The benefits of eliminating processed foods
When it comes to diets for your health, one of the most commonly discussed is the Paleolithic or Paleo diet.
Simply put, the Paleo diet is a mode of eating modeled on the nutritional habits of our ancestors: whole foods prepared simply and without any processed foods. Hence the nickname: the Stone-age diet or Caveman diet.
The key event in the Paleo diet theory is the invention of mass agriculture around 10,000 BCE. People began to eat bread and other grains; animal husbandry allowed for cattle farming.
Our diets gradually became made up of secondary products, like pasta, dairy, and sugar.
According to the theory, these processed foods are the root cause of many of our contemporary maladies, such as chronic diseases, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.
The theory postulates that modern humans are genetically mismatched to our processed foods, an idea known as the discordance hypothesis.
Scientists don't agree unanimously on whether this hypothesis is true. But tenets of Paleo, such as removing refined sugar and junk food, are widely regarded as beneficial.
Its proponents claim that Paleolithic nutrition is an effective strategy for your health. With a core of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, and organic meats, it's easy to see why. In this way, the Paleo diet is very similar to other healthy eating plans like the diabetes diet.
Hunting & gathering - what did we eat?
Below is a non-exhaustive list of foods that can be included in a Paleolithic diet.
Meat: beef, chicken, lamb, pork, turkey - always organic and grass-fed, never processed
Fish & seafood: trout, salmon, haddock, shrimp - always choose wild-caught if you can
- Fruits & vegetables: If it can be plucked from nature, it's Paleo. Vegetables and fruits are the backbones of the Paleo diet.
- Tubers: potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, turnips - a great source of carbohydrates on the Paleo diet
- Nuts & seeds: almonds, macadamias, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Healthy fats: Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut milk/oil, etc.
- Salt* & spices
*salt should be consumed in moderation, as too much sodium can cause a host of health problems.
As you can see, there's a great deal of variety to be explored in the Paleo diet. But what effect will eating these foods have on your health?
The purported health benefits of Paleo
Here's a list of the health benefits that Paleo dieters attribute to the diet.
- 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
This study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that the Paleo diet resulted in better short-term health indicators (waist circumference, HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar) than four different control diets.
What are the pros and cons of a paleo diet?
The pros of the Paleo diet are as above: there's good evidence to support the claim that the diet can improve several health factors.
Additionally, the Paleo diets are relatively easy to follow compared to other diets.
If you are trying to lose weight, this is important to understand: weight loss is only achieved through a calorie deficit. That is - only if you eat fewer calories than you burn will you lose weight.
The Paleo diet alone is not a recipe for weight loss. To find and maintain a healthy weight, one must exercise regularly and keep up a healthy diet.
One of the major cons of the Paleo diet is the fact that it excludes entire food groups, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies without proper re-balancing.
With whole grains forbidden, getting enough fiber is a major concern. To ensure you eat enough fiber on the Paleo diet, focus on fiber-heavy vegetables. You may want to take a fiber supplement.
Additionally, some consume too much saturated fat from animals on the Paleo diet. Remember, your macronutrient breakdown shouldn't change much when switching to Paleo.
Do doctors recommend a Paleo diet?
While it's impossible to generalize doctors' opinions on Paleo, this much can be said: a healthy eating plan based on consuming lots of vegetables, healthy fats, fruits, and lean meats is widely accepted as a good idea for most people.
If you're wondering if a Paleo diet or something similar could be right for you, consult your healthcare provider or registered dietician.
Which is healthier, Keto or Paleo?
The Keto diet is a specific nutritional plan designed to bring the body into a state of Ketosis - where, without carbohydrates to burn for energy, the body uses stored fat.
While the Keto diet is praised for its weight loss capability, the human body is not meant to remain in a Ketogenic indefinitely, and prolonged Ketosis has been shown to create negative health factors.
Is Paleo good long-term?
Compared to Keto, Paleo is much more feasible for long-term application.
This is dependent on whether your Paleo diet is creating nutritional deficiencies. Without proper nutrition, a Paleo diet can crash and burn, so make sure you are taking into account the vitamins and minerals that the Paleo diet may lack.
Are eggs paleo?
Of course! Eggs have been eaten by humans for longer than history has been recorded. Nutrient-rich and versatile, eggs can play an important role in your diet (in moderation, of course).
Should you exercise on the Paleo diet?
Absolutely. Like with any diet aimed at improving your health, regular exercise is a crucial complement. Even if it's simply a brisk walk, daily exercise has massive effects on your health.
Paleo made easy, by Kevin's
Even if you aren't going to commit to a hardcore Paleo diet, there are ideas about eating - whole foods, no processing, moderation - that we can all take from Paleo.
With Kevin's Natural Foods, it's never been easier to eat healthily. Just look for the Paleo label on Kevin's products, and you're good to go (eat). Bon appétit!