You might not think that eating like a caveman sounds like the right dietary plan for the modern human. But, there are thousands of people around the world that eat in a Paleo-style fashion, attributing better health and body composition to the diet protocols.
But, nothing is magic! So, what are the actual benefits of a Paleo diet?
What Is The Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet is a set of principles that show that primitive man in the Paleolithic era had the healthiest diet in history. These people were hunter-gatherers and didn’t settle in one area for too long performing all sorts of paleo exercises during their everyday life.
Then, the advent of modern agriculture also invented the idea of a home, where you live the majority of your life and food is brought close to you, usually from a farm. Grains burst onto the scene and health gradually declined, as the Paleo-followers would say.
Now, there are quite a few branches off of the Paleo dietary tree, and many of them have different ideologies about what foods are the best to eat and which we should avoid.
This splintering has caused the diet to be labeled a fad and caused mass-confusion about the diet.
But, this dietary protocol shines best when you look at the foods you should avoid, instead of which foods you can eat!
What Foods Are Allowed, Or Disallowed?
Instead of looking at the diet of a Paleolithic family and trying to eat exactly like them, you should look at the types of foods they ate versus the types of food we eat in the modern Western world.
Our diets are full of grains, processed foods, inorganic produce, and industrial seed oils full of unhealthy fats.
The diet of a primitive family would be organic animal products, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for the most part.
Do you see the vast difference?
This difference is what has led this dietary “revolution” called Paleo.
But, we aren’t going to be eating ancient varieties of animals and plants, since they aren’t even around anymore. We translate the idea to modern foods and go from there.
As for specific foods, it’s hard to nail down. If you check the Primal Blueprint shopping list, you’ll see it has many differences from other Paleo iterations.
However, the majority of the Paleo-based diets do cut out a few things for sure:
- Most grains and grain-based products
- Most processed foods full of chemicals and preservatives
- Inorganic produce and animal products, if feasible
- Industrial seed oils (corn, soybean, canola, etc)
Cutting out these foods and replacing them with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and animal products creates a healthier diet.
One thing to note is that the traditional Paleo diet cuts out dairy altogether, but this can lead to a calcium deficiency since plant-based calcium sources are poorly utilized by the body. That’s why many Paleo-based diets now include dairy products that are tolerated by the consumer, whether they come from cattle, goats, or another animal.
The Benefits Of Paleo Diet Adherence
There are many benefits of eating more like a hunter-gatherer than a typical citizen of the Western world. Here are the few that can’t be disputed, even by those who don’t agree with Paleo principles!
Less Refined Foods
Paleo diets cut out the majority of refined foods in favor of fresh foods. Many refined foods are high in synthetic chemicals and preservatives that may build up in our body over time and raise the risk for diseases.
The focus on fresh cuts out things like chips, cookies, cake, muffins, doughnuts, and many other traditional foods that are seen as unhealthy and provide too many calories, which can lead to weight gain and worsening health.
Less Omega 6 Fatty Acid Intake
While the focus over the past couple of decades has been about how saturated fats are unhealthy, the research is slowly changing this concept. Now, saturated fats from healthy sources like you see in the Paleo diet are considered healthy and essential.
Instead, Omega 6 fatty acids are coming into the spotlight as a major contributor to disease. They are consumed far too much in our society with the rampant use of seed oils, like corn, soybean, and rapeseed oils that find their way in the majority of processed and fast foods.
There are Omega 6 fatty acids in nuts and seeds and other Paleo-based foods, but followers of Paleo tend to get far more Omega 3 fatty acids than the Standard American Diet. This balance between Omega 6s and Omega 3s is the main driver of the health-based consequences of fatty acid intake.
Less Sugar & Trans Fats
High Fructose Corn Syrup and hydrogenated fats have been demonized for a while now. They are consumed too much and they have health implications that can be avoided by following a Paleo diet.
A hunter-gatherer style diet cuts out almost all possible sources of HFCS and trans fats.
More Micronutrient Intake
Organic fruits and vegetables are ripe with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Grass-fed ruminants are rich in many micronutrients as well.
The focus on these natural foods over processed foods helps raise the micronutrient intake for its users.
The focus on locally grown/raised and organic makes variety a priority as well, which can help reduce any chance of deficiency.
Plenty Of Recipes & Paleo-Friendly Replacements
The diet has been around long enough to have commercial brands jumping on the bandwagon and creating Paleo-friendly products that can replace traditional foods. Nowadays internet is full of of quick and delicious Paleo recipes like: pancakes, bread, muffins, or paleo drink.
While these shouldn’t be a huge source of your calorie intake, they are perfect when you have cravings but don’t want to veer off track. These Paleo-friendly substitutes are much healthier than the traditional foods they are based on. Just don’t make them a habit and ensure you stay focused on fresh!
Ready To Try Paleo?
This diet has gained huge popularity in a lot of fitness area, from people training running on a paleo diet to strength training. You don’t have to go hunt and gather foods to use the Paleo diet. In fact, you aren’t eating like a caveman at all! But, you are using the same principles to ensure the food you eat is as healthy as possible!