience of grain and dairy overshadowed the fact that our bodies are not properly evolved to process these food groups.

Following a paleo diet will mean eating lean meats, fish, vegetables, fruit, and nuts & seeds. Dairy, legumes, and grains are prohibited on a classic Paleo diet.

Health benefits of the Paleolithic diet

The primary reason people follow a Paleo diet is for the health benefits associated with eliminating processed foods. Cutting carbohydrates, refined sugar, and many additives now at play in our diets, has clear associations with improved health. Paleo is commonly used to lose weight.

It's worth noting that there is no scientific consensus on the Paleo diet. While studies have demonstrated that a Paleo diet can lead to certainly improved health markers, there is no conclusive evidence that cutting all grains and dairy is necessarily the determining factor - nor is there proof that Paleolithic humans ate only the foods recommended in the diet typically. The evolution of human nutrition is a long and complex story, and we don't have all the answers.

What are the pros and cons of the Paleo diet?

The pros of the Paleo diet are that you are eating whole foods that are full of nutrition and have been eaten (in one form or another) for thousands or millions of years.

With a bedrock of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and quality meats, Paleo is appealing because of its simplicity. Unlike the Keto diet, you're allowed to eat carbs, just not those that come from bread, pasta, rice, or other grains. If it grows naturally on the planet and can be harvested or hunted in that form, it's probably Paleo-friendly.

The reported benefits of a Paleo diet include: 

  • Improved cholesterol
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved glycemic control
  • Reduced waist circumference and weight loss
  • Improved satiety
  • Improved gut health
  • Reduced all-cause mortality
  • Mitigation of metabolic syndrome
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

Cons

Not all nutritional experts agree on Paleo, however.

By removing all grains from the diet, the dieter will consume less fiber compared to clinical nutrition. By removing all dairy products, the dieter may consume less calcium and vitamin D than recommended.

This study found that following the Paleo diet increased the levels of a chemical in the gut which has been tied to heart disease. Meat-heavy Paleo diets contain too much saturated fat, which can have serious negative health effects long-term.

What happens to your body when you start eating Paleo?

This will largely depend on the nature of your diet before starting Paleo. If your diet was highly processed and sodium-rich, your body will certainly have a transition period on this diet, possibly coming with feelings of sluggishness, hunger, or headaches.

If your new diet is balanced and healthy, however, transitionary side effects should be short-lived.

How long does it take to see results from a Paleo diet?

It depends on what your goals are for your diet. This study found a statistically significant difference between those following a diabetes diet and those following a paleo diet over three months.

As always with weight loss (if that is your goal), the speed of loss will depend on the calorie deficit and the quality of your food.

Is Paleo good long-term?

With proper supplementation of fiber and vitamins, Paleo can be healthy long-term.

If your Paleo diet is too heavy on meat or otherwise unbalanced, however, nutritional deficiency can be very harmful long-term.

What remains a good idea is filling your diet with unprocessed foods. Similar but more diverse diets, like the Mediterranean diet, share these attributes.

Can you eat rice on Paleo?

Most Paleo-purists would say no, but anthropological evidence suggests that humans have been eating varieties of rice for many thousands of years.

Thus, small amounts of white rice are sometimes permitted for Paleo.

Can you eat potatoes on Paleo?

Yes! Potatoes and other tubers have been eaten for much of human history. As one of the few sources of carbohydrates on a Paleo diet, tubers can be a great source of energy.

Is honey Paleo-friendly?

Raw honey is Paleo-friendly, while pasteurized honey isn't. As a natural sweetener, honey can be quite popular in the Paleo diet, but use it in moderation as too much sugar remains a concern.

Is almond milk Paleo-friendly?

Although Paleolithic humans certainly didn't drink almond milk, they did consume almonds, and modern Paleo dieters generally find almond milk to be Paleo-friendly as long as the other ingredients are up to snuff.

The Paleo diets continued

Despite its popularity, there is insufficient scientific evidence to say much about the Paleolithic diet compared to other diets.

By excluding entire common food groups, Paleo hits a nutritional snag. Dietary supplements could theoretically solve this issue.

Regardless, you should always consult your healthcare provider before making radical changes to your diet. The Paleolithic diet is a novel approach to our contemporary diets; a great reason to take a hard look at the processed foods we surround ourselves with. For delicious and easy Paleo meals, hop over to Kevin's recipes page.