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What Is the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo Diet: Are Our Ancestors the Key to Weight Loss?

The Paleo Diet, or Caveman Diet, is gaining momentum in the fitness world as a healthy way to lose weight. My trainer is all about the Paleo Diet — a meal plan based on the dietary habits of our Paleolithic, cave-dwelling ancestors. We're talking wild game, meat, and seafood, and vegetables, fruit, seeds, and nuts. What you won't find as part of the Paleo Diet are foods that developed during the agricultural and industrial eras like grains, dairy, legumes, refined sugars, and any other processed foods.

Given the Paleo Diet's low-carb leanings, it makes sense that it's gaining popularity as an effective way to lose weight. On the calorie meter, protein, vegetables, and fruit give a lot of bang for the buck, and the elimination of grains, refined sugars, and legumes can dramatically drop a person's daily calorie intake. The big question is whether or not the Paleo Diet is healthy and can be sustained for the long run.

Keep reading to find out if the Paleo Diet is a healthy solution to weight loss.

Despite its growing popularity, the focus and underlying philosophy of the Paleo Diet is not weight loss. Developed in the '70s by a gastroenterologist, the Paleo Diet is touted for improving a person's general overall health. Paleo Diet proponents say the human body has not evolved to handle the foods developed since the rise of agriculture, and, because of this, we've become more susceptible to health problems, especially digestive (IBS, indigestion, and both gluten or lactose intolerance, to name a few). To curb these disorders, it's argued that we need to move back to our hunter-gatherer roots. Both nutritionists and those in the medical field are split on the validity of this argument, and making the merits of this back-to-nature diet fuzzier are numerous studies, which show support for both sides.


Evolutionary arguments aside, weight loss has been a common (and sometimes welcomed) side effect of those following the Paleo Diet. Let's be real, when's the last time you saw a cave painting of a fat Neanderthal? Studies continue to show that a diet high in protein and low in carbs is optimal for weight loss, and, unlike the bacon-fueled low-carb diets of the '90s, the Paleo Diet promotes a wide range of healthy proteins without being too meat-centric. Since hunting and fishing are not viable options for most of us, the emphasis is put on store-bought grass-fed meat, wild seafood, and organic eggs. Compared to factory-farmed meat, grass-fed is leaner, free of antibiotics and hormones, higher in omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, and less likely to carry E. coli strains. While all fruits and veggies are allowed (unlike earlier versions of the Paleo Diet), it's encouraged to avoid fruits with a high glycemic index rating. Besides animal protein sources, fats in the Paleo Diet come from seed-, vegetable-, and nut-based oils and fruits like avocado and coconut. What the Paleo Diet does continue to exclude are dairy, grains and pseudograins (like quinoa), legumes, starchy vegetables, processed foods, fruit juice, refined sugars, and high-sodium foods. Beyond weight loss, the Paleo Diet may also be a good elimination diet to follow if you're looking to see if you have any sensitivities to gluten or dairy. (Make sure to reintroduce gluten and dairy slowly so you can see how it may or may not affect you.)

In terms of sustainability, I'm on the fence, mostly given the incredible benefits of whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy. There are some approaches to the Paleo Diet that allow for a small amount of grains, but, even in these instances, the diet is no dairy and very low grain. If you do embark on the Paleo Diet, be diligent about eating high-fibrous, calcium-rich fruits and veggies and taking a multivitamin to help supplement the RDAs for nutrients (like vitamin D) that you may fall short of on the diet. It's also important to make sure you are getting enough calories since it's likely that calorie counts are going to be much lower when your diet is composed mainly of lean protein and plants. Like any restrictive diet, the Paleo Diet will require a little more thought when it comes to dining out or meal planning.

Has anyone out there tried the Paleo Diet? What did you think of the results?

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Join The Conversation
PaleoWorks PaleoWorks 5 years
As a result of some of the above comments I feel they need to know the following as many perceive it to be a isn't not that is if you want to live as long as possible and be as fit as possible. So here goes... It's a sad fact that the majority of people in the UK are obtaining their foods from boxes, cartons and packages (manufactured, artificially modified 'food') as a result they become addicted to sugar without even knowing it. As with all addictions people don’t like to admit they have a problem because this in turn means they need to do something about it. There is no getting away from the fact that Sugar is at the heart of not just the obesity pandemics but also many chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, leaky gut, autoimmune etc. the list goes on and on. Consuming a diet based on nutrient dense plants and animals is the way the rest of the animal kingdom eats and thus ought to be the way we all eat (including our pets and livestock). We have been misled now for almost 40 years with crap about low fat and reducing calorific intake, why? well there is no scientific reason whatsoever. Political or commercial? Maybe but we’re only concerned with resolving the obesity issue and not interested in pointing the finger of blame. All we need to concern ourselves with is that this is the diet of choice for longevity, performance, to combat illness, weight loss and avoid all those nasty degenerative diseases. Stoneage, Caveman call it what you like, what is not in question is Paleo-Works!
LazerClaire LazerClaire 5 years
Also my old diet consisted of mainly whole foods as well. I ate a lot of vegetarian dishes like lentils, homemade pintos lots of beans. I made my own tortillas & had whole grains daily. I was no stranger to healthy homemade eating.
LazerClaire LazerClaire 5 years
This diet is a miracle cure in my book. I had itchy blisters on my hans & foot for YEARS. Drs threw creams at me, I took an antihistamine daily to control the itching. Within 3 days of giving up bread the blisters were gone, I decided to go all the way & give up all grains, then milk & nightshade vegetables. The occurrence of daily loose bowels subsided then. Many people have helped their infertility problems on this diet. The other amazing benefit, despite the fact that I have hypothyroid, the weight is just melting off. For years I went to the gym daily & worked hard with no weight loss. I had really resigned myself to being fat. I still exercise but not as hard as I used to. For years I said I could never give up X, be it dairy, bread, or whatever, let me tell you once your health problems are cured nothing will make you want to eat the food that was making you sick. Also no more lethargy, I have an abundance of energy. Paleo lifestyle is the way to go!
LD-fit LD-fit 5 years
I've been eating prety close to a paleo diet for about 4 months now and i lovveeeee it! I allow myself cheats from time to time. but i eat almond butter, eggs, spinach, avocado, turkey, chicken, fish, beef, coconut oil and a variety of other foods. i miss my oats form time to time but that is what a cheat meal is for- there are so many easy alternatives on paleo too- almond milk, occasional coconut milk etc.... my digestive issues are gone, bloated heavy feelings gone, and i have lost a bit of weight
janetmouse janetmouse 5 years
I've been hearing more and more how paleo is the best way to eat. I'm also unsure about the no grains part...rice and quinoa are a staple for me.
amber512 amber512 5 years
Interesting. I knew that peanuts are legumes, but didn't think about how that might relate to beans. I have never met anyone allergic to beans, although I do know that the starchy nature of beans often gives people gas. I never really thought about being intolerant of them before. Soaking them or buying canned beans that use nori in the cooking process seems to work for me.
Michele-Foley Michele-Foley 5 years
@amber512, good question. Peanuts are actually a type of legume, though having a peanut allergy doesn't necessarily mean that you're allergic to all legumes (lentils, beans, peas, etc.). Maybe it's just a way to figure out if they make you too bloated?
amber512 amber512 5 years
I keep rerearding the list of the top eight allergens and can't seem to find beans on it. Do you mean lots of people are intolerant of beans?
chelseaann34 chelseaann34 5 years
by the way... vinegar and sweet potatoes are just fine for paleo (sweet potatoes are only restricted onto the occasional list for people who want to lose weight fast, because they are starchy) beans and peanuts (legumes) on the other hand are restricted because they are the number two top allergen in the country. Most people have a slight intolerance to them (some don't even know that their body reacts negatively to them, they might have milder symptoms such as acne or bloating). There is a reason they are restricted. :)
chelseaann34 chelseaann34 5 years
I am a trainer in Portland, Oregon and I am hooked on this lifestyle. It's something that has never failed me with a client, as long as they can get it down for a couple of weeks... it's usually something that will stick once they see the fast results (quick weight loss/high energy/better sleep/less break outs). BevyBev: when it comes to your issue, I would always recommend you supplement with a digestive enzyme, you could pick one up at your local health food section... it will help you to reproduce a natural enzyme that your body has stopped making:) your problem will go away pretty quick!
kayalaarella kayalaarella 5 years
Don't be silly. Anytime you adopt a whole-foods diet you're going to experience health benefits. But you don't have to eat like you think a romanticized version of a Neanderthal might have once eaten a very, very long time ago in order to reap those benefits. This is a fad diet just like any other, complete with idiotic restrictions like no vinegar, sweet potatoes or beans.
amber512 amber512 5 years
While I don't eat any meat, I think this is actually a lot closer to what we should be eating versus the processed junk too many people subsist on.
OoopsHeather OoopsHeather 5 years
I wish I had the kind of dedication/will-power to follow that plan!
bevybev bevybev 5 years
all of that meat protein just weighs me down, (no pun intended) and it is hard to have a decent bowel movement.
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