Paleo Diet – your questions answered
Paleo Diet – your questions answered
- How to make the Paleo Diet suit me
- What ideas are the paleo diet based on?
- Why a Paleo Diet?
- Just what are the benefits of ‘going Paleo’?
- Paleo-friendly foods
- What foods should you avoid if you are paleo?
- Paleo-friendly drinks
- Paleo-friendly snacks
- How we can help you
How to make the Paleo Diet suit me
Everyone seems to have an opinion of the paleo diet at the moment – some claim that it’s bad news for your health whilst others espouse it’s a cure all for everything.
There are, however, many variations on the paleo diet. Some plans are strict, some less so but ultimately, when it is tailored to suit your individual health needs and lifestyle, it can be life changing.
What ideas are the paleo diet based on?
The paleo diet, also known as the Palaeolithic diet, Stone Age diet, hunter-gatherer diet and caveman diet, is based on foods similar to what might have been eaten during the Palaeolithic era, which dates from approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.
A paleo diet typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — foods that in the past could be obtained by hunting and gathering. A paleo diet typically limits foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago. These foods include dairy products, legumes and grains. 1
We now know, however, that optimal results can come from not defining it as a diet as such “and start thinking about it instead as a “Paleo template.’” 2
We all know how difficult it is to follow a very strict diet, often packing it in before any benefits can even be seen. Following a template enables us to experiment with what works best for the individual; to be more flexible to fit in with each person’s needs. You can see what foods work for you and what don’t; what makes you feel well and what doesn’t.
Why a Paleo Diet?
The aim of a paleo diet is to return to a way of eating that’s more like what early humans ate. We are genetically mismatched to our modern diet which emerged with farming practices.
Farming changed what people ate and established dairy, grains and legumes as additional staples in the human diet. This relatively late and rapid change in diet outpaced the body’s ability to adapt. This mismatch is believed to be a contributing factor to the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease today.
These foods, such as grains and processed dairy are the source of the most common triggers and intolerance’s we see in clinic, even in those without Celiac disease.
Just what are the benefits of ‘going Paleo’?
Combined with increased physical activity, a well-executed paleo diet is one way to focus on nutrient dense foods and a sustainable approach to weight loss and better health.
In fact, the paleo diet is considered one of the best diet plans for improved weight loss due to the high protein, high fat and low carb intake. It is associated with a number of health benefits including improved blood sugar and reduced inflammation – which is the basis for many chronic diseases, including autoimmune disorders, cancers, and heart disease—and promotes healthy aging. 3
Some health benefits of the paleo diet include:
Improves weight loss
Following a paleo diet is very helpful in losing weight. While every individual is different, almost all of us can benefit from swapping processed foods and artificial ingredients for nutrient-dense foods. This way, you can easily cut calories and help you lose unwanted kilos.
It’s good to remember, however, that your weight loss will also be impacted by other factors such as your activity level, how many calories you’re consuming, how much you’re sleeping and what other nutrient deficiencies and pre-existing hormone imbalances you may have.
Helps increase protein intake
One of the biggest issues with most diets today is the lack of protein. Protein plays a huge role in repairing and building muscle tissue, maintaining blood sugar levels, building muscle mass, and transferring messages to different cells.
“A large body of evidence suggests that high protein diets are effective for fat loss. Protein is more satiating than fat and carbohydrate, which means we feel more satisfied when we eat it. When we feel more satisfied, we naturally eat less—and lose weight without trying.” 4
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural response from your body’s immune system. It is a protective measure and a direct response to attempt to protect the body from foreign substances. When acute inflammation occurs in the body, white blood cells flood areas that are under siege and it effectively increases blood flow to the specific area. When you suffer from whole body inflammation, it can be classified as chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation typically doesn’t show the same symptoms as acute inflammation. Instead, it can go undetected and remain under-the-radar for long periods of time.
While inflammation is your body’s natural defence mechanism, chronic inflammation is what you want to avoid. Chronic inflammation is at the root of most diseases you see today such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Fatigue, brain fog, lethargy, moodiness, gut issues and overall poor health are associated with chronic inflammation.
How can diet reduce inflammation?
Diet can play an integral role in fighting inflammation.
One of the biggest issues associated with modern day diet is the abundance of processed foods, sugars and omega-9 fatty acids.
Studies have shown that highly processed foods and carbohydrates can promote whole-body inflammation by increasing the number of free radicals in the body. It has also been shown that healthy fats can play a critical role in decreasing the level of inflammation throughout the body.
The paleo diet is grain-fee and promotes the consumption of healthy fatty acids like omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables and healthy protein, all which have a beneficial impact on the body and its fight against whole-body inflammation. Grass fed meats have a much higher omega 3 to 6 ratio than commercially produced meats and should always be the preferred option.
Improves nutritional deficiencies
The paleo diet cuts out all heavily processed and refined foods and prioritizes nutrient-dense foods. These foods are key as they provide a number of essential vitamins and minerals your diet might otherwise be lacking.
For example, adding more red meat to your diet can help improve your iron levels while adding more fatty fish and nuts can increase your levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Helps regulate blood sugar levels
The paleo diet doesn’t include many carbohydrates, restricting a number of different grains that play a role in high blood sugar levels. The paleo diet is mainly made up of protein and healthy fats which are both slowly digested, keeping blood sugar levels stable. This avoids the spike in blood sugar you would otherwise see in a meal full of grains.
Improved mental health
Several studies suggest that gluten may contribute to depression symptoms in some people. This does not mean that everyone who eliminates gluten will see their mental health issues disappear, but it is a distinct possibility for some people so worth giving a gluten-free diet a try. 5
What foods can you eat on the paleo diet?
The paleo diet is based around the idea that certain foods are what our bodies were meant to eat, not the processed foods and additives you see so much of today.
Paleo foods include plenty of plant-based fats, grass-fed and wild caught proteins, and nearly all fruits and vegetables. Because a paleo diet excludes all grains – including wheat, rye and barley, a paleo diet is also naturally gluten-free.
An added benefit of the paleo diet is the simplicity of it. The rule to “eat foods a caveman would have access to” makes it very easy to shop, plan, and stick with the diet. 6
However, just as there was variation in what our ancestors ate, there is also variation in what works for each person. Some people clearly do better with no dairy products. Yet others seem to thrive on them. Some feel better with a low-carb approach, while others feel better eating more carbohydrate. The key is to personalize your approach to meet your own unique needs. 7
Paleo-zealots will insist that you follow the diet 100% of the time, However, I believe in flexibility – fitting in with what your body and lifestyle needs. You’ll get most of the benefits by following it 80–90% of the time.
Paleo-friendly foods include:
- Grass-fed meat
- Wild-caught fish and seafood
- Chicken – free range or organic
- Pork – local free range
- Bacon – nitrate free
- Turkey – free range
- Fresh fruits (apples, berries, melon, grapes, bananas, lemons, oranges, limes, peaches, plums)
- Fresh vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cabbage, spinach)
- Eggs – organic or free range
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pine nuts, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed)
- Oils (including coconut, avocado, macadamia, flaxseed, olive, walnut)8
What foods should you avoid if you are paleo?
- Grains (bread, rice, oats, pasta and quinoa)
- White potatoes – eat on occasion, not as a staple
- Dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese)
- Legumes (peanuts, beans, lentils and tofu)
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Soft drinks and sweetened beverages
- Refined vegetable oils
- Overly salty foods
- Artificial sweeteners 9
Look for simple drink options, made without artificial sweetener or too much added sugar, like the following:
- Different types of water such as sparkling water, sparkling mineral water, soda water or other types of carbonated water.
- Bone broth
- Herbal, caffeine-free teas
- Coffee and other caffeinated drinks
- Coconut water
- Freshly juiced fruits and vegetables when consumed with their pulp
- Drinks containing natural sweeteners such as raw honey, stevia, etc.
- Drinks sweetened with stevia or sugar alcohols
Paleo-friendly snacks include:
- Whole fruit
Fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, pears
Almonds and other nuts are a simple yet effective portable and highly nutritious paleo-friendly snack.
- Paleo-friendly protein bars
Be sure to read the nutrition label before purchasing protein bars at your local grocery store. Or you can make your own paleo-friendly protein bars at home.
How we can help you
If you think the paleo diet may be a good option for you, our experts at Advanced Functional Medicine can help you to tailor a diet plan to suit your health needs and lifestyle.
We recommend dietary guidelines to all our patients whether they are coming in for weight loss or to reverse long term chronic disease.
Call us now or fill out the enquiry form below.