If you are into living a healthy life, then you probably know that there are a number of different diets out there. From vegetarianism to veganism to the Atkins diet, from going gluten-free to eating at certain times of the day, it can be hard to know which plan is the best to follow. You have most likely heard of the Paleo diet, which has been gaining popularity in recent years.
Is the Paleo diet right for you? Read on to find out the benefits of this eating plan.
What is the Paleo diet?
One of the best things about Paleo is that while “diet” is used to describe it, it is actually a way of eating and a lifestyle. You have most likely followed diets before, whether that is the 3 day military diet or the Zone diet, and Paleo is a bit different. There is no set list of foods that you absolutely must eat, although there are some general guidelines.
When you go Paleo, you don’t eat grains, legumes (including peanut butter since peanuts are technically a bean), processed foods, and sugar. There are so-called “grey area” foods such as dairy and alcohol that some people eat in moderation but others avoid.
Going Paleo is said to be a good idea since it is extremely health promoting. According to expert Robb Wolf, following the Paleo diet means reducing your risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart problems (1).
Now that you have a general idea of what this whole thing is about, let’s take a look at why this style of eating is so healthy.
Pros Of The Paleo Diet
Pro #1: Emphasis On Protein
One of the first things that you might notice about the Paleo diet is that you will be eating a lot of protein. This is why people joke about this being a Caveman diet. If you are picturing a caveman eating a turkey leg or hunk of beef, you are not totally far off.
In all seriousness, one thing that the Paleo diet has going for it is that you will be encouraged to up your protein intake. Protein is an incredibly important macronutrient (which means that you need to eat a lot of it and it is considered “essential” for good health). The general recommendation is that adult males need 56 grams of protein every day (2) but the Paleo diet tends to suggest more than that.
For example, let’s say you enjoy a typical Paleo breakfast of two eggs fried in butter or coconut oil, two slices of bacon, half an avocado, and some sautéed kale. You might add a baked sweet potato if you are more of a moderate carb diet (may use skillets - see additional hints). Your protein total will be roughly be 12 grams from the eggs and 6 grams from the bacon, making 18 grams.
There are 2 grams of protein in half an avocado, and 2 grams of protein in 1 cup of kale. That’s 22 grams. You can see how, if you add more protein-rich foods at lunch and dinner, you will easily surpass 56 grams of protein per day.
And that’s a good thing. When you include protein in your diet, you are growing muscle mass, doing something positive for your bones, and maintaining your weight (3).
Another cool benefit of protein is that you can burn more calories when exercising. A 2015 study found that participants who ate more protein burned 180 more calories than those who were eating moderate amounts of protein, as well as 260 more calories than the group eating low amounts of protein (4).
So what kinds of protein do you eat on the Paleo diet? That would be chicken thighs, ground beef, steak, and salmon and other seafood. It is best if you can source the highest quality meat that you can find (and if you can locate grass-fed meat instead of grain-fed, all the better).
Pro #2: Emphasis On Whole Foods
Another health benefit of following the Paleo diet is you will be eating whole, real food. If you have gotten into a routine of getting home from work and heating up a jar of tomato sauce and boiling some water for pasta, this might take some getting used to. And that’s completely normal. Changing the way that you eat or any other aspect of your lifestyle is always an adjustment at first.
While the Paleo diet gets a bad rap for emphasizing red meat, the truth is that it promotes eating a wide range of vegetables. As Loren Cordain, who is considered to be the founder of the Paleo movement writes on his website,
“Most people should aim for at least nine servings (at least 4½ cups) of vegetables and fruits a day, and potatoes don’t count. Go for a variety of kinds and colors of produce, to give your body the mix of nutrients it needs. Best bets? Dark leafy greens, cooked tomatoes, and anything that’s a rich yellow, orange, or red color.”
Of course, there is scientific evidence that processed foods are not what you want to be consuming on a regular basis. In 2015, a University of Michigan study confirmed that the most addictive foods are those that come from a box, jar or can (5). And in 2016, another study found that 57.9 percent of calories in a typical American’s diet are from processed food (6), a startling realization since that is over half of what people are eating on a daily basis.
Pro #3: Emphasis On Healthy Fats
As you may have guessed from seeing that a common Paleo breakfast includes egg and bacon, the Paleo diet believes that you should eat healthy fats. These include olive oil, butter if you are not sensitive to dairy, avocados, avocado oil, fatty fish such as salmon, and nuts and seeds.
If you eat enough fat, you will be full, you will no longer feel the need to snack all day long, and you will have more energy. Since concentrating and focusing at work are important, that is great news, right? (7)
Those who follow a Paleo diet have the right idea: fat (as in the right fats) are really good for you. According to experts, you want to be eating omega-3 fats such as fish on a regular basis because you will be warding off Alzheimer’s disease, joint problems, depression and heart disease.
You will also need to eat foods such as eggs which have omega-6 fats, and making sure that you consume a combination of both omega-3s and 6s is a strong part of the Paleo diet, so you will be covered.
Pro #4: Fairly Low In Carbs
While some people say that Paleo is a low-carbohydrate diet, that is not technically true. Yes, the Paleo diet is a low-starch diet, which means that you do not consume starches such as rice, bread and pasta (which include grains and are therefore off-limits).
But you can still eat Paleo-friendly carbs such as sweet potatoes and root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, plantains, and squash.
The truth is that eating Paleo will naturally mean consuming less carbs since you will no longer be eating cereal or oatmeal for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch. There are some benefits to going lower carb. Experts say that the amount of carbs you would be eating would be 60 to 130 grams.
The general idea is that people cut down on the carbs in order to drop some pounds, but if you suffer from blood sugar issues or another health condition, you might benefit from a Paleo diet’s lower carb approach.
Pro #5: Emphasis On CrossFit And Other Lifestyle Factors
The final thing to know about the Paleo diet is that it is considered a lifestyle, which means that there are more factors than just the food that you will be eating.
Movement is definitely part of being Paleo. The workout program that is associated with Paleo is CrossFit. So what is CrossFit?
Greg Glassman created this workout that the website describes as “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.” Some of the exercises are influenced by rowing, running, gymnastics and lifting weights. The idea is that you exert all of your effort and energy into these exercises in a fairly brief period of time.
The other lifestyle factors that the Paleo diet takes note of? You should be getting outside every day (and being in the sunlight is best). You should also manage stress and get enough sleep. Another crucial factor of going Paleo is understanding that working out and maintaining social relationships are important parts of a healthy life.
Now that you know that the Paleo diet is generally a high-protein, high-fat and low carb eating plan and that getting enough exercise and sleep are part of the deal, what do you think about it? Does this seem like a diet that you want to follow.