Paleo Diet Rules - How it Works, What to Eat and the Risks
The Paleo Diet Rules
The Paleolithic diet is one of the most popular alternative eating styles practiced today. Its popularity can be attributed to its simplicity and the interesting theory behind its rules.
In this blog, you'll come to understand the essential rules of the Paleo diet, including the reasoning behind the diet and the foods you can or can't eat on it.
What is Paleo?
The Paleo diet is based on the diets of our ancestors in the Paleolithic era, which lasted from 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago. This is why one might hear Paleo referred to as the "Caveman diet."
During this period, humanity fed itself primarily through hunting and gathering, and thus our diets consisted mostly of vegetables, fruits, wild-caught meats, and nuts & seeds. You might notice this is similar to other healthy diets, like the Mediterranean diet.
What Paleolithic humans did not eat was anything processed, including bread, pasta, dairy, or other items common to our contemporary diets.
The Paleo diet hypothesis
The Paleo diet postulates that our bodies are evolved to metabolize hunter-gatherer foods, but are ill-equipped to handle processed foods.
Unlike some diets that focus on nutritional features of food, like what is keto diet friendly, the focus is much more on where food comes from and how its grown. This makes paleo perfect for people interested in the environmental impact of their food.
Since they're easy to make a lot of, processed foods have become abundant in our society (to the detriment of our health).
This hypothesis poses a complicated question with no easy answer, but studies have suggested that Paleolithic nutrition has definite advantages.
The health benefits
By removing processed carbs, sugars, and unhealthy fats, the paleo diet can help you lose weight, control your blood pressure, and better manage your glucose levels.
Obesity-related health risks, like heart disease and metabolic syndrome-related NAFLD, have also been mitigated using a paleo diet.
For some, the simplicity of the diet is also a positive factor.
A list of Paleo diet foods
To give you an idea of what is paleo diet approved, here's a list of nutritious, delicious, and versatile foods that we've been eating since we lived in caves -
- Meat - beef, lamb, turkey, chicken, pork, etc.
- Fish/seafood - trout, salmon, haddock, shrimp, shellfish, etc.
- Eggs - choose free-range or pasture-raised
- Vegetables - broccoli, kale, asparagus, onions, carrots, spinach, etc.
- Fruits - apples, bananas, berries, oranges, avocados, tomatoes, etc.
- Tubers - potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, turnips, etc.
- Nuts and seeds - almonds, cashews, macadamias, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
- Healthy fats and oils - extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil
- Spices - sea salt, turmeric, garlic, rosemary, thyme, etc.
That's a lot, right? What's appealing about the paleo diet is that it isn't as exclusive as other trendy diets. The real secret is in finding good quality ingredients and preparing them without processed additives.
Let's address the foods you'll avoid on a paleo diet, and you'll see that entire food groups usually included in clinical nutrition are excluded from this "Stone-Age" diet.
Check out our Paleo Beef Stroganoff :
Foods to avoid on the Paleo diet
Here are some of the foods that one cannot eat on a paleo diet -
- Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup - soft drinks, juices, cane sugar, pastries, candy, ice cream, etc.
- Grains - bread, pasta (wheat, spelt, rye, barley, etc.)
- Legumes - peanuts, beans, lentils, etc.
- Dairy - *some versions of paleo allow for full-fat products like butter and cheese, but most dairy products are not allowed on a strict paleo diet meal plan
- Some vegetable oils - sunflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and others
- Trans fats - found in margarine, these are known as "hydrogenated oils." Steer clear.
- Artificial sweeteners - aspartame, sucralose, etc. Use natural sweeteners instead, like monkfruit.
Who benefits from the Paleo diet?
In its essence, a core of vegetables and healthy fats with grass-fed meat and seafood, the Paleo diet (or at least some Paleo meals) could benefit most anyone. It's whole foods prepared simply.
The primary reason people follow a Paleo diet is for the health benefits associated with eliminating processed food.
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.
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
Here is Kevin's Paleo Roasted Garlic Chicken:
What are the disadvantages of the Paleo diet?
Not all nutritional experts agree on Paleo, however.
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.
Can you eat cheese on Paleo?
A Paleo-diet purist will tell you no, all cheese should be avoided on a Paleo diet. Paleolithic humans didn't milk cows or process dairy. This is one case in which keto diet rules are much more lax than paleo.
Some Paleo dieters reintroduce some cheese and dairy, often full-fat and from raw (unpasteurized) milk.
Ultimately, the Paleo diet encourages us to consume dairy only after due consideration and not as part of the habits that define the typical contemporary diet.
Can I eat bananas on the Paleo diet?
As with all fruits and vegetables, bananas are Paleo-approved. Interestingly, however, the modern banana did not exist until recently and was created through deliberate breeding in order to produce sweeter fruit.
Is coffee Paleo-friendly?
Most Paleo dieters will tell you no, coffee is not Paleo, as the techniques for roasting and brewing coffee only arose around the Fifteenth Century CE. However, being so widely popular, coffee is something that many Paleo dieters make an exception for. The negative side-effects of coffee are well known: consider alternatives like teas or non-caffeinated energizing beverages.
Do doctors recommend the 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.
Do you need to exercise on Paleo?
As with any healthy diet, regular exercise is highly encouraged. You don't need much necessarily; even a brisk walk can make a big difference to your health amidst our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.
What does a day of Paleo look like?
Here are just a few examples of what a day of Paleo-approved foods could look like.
Here are some scrumptious Paleo breakfasts.
Paleo breakfast bowls
These breakfast bowls combine hearty vegetables with protein and are topped with an egg. Easy to make and full of nutrients, this dish will fuel you for the day ahead. You can even use some leftovers, like, say, leftover roast chicken, to further simplify the prep.
Are eggs paleo?
Absolutely. Humans have been eating eggs for roughly six million years; keep on cracking.
Prefer something lighter and perhaps even liquid for your first meal? The options here are endless. Fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds are easily combined for delicious smoothies, take these recipes as inspiration. Add almond butter for a boost of healthy fats (despite being "processed," high-quality almond butter without added sugar is typically allowed).
Mid-day, you need some protein to maintain your energy.
Thai Coconut Chicken Sandwich
This Kevin's recipe is sure to expand your concept of Paleo eating.
Paleo bread or a lettuce wrap cocoons a wonderful Thai-style chicken salad, utilizing Kevin's Thai Coconut sauce.
Here is Kevin's Thai-style coconut chicken:
Lemongrass Chicken Cauliflower Rice Stir Fry
This favorite Kevin's recipe finds a creative solution to the grain exclusion of Paleo: cauliflower rice. Easy to make and packed with nutrients, this dish uses Kevin's Lemongrass Chicken to dazzling effect.
Kevin's Lemongrass Chicken can be found here:
Can you eat rice on paleo?
Some Paleo purists avoid rice entirely, but evidence suggests that humans have been eating small amounts of white rice for a very long time. Ultimately, whether to eat rice or replace it with something like cauliflower rice is a personal choice.
Winding down, these flavorful Paleo diet meals make lovely dinners.
Ground Turkey Tacos with Tomatillo Sauce
Taco night, anyone? Subbing traditional tacos shells for grain-less shells or lettuce wraps is simple enough, and you can even sub the turkey for ground beef. With Kevin's Tomatillo Sauce tying it together, you can't go wrong with this classic dish.
Check out Kevin's Tomatillo Sauce:
An elegant and supremely healthy dish, this recipe focuses on cooking your salmon and veggies perfectly and lets Kevin's Teriyaki Sauce do the rest.
Remember, choose wild-caught salmon, it makes a difference.
Here's Kevin's Teriyaki Sauce:
Eating clean, made simple. Kevin's brings you the highest quality ingredients with no harmful additives in a product that makes getting delicious food on the table easier than ever. Try Kevin's products with the "Paleo" label to see how good eating well can be.