Just like everyone who is new to the concept of changing the way they eat, you are probably wondering, “What is Paleo?” While a lot of people who ask this question are looking for a clear-cut answer, there is not a simple answer. There is a great deal of research necessary before you make the life-changing decision of following the hunter-gatherer’s diet. There is even more research necessary to determine exactly what will be included in your or your family’s diet plan and how each person or family will follow the diet for their own benefit. We will approach this as a comprehensive guide to the Paleo Diet for beginners.
- 1 The Paleo Diet Basics
- 2 A Brief History
- 3 Early Experiments Into The Stone-Age Diet
- 4 Paleo Diet Plan Popularity
- 5 What is Omitted From the Paleo Diet and Why
- 6 The Difference Between Noom and Other Plans and Programs
- 7 Paleo Food Lists
- 8 Why are Grains Not Allowed on The Paleo Diet?
- 9 The Dangers of Eating Grains
- 10 Carbs and Healthy Fats on the Paleo Diet
- 11 More Details on What You Should Eat While Following the Paleo Diet Plan
- 12 What to Drink on the Paleo Diet
- 13 List of Food Tips for the Paleo Diet
- 14 Pros and Cons of the Paleo Diet
- 15 Possible Risks and Dangers Associated with the Paleo Diet
- 16 Quick Tips for Following the Paleo Diet
- 17 Important Tips About the Paleo Diet
- 18 Comparing the Paleo Diet to Keto
- 19 What is the Paleo Diet?
- 20 What is the Keto Diet?
- 21 Similarities Between the Paleo Diet and the Keto Diet
- 22 Key Differences Between the Paleo and Keto Diets
- 23 The Final Take on the Paleo Diet
- 24 Paleo Diet QA
The Paleo Diet Basics
The basics of the diet may initially seem set in stone, but they are not. Most people assume the plan is focused on eating a diet with high meat content, limiting the number of vegetables, and omitting carbohydrates if you want to see results as part of your nutritional plan. However, this is far from the truth.
The Paleo Diet can be followed in the manner described above, but you can also follow the vegetarian style or vegan approach. The key is to find an option that works for you and stick with it.
By following this diet, researchers are hoping to prove the discordance hypothesis or the hypothesis that following the Paleo Diet, as our ancestors did, will reduce the risk of developing certain diseases.
Currently, the discordance hypothesis is yet to be proven, and current research results are not promising for proving this in the future.
The primary objective is to avoid eating a carb-calorie dense diet. This is because a carb-calorie dense diet is completely against the Paleo rules since most carbohydrates are not allowed unless they come from foods that are not derived from grains, legumes, or sodium-rich processed foods.
Before jumping into a restrictive diet like the Paleo Diet, partner with a personal health coach to see what plan is best for your weight-loss and health needs with Noom. Then, allow your coach to help guide you along your journey to success.
A Brief History
The Paleolithic diet, which is also commonly referred to as the Stone-Age diet and the Caveman diet, began its life as a fad, but eventually became a way of life for a lot of people. The basic premise of the diet is to focus on foods that were consumed before the Neolithic revolution when farming became the primary method of obtaining food. (History)
Hunter-gatherers around the world consumed the foods that are focused on. Studies have been done to determine its effectiveness and to decide whether people experienced weight loss, or suffered from any side effects. A lot of people liked what they heard as a whole. Let’s dive into the diet and find out about its history.
Even though the concept was brought to light by modern-day humans, there is no true founder of the Stone-Age diet. The diet developed thousands of years ago. More recently, modern-day fitness gurus and scientists merged together to research the concept and determine whether eating according to the way human ancestors did could be beneficial to people now. While a few dozen people can be accredited with starting the Paleo Diet trend, our caveman ancestors began eating this diet out of necessity, not for health reasons.
It has been well-documented in scientific studies that we share the same DNA as our caveman ancestors. If we look back in time and rely on scientific studies, we can see that our genetic makeup was not meant for the world we are currently living in. We actually live a polar opposite life from what our DNA wants us to experience. This is thought to be one of the possible reasons why diseases are becoming more prevalent. It is also why the disease is more prevalent in developed countries than it is in areas that still rely on the hunter-gatherer way of life.
In the last few decades, as our methods of growing food have changed, diseases like cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and arthritis have become more common. More frightening, they have become accepted as part of everyday life, and something we just have to live with. All of these diseases are becoming more common as more and more things are being manufactured, rather than sourced from nature in their natural form.
The agricultural revolution made a lot of changes in what humans ate and the way food was grown. Since this only happened about 10,000 years ago, the human genome was pretty solid in what is needed to function.
Following this timeline, you can see that foods like grains, flours, and oils have only been part of the human diet for a few hundred years. Upon careful examination of skeletons from before these foods came to be part of the human diet, scientists have found that the diseases we suffer from today simply did not exist. If they did, they existed in a very small portion of the population.
By simple deduction and examination, scientists have found that we do not need the abundance of carbohydrates and processed foods found on supermarket shelves today to sustain our bodies.
Early Experiments Into The Stone-Age Diet
In the early 1900s, a man named Joseph Knowles became famous for his survival skills. He spent two months in the wilderness, in one of the roughest parts of Maine and lived the way he felt nature intended him to live. He wrote down all of his experience on tree bark with simple pieces of charcoal. His stories were of eating berries, learning to fish and hunt, and living at one with nature.
It is even documented that he used tree bark to make shoes and clothes to protect him from the elements. At times, when there were no berries or game meats, he was forced to eat tree bark to sustain himself. At times, he was forced to consume the roots of various plants.
Even though Knowles ate nontraditional foods for two months, his digestion was inspected by doctors and found to be perfect, which was a serious surprise to researchers.
Before and after his stay in the wilderness, Knowles kept very careful records of his vital signs. When he returned, he realized he lost 10 pounds and grew an entire inch, which is not a common feat for an adult male. It is also documented that his muscles increased in size, and his average lung capacity was notably improved. Not only did he become healthier from his diet, the effort he put into hunting, searching, and gathering his food made him stronger and healthier.
Paleo Diet Plan Popularity
Even though the diet was initially created out of necessity, it did not become popular in modern society until the 1970s. It was brought back to light by a well-known gastroenterologist named Walter L. Voegtlin. He is the most notable person to advocate for the diet, and how it can improve the health and well-being of followers.
He is well-known for prescribing unique medical treatments to his patients based on his own research. He was noted to prescribe the Stone-Age Diet to patients who suffered from common conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome and indigestion. He actively followed in-depth studies that were based on the ecology of humans and the history of the diet of man.
In 1975, he wrote the book, “The Stone Age Diet: Based on In-Depth Studies of Human Ecology and the Diet of Man.” While other diets were considered fad diets, this diet had research studies and scientific evidence supporting the health benefits.
During the 1970s, the diet did not receive much attention. However, during the 1990s, nutritionists began taking notice of the benefits this diet supposedly provided and began recommending the Paleo lifestyle to their patients.
So, what foods can you eat on the Paleo Diet?
What is Omitted From the Paleo Diet and Why
This diet omits foods that were not commonly consumed until farming became a popular method of obtaining food, which occurred around 10,000 years ago. As the need arose, and understanding of how to grow crops developed, farming took over, and crops were grown in abundance out of necessity, and for comfort reasons. Over time, new forms of food were added to the human diet, many of which were omitted by the Stone-Age diet, or the Caveman diet. The foods that are limited or omitted from this diet include dairy, and grain-based foods, just to name a few. (National Geographic)
When farming became a common method of obtaining foods, dairy, and the products that can be made from it became a staple in the human diet. Grains and legumes also made their way into the diets of humans because they are filling, and they provided sustenance during colder months. Unfortunately, these foods also contain less than savory proteins, such as gluten and lectins.
But if Cavemen didn’t eat them, why were humans tempted after the agricultural revolution? Simply put, they were easier to store and easier to grow than previous options for consuming natural fats, but they were not considered natural foods that are better for the digestive system.
According to promoters of Paleo, changing the human diet so close, and so rapidly in the evolutionary chain caused significant reactions within the human population. They claim this caused the increase in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, which is increasingly getting worse, and with other changes in agriculture that occurred through the 19th century, the basis behind their argument becomes more valid. (Mayo Clinic)
The Difference Between Noom and Other Plans and Programs
When it comes to learning how to eat and how to live for weight loss, Noom works from a psychological perspective. According to the Chief of Psychology for Noom, Dr. Andreas Michaelides, “By understanding the past behaviors and attitudes of all types of users, we know the best way to meet our users where they are in their journey to help them maximize their change of long-term weight-loss success.” Noom, as a weight-loss platform, uses the power of food logging, among other advanced technologies, to teach simple, key behaviors for lasting change. Behavior changes that include self-efficacy, motivation, and knowledge are just the start of how psychology can interact with food, so you lose more weight in a way that lasts a lifetime.
Noom works with tech-based tools partnered with support from real-life coaches in a structured program that connects the user with the social support and positive reinforcement needed to change behavior in a way that increases the likelihood of success.
Not all dietary changes are for everyone, and no two weight-loss plans should be the same, which is precisely how Noom works. By identifying specific areas where changes can be made to reach goals of weight loss and health improvement successfully, users realize where their best changes are to be made and how those changes are incorporated into a lifestyle they can adopt for the long-term.
Paleo Food Lists
If you are going to be a successful follower of the diet, you will need to follow basic Paleo rules. These rules give guidance into what you can and cannot eat.
The traditional form of the diet requires that you only eat the following:
- Lean Meats
While this may seem like a limited number of offerings, there are several hundred options hidden in these little categories.
We will explain these categories more in-depth below.
Your Food Goals
The goal of this diet is to eat the same way that our Paleolithic ancestors did. As such, you can only consume specific foods. Because of the restrictions, you should talk to your doctor before deciding if it is right for you. Changing your diet is not an easy task, and it is not easy on your body either. It will take time for your body to adjust to your new way of eating, so you should be prepared for this.
What Will You Notice About The Allowed Food List
The first thing you will notice about the list of allowed foods is that there are no processed foods. The foods on this list are as close to their natural form as possible, and meats are trimmed of most of their visible fat.
You will also notice that grains have been eliminated. Legumes have been taken out, and almost all dairy is barely present at all. There have been countless studies, and countless man-hours put into determining whether there could be solid evidence-based studies showing that the diet is healthier than eating a plan packed in carbohydrates and unnecessary filler products. However, there is not a lot of evidence supporting all of the aspects of the strict Caveman diet.
Since you will be eating fewer carbohydrates, you will need to plan your meals more effectively to ensure that you are eating enough natural foods to provide your body with fuel to get through your busy day. This means you will need to balance natural-food products carefully, and sources that contain natural fats to maintain your body.
It is important to know what to eat while you are on a diet. It is just as important to know what not to eat and why.
Learn What’s Off Limits
Since the Stone-Age diet does not allow any food that was not readily available during the Paleolithic age, there are a lot of modern foods that are off-limits on this diet.
Essentially, if a food is processed, it should not be consumed. You should also eliminate any food that includes:
- Refined Sugar
- Processed Foods
- Overly Salty Foods
- Refined Vegetable Oil
- Junk Foods
- Processed Foods
- Processed Meats
- Legumes (including peanuts)
These foods are not considered natural foods and violate the Paleo rules. So if you are considering adding any of these to your menu, you need to think twice.
Why are Grains Not Allowed on The Paleo Diet?
One of the most frequently asked questions about the Paleo Diet is whether followers can consume grain products. This is also the easiest question to answer. You cannot consume grains on this diet.
Even though the government has included almost every grain you can think of on their food pyramid, the Paleo Diet does not allow them. This is for several reasons, and we will cover two of them here.
The two primary reasons the Caveman diet does not support the consumption of grains are:
- Carbohydrate Content
Let’s approach them one at a time.
Grains are considered natural food, but they are one of the few natural foods that are packed with simple carbohydrates.
The problem with simple carbohydrates is that they break down into sugar quickly during digestion. Their rapid breakdown increases blood sugar and causes rapid spikes in insulin.
Chronically high insulin levels can lead to weight gain because the body stores extra glucose as fat, instead of eliminating it.
Since it is stored, body weight increases rapidly. Over time, excessive consumption of simple carbohydrates can lead to obesity and symptoms of pre-diabetes.
Grains contain large amounts of what science considers to be anti-nutrients. The three anti-nutrients the Stone-Age diet focuses on are as follows:
Let’s review what each of these anti-nutrients is.
Lectins are considered by the Paleo Diet to be anti-nutrients. They can be found in various plant species, but are found in higher concentrations in grain-based foods.
The primary purpose of lectins is to prevent attack from predators that feed on the plant, allowing the plant to survive until harvest.
While lectins are difficult to avoid completely, reducing or eliminating grain intake can make a serious impact. But what problems does lectin cause to humans?
Lectins are meant to protect the plant. However, when they are ingested by humans, they can cause damage to the intestines and problems related to the intestinal bacteria that provide protection. They can also lead to a condition known as leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is a condition associated with pre-diabetes and has to be carefully monitored.
Even though you cannot completely eliminate lectins from your diet, grains contain the highest concentration of them in the food world. This is why the Paleo Diet has eliminated them.
Gluten is a component that is contained in grains. Gluten is such a major digestive offender, we will dedicate an entire section to it later.
Gluten is a protein, but it can cause an allergic reaction in certain people. Gluten causes serious digestive issues in at least one-third of the human population. But what symptoms does it cause?
This list of symptoms is only a brief overview. It is not a comprehensive list, so check with your doctor if you feel that you have gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity. (Beyond Celiac, Gluten.org)
The symptoms that gluten can cause include:
- Stomach Pain
People experiencing severe reactions that occur continuously are typically tested to see if they qualify for a diagnosis of celiac disease. A negative result does not mean the person does not have a gluten intolerance, though. (Celiac.org)
Over time, celiac disease causes damage to the villi that are located in the small intestine, causing serious medical ramifications.
Phytates are important to plants. They are the main type of energy storage. They are the salt form of Phytic acid. While they are beneficial to plants, humans are unable to digest this material. (Healthline)
While this does not initially sound like a serious problem, diving into what phytates do to the human body can be a little disturbing. They bind to essential minerals, making it impossible to absorb them. The primary minerals that are affected are:
This means that no matter how many minerals you are taking in, your body cannot use them because an anti-mineral claims them before you can absorb them.
Even gluten-free foods contain anti-nutrients, and their carbohydrates cause intestinal discomfort. Keeping an eye on foods that bother your stomach and digestion can save you a lot of discomfort over time.
The Dangers of Eating Grains
When you evaluate any number of diets, you will find that grains have come with a lot of controversies.
The Stone-Age Diet claims that the reason humans have so many problems with grains is that we were not meant to eat them. They claim that the addition of grains to the modern human diet was only done in the last 10,000 years, after the agricultural revolution. Yet other diets claim that grains are the base foundation of our food supply, and are important for a number of reasons.
So with all of the conflicting information, which side should you choose? Who is actually right about grains?
The truth about grains being part of the human diet is not as clear-cut as people would hope. The answer to whether you should eat grains is not as simple as picking a side. Why? Because even though they classify the food product as a grain, the two sides may not be talking about the same food at all.
Every grain is made up of three main parts. These parts make up the anatomy of the grain. These parts are:
- Bran, which is the outer layer of the grain. This layer is hard.
- Germ, this is the innermost portion of the seed. It is the core of the seed that provides nutrients to help the plant sprout and grow.
- Endosperm is the portion of the plant that helps it grow. It is starchy by nature.
Together, these three pieces make up what we commonly refer to as ‘whole grain.’ Grains that have been refined have the bran and/or germ removed. This leaves only the endosperm, which provides important nutrients, like magnesium, and necessary B vitamins, among others. Unfortunately, grains that have been refined are missing the beneficial portions of the grain.
On the Noom weight-loss plan, you’re not required to eliminate grains – as there are healthy grains with tons of good nutrition for overall health and wellness.
The majority of manufacturers that refine grains enrich their products with artificial or synthetic forms of these nutrients. They add ingredients like folic acid, which is very different from the natural form, which is folate. They also add B vitamins and iron to replace what was lost during processing, but these ingredients are not naturally found in foods in this given form. (ODS, MedlinePlus.gov)
Grains Aren’t What They Used to Be
The grains we have today are a lot different than the grains that were around hundreds of years ago. They are also a lot different than the grains that were available in the past few decades. Surprisingly, the grains available in the United States are not like grains found anywhere else in the world, and the grain wheat is the one that stands out most.
While initial intentions were honorable, developments in the grains found in the United States caused serious problems with the food supply, and how the human body responds to us eating them. Here are the most damaging changes made to the grains available today.
Advancements in Processing
When the mid-19th century really took hold, the advancements in grain processing began to change grains as we know them. The concept may have increased the availability of grains, but they also decreased the nutrients we receive from them.
Before these advancements began, mills were designed from stone, and grains were ground as a whole product. The flour was known to have all of the components of the wheat inside of it that we do not see today.
Now, the grain can be separated, and companies can provide only the starchy endosperm to create the flour, and use the rest of the grain to produce higher-end products.
These flours are also enriched with synthetic nutrients and have been since the 1940s. Since flour is cheap, and so are many of the products that are made from it, it became a staple in the average home.
Agronomists Developed New Variations of Wheat to Increase Crop Yield
During the 1960s, agronomists began developing new variations of wheat so they could increase the yield of wheat crops. This dramatically increased the amount of grain that could be grown per acre. However, modifying grain came with a lot of problems, including decreasing the nutritional value of the crops.
Grains Are Difficult to Digest Unless They Are Properly Prepared
To prepare grains for digestion, they must be soaked and sprouting. Other traditional preparations make digestion easier as well.
Because of the changes in grain over the years, the grains that make their way to our supermarkets are not the same grains that our grandparents consumed. This is why grain allergies have only made an appearance recently.
Since grains are not prepared the same way, the risks of them causing digestive difficulties have increased.
Another form of carbohydrate not allowed on the Paleo Diet is sugar. Based on the diet’s followers, sugar causes a wealth of health issues that can be avoided.
White Sugar is Not Paleo
White table sugar and table sugar derivatives are not considered Paleo. There are natural forms of sugar that are considered to be Paleo, so it is important to keep your eye on what you are buying.
Why Some Sugars Are/Are Not Paleo
While white cane sugar is not considered Paleo, some forms of sugar are Paleo-friendly. Let’s look at why white cane sugar is not.
White cane sugar registers extremely high on the glycemic index. It causes rapid spikes in blood sugar, and it also causes rapid spikes in insulin. Over time, consuming it can lead to insulin resistance and other health problems.
White cane sugar does not contain any nutrients. It is also associated with different diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and obesity.
Even though white cane sugar is a natural product, it is heavily processed before it becomes the edible form that we are familiar with. Cavemen would not have been able to eat white cane sugar because the technology required to produce it was not available.
Health Problems Associated with Eating Sugar
There are a large number of health problems associated with eating sugar. Here is a head to toe look at how sugar affects your body.
When you consume sugar, your brain experiences a rush of dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel good, which is why you crave sugar in the afternoon when you are feeling mentally and physically drained.
Unfortunately, the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you crave.
When you consume sugar, the short burst of energy you get is caused by a spike in your blood sugar. When your blood sugar drops, you become anxious and sometimes irritable. This is because you are experiencing a sugar crash.
If you notice that you reach for a candy bar frequently, and your mood is altered by it, you are at a greater risk for depression.
Even though the concept of one of your favorite foods ruining your teeth may bother you, your mother was not lying to you as a child. Candy will cause tooth decay. You may be wondering how, though.
The sugar from candy sits in your mouth. Bacteria love to eat sugar. The increase in bacteria in your mouth can cause rapid tooth decay that even brushing cannot prevent. (Healthline)
As you can see, eating sugar in large quantities can be damaging for every part of your body. It can also cause you a lot of discomfort. Take time to limit your sugar intake, and if you are following the Stone-Age Diet, eliminate it from your diet completely.
Carbs and Healthy Fats on the Paleo Diet
Deciding on Healthy Carbs
One of the first questions that are asked by people who are new to the Paleo Diet is “is Paleo Diet low carb?” The diet is not low carb, necessarily, but the plan can be modified to be low carb if your health needs require it.
The Paleo Diet focuses on eliminating grains and legumes, so a lot of people wonder where they are going to find their healthy carbohydrates. They are surprised to find out that the Paleo Diet is not really a low-carb diet, but it is also not a carb-calorie dense diet either. The diet does provide healthier carbohydrate sources and removes carbohydrates that supposedly cause negative impacts to your health.
The Paleo lifestyle promotes that followers consume healthy carbohydrates instead of those that provide no nutritional value.
Keep in mind through your Paleo adventure that carbohydrates are not your enemy. Some provide no nutritional value, but there are a large number of them that provide healthy fuel for your body.
So, where do you get healthy carbohydrates? Here is a Paleo Food list that provides you with natural foods that give your body healthy carbohydrate options. Make sure to include these starchy vegetables in your meal plan, and keep them on your shopping list.
- Cassava Root
- Sweet Potatoes
- Winter Squash
Any Paleo approved vegetable that falls into the “starchy vegetables” category will provide you with plenty of energy. Make sure to check out our section on vegetables, so you understand your options. Paleo vegetables do not include all vegetables. Make sure to keep this in mind as you are creating your meal plan.
Paleo Diet Meats
Almost all meats are allowed on the Paleo Diet plan, as long as they are not processed and heavily salted. When preparing these meats, you should ensure that the visible fat is trimmed away if possible. Here is a basic list of meats allowed on the Paleo Diet plan.
Your meat should be as natural as possible and should be certified as the following:
- Wild Turkey
Other meats that are obtained by hunting are also acceptable.
Eggs can be consumed, but you should not eat more than six eggs per week. The eggs should also be from free-range birds.
The only eggs you should eat come from:
Fish is a staple on this diet. All of the fish should be wild-caught and never farm-raised. The main fish that are consumed include:
Shellfish is rich in iodine, which is a necessary trace mineral. Unfortunately, there are very few foods that provide them naturally. Take time to load up on seafood, not just because of its health benefits, but because it is delicious.
The most popular shellfish include:
Healthy Paleo Diet Fats
There are a lot of different fats available on the market. However, not all of these fats are considered Paleo-friendly fats.
There are a lot of terms to digest when you are new to the Paleo Diet. You will hear words like omega-3 and omega-6, as well as a few others.
You don’t want to hear about weighing foods or fats. You don’t want to hear about measurements in grams. What you want to hear is what fats are good for you and what fats are bad for you. What can you actually eat on the Paleo Diet?
How much healthy fat are you taking in each day? Tracking foods with Noom and the database of more than three million foods makes it easy to see what you’re eating and where you can improve.
Types of Fats
Overall, there are three different overall categories of fats.
- Saturated Fat
- Monounsaturated Fat
- Polyunsaturated Fat
Each of these fats is classified based on their chemical structure and makeup. The best part is to enjoy your food, you do not need to understand their chemical makeup unless you want to. Here is what you do need to know about fats to enjoy your Paleo meals.
- Saturated Fats – Saturated fats are approved by the Paleo Diet. There are concerns that saturated fats, of some kinds, cause serious health problems, including negative effects on heart health.
- Monounsaturated Fat – Monounsaturated fat is also Paleo approved.
- Polyunsaturated Fat – Polyunsaturated fat can be broken down into two main categories. Two primary types are considered omega-3s and omega-6s. You will want to limit your intake of omega-6 and increase your intake of omega-3.
More Details on What You Should Eat While Following the Paleo Diet Plan
This diet is not as restrictive as most people think. There are a lot of foods that you already eat included in the Caveman Diet. These foods include, but are not limited to:
- Healthy Fats
- Healthy Oils
Foods You Should Avoid
Just like with any diet, there are foods you will need to avoid regularly. Even though we say avoid, the truth is, these foods are to be completely eliminated from your diet, as long as eliminating the food does not pose a risk to your health.
- Processed Foods
- Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup (includes fruit juices, table sugar, ALL candy, ALL traditional pastries, ice creams, any other products containing these ingredients)
- Soft Drinks (ALL)
- Grains (bread, pasta, wheat, spelt, barley, rye, and all other grains)
- Almost All Dairy (Dairy should be avoided, especially low-fat dairy products. There are Paleolithic friendly versions of these products that do include dairy in its full-fat form)
- Legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts)
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Vegetable Oils (soybean, sunflower, cottonseed, corn, grape seed, safflower)
- Margarine (this is found in margarine and many other processed foods)
- Trans Fat
The best Paleo Diet rule to follow is that if it looks like it was made in a factory, you should not eat it. Not even a little of it. In order to avoid the ingredients that you need to avoid, you will need to read the labels of everything you buy. Even if the food is marked ‘health food.’
Over the last several years, the Paleo definition, and the Paleo rules have evolved. There have been a number of changes, but there are still a few foods that some followers consume, and others eliminate from their diet. Because of this, we will classify them as “possibly eat.”
Another problem that brings these foods into question is that there are a large number of Stone-Age diet variations. These allow some of the more “modern” foods that have been proven healthy in their purchased form.
While a lot of people see the Paleo Diet meal plan as a template to structure your life around, the truth is, the Paleo rules are not strict. There are not a lot of rules, and the guidelines of what foods you are allowed to eat are different with each variation of the diet.
Are There Indulgences?
Many things are considered indulgences when you are following any diet, and this one is no different. There are two things that many people assume are off-limits, that are actually healthy for you in small amounts, and are allowed in small quantities on a diet.
Wine can be consumed in small amounts. A serving of wine provides antioxidants and essential nutrients that maintain heart health.
Dark chocolate is extremely nutritious and provides essential antioxidants also. Make sure to choose one that contains 70% or higher amounts of cocoa.
What to Drink on the Paleo Diet
It doesn’t matter what diet you follow, the go-to drink should be water. Even though the traditional Paleo Diet does not allow the following beverages, some variations of the diet do allow additional drinks. Here are a few of the not-so-Paleo drinks that are typically consumed.
- Tea is a healthy beverage. However, on the Caveman diet, it is recommended that you consume mostly green tea. If you must use a sweetener, you should use honey only.
- Coffee is high in antioxidants and has many cardiovascular benefits.
List of Food Tips for the Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet presents its share of challenges. Some of these challenges surround what people can and cannot eat on the diet. We have covered the foods that are allowed, and we have covered the foods that are not allowed, which should provide you with a strong understanding of the Paleo Diet basics. Here, we will provide you a list of common Paleo Diet tips.
Eat the Entire Egg – The eggs you choose should be classified as omega-3 enriched, cage-free eggs. You can finally settle the egg yolk vs. egg white debate that society is currently having. You can eat the entire egg. You will receive twice the protein you would normally get, and you don’t have to fight with separating eggs in the morning.
Eat Your Veggies – As long as your vegetables are cooked in healthy oil, boiled, or steamed, you can eat all the vegetables you want. The only restriction is that you cannot deep fry them, but you probably shouldn’t do that on any diet.
Get Your Butt Up and Moving – Cavemen did not sit around watching television all day. They got up and moved. They did not have all of our modern conveniences, so take some lessons from them about getting up and going throughout the day.
Take Time to Lift Weights – Even if you get up and moving, this does not guarantee a full-body workout. By setting time aside to lift weights, you will have the benefit of burning excess calories and building muscle.
Plan Meals Ahead of Time – When you are starting a diet plan, or you are not used to your new diet plan, take time to plan your meals ahead of time. The last thing you want is hunger sneaking up on you, causing all of your hard work to go to waste.
Purchase More Vegetables – When you go to the grocery store, make sure to take time to stock up on vegetables that are on sale. To make the Paleo Diet work, you will need a lot of vegetables. Failing to eat enough vegetables is one of the reasons Paleo dieters fail in their efforts.
Stock Up on Foods that are Paleo – Having a fully stocked refrigerator will ensure that you do not look for unhealthy snacks. It is also a way to show your brain that it is not low on food, even though there are no processed foods in sight. A fully stocked refrigerator will also allow you to experiment with different recipes you find online.
Fruits are Not Your Enemy – Even though the Paleo Diet limits the amount of fructose you take in each day, fruit is not your enemy. Fruit contains antioxidants, fiber, and makes an amazing sweet treat.
You Are Not Neglecting Yourself If You Feel Hungry – The truth is, we have programmed ourselves to avoid hunger. However, it is okay to allow yourself to be hungry. It is a normal state that our bodies enter on occasion. Too many people fear the feeling of hunger, but if you allow your appetite to build, you will be more willing to consume foods that are good for you, in quantities that you normally would not.
Take Yourself Outside – One fact that is undeniable is that Cavemen spent a lot of time outside. Today, people spend most of their time indoors, which leads to vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin D, which you take in from the sun, is necessary for the body to absorb many vitamins. Make sure you are getting enough.
Eat Healthy Fats Every Day – The standard American diet is focused on unhealthy fats. Replace your fat intake with healthy fats, like avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and ghee. You can also take in healthy fats by eating nuts, but you should make sure to limit the quantity you eat because they can have an extremely concentrated amount of calories.
You Do Not Have to Eliminate Starches – While you do need to limit your daily intake of starches, a small number of starchy foods can provide you with a lot of energy, and they can be filling. When you are looking for foods in the starch family, go for sweet potatoes and yams.
Nobody has to Agree with Your Decision – Just like with any diet, someone is bound to come along and tell you something they think they know about the Paleo Diet. Don’t let someone tell you how to eat. Only one person has to agree with your decision to follow the Paleo Diet, and that is you.
Pros and Cons of the Paleo Diet
There is no specific diet that can be recommended to everyone. Sports dietitians recommend the Paleo Diet to their athletes when they feel it is necessary, and it is rarely recommended on a long-term basis. Just like there are a lot of right diets for people, there are a lot of wrong diets floating around out there too.
The easiest way to determine whether this diet is something you want to explore is to take a look at the positives and negatives of the diet, so let’s evaluate this breakdown.
Pros of the Paleo Diet
The positives of this diet are focused on concepts that have already been established by science to be true, including:
- While following the Paleo Diet, you are more likely to consume a clean diet that is free from additives, preservatives, and chemicals.
- The diet provides anti-inflammatory benefits to people who follow it. These properties are provided by the fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts that are incorporated into the diet. This makes the Paleo Diet autoimmune friendly.
- The lack of processed foods, and consuming them as close to their natural form as possible can help improve overall satisfaction between meals. This may also be improved by the intake of proteins and fats being increased.
- Paleo weight loss can be expected because there are fewer foods to choose from, and the foods that are allowed on a diet are not processed and full of carbohydrates.
As you can see, there are some positives associated with the Caveman Diet. Now that you know the positives associated with the diet, we can dive into the cons.
Cons of the Paleo Diet
There are a number of cons associated with the diet. These cons include:
- The Paleo Diet can be expensive.
- Following the diet can be difficult, especially at first.
- The diet is very restrictive, and some say it is too restrictive.
- Followers of the diet are not allowed to consume grains or dairy. These items can provide a good amount of energy, but they are omitted from the diet completely.
- Vegetarians may have difficulty. This is because it completely excludes beans, which are a valuable source of protein for vegetarians.
- Athletes require between 3 to 6 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight they carry each day. This can be very difficult when the carbohydrates are being obtained through fruit and vegetable sources.
Possible Risks and Dangers Associated with the Paleo Diet
The Standard American Diet is filled with processed foods, trans fats, sugars, and grains that negatively affect our health. But while there are risks to eating the Standard American Diet, there are also risks associated with following the Paleo Diet. So what are these possible risks of the diet?
By eliminating dairy, you place yourself at risk of developing a calcium deficiency. To prevent this from happening, you can take a calcium supplement, and obtain small amounts of calcium through foods that are approved for the diet.
There are five other notable risks associated with following the Caveman diet, and here they are:
Low to Barely Moderate Carbohydrate Intake
The diet requires that you exclude all grains, including, but not limited to:
- Brown Rice
The dangers of eliminating these grains from your diet include the fact that they are a great source of fiber, magnesium, iron, B vitamins, and selenium.
Grains are also helpful in assisting in blood sugar control. They also have the ability to lower cholesterol and fight chronic diseases, as long as they are ingested in moderation.
Even if you do not want to take in a lot of carbohydrates because of the potential risks they can pose to your health, you can still receive benefits from grains if you maintain a low carbohydrate intake.
It is Recommended that Saturated Fats Be Consumed in Large Amounts
The Paleo Diet recommends a considerable amount of saturated fat intake. This can cause an increased risk of developing heart disease or kidney disease. It can also increase your risk of developing certain cancers.
Extremely High Red Meat and Fat Concentration in the Diet
When combined, research shows that consuming large amounts of red meat can increase the risk of developing bad cholesterol or LDL cholesterol. This is because red meat contains a lot of saturated fats.
Over-consuming red meat has also been linked to the development of bowel cancer. The American Heart Association warns against consuming more than 13 grams of saturated fats per day. The saturated fat intake on the Paleo Diet can reach up to 50 grams per day, on a standard plan. (American Heart Association)
Quick Tips for Following the Paleo Diet
When you are entering any new diet, you should take the time to adjust yourself to new habits carefully. Keep in mind there are Paleo rules that you must follow. These rules surround choosing organic foods that are locally grown and purchasing products that are in season.
While you are not supposed to focus on portion control, there are some foods that should be limited while you are following this diet.
You should also ensure that you are getting 8 hours of sleep each night to help your body regenerate for each new day.
Important Tips About the Paleo Diet
These tips are not required by the diet, but they are very helpful to someone who is new to the lifestyle. Let’s jump in.
- Take your time adjusting to the Paleo lifestyle.
- Phase groups of food out of your diet instead of removing all of the omitted foods at one time.
- Only remove one non-Paleo food from your diet at a time to make the transition easier.
- Research the diet before jumping in.
- Don’t make the transition harder than it already is.
- Understand that at some point, you will slip up, and that is okay.
- Always plan your meals ahead. This makes sticking to the diet much easier.
- When the transition into your new diet becomes difficult, remind yourself that it gets easier with time.
- Keep your initial transition period simple and easy to follow. Do not restrict your diet too much when you first start out.
As you can see, there are ways that you can reduce the difficulty of your new diet. Take your time and ease into the diet slowly. It is not a race. You are not entering a diet, you are entering a lifestyle change.
Comparing the Paleo Diet to Keto
The Keto diet is different from the Paleo Diet, and the Paleo Diet list of food does not always apply to the Keto diet.
These two diets have a lot of similarities, and they have a lot of
differences too. They include a lot of the same foods, but each one has a different purpose. Let’s take a look at how the Paleo Diet and the Keto Diet measure up to one another.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo Diet is focused on completely eliminating grains, legumes, and dairy. It is not really a diet and is considered more of a lifestyle change. The primary focus is eating foods that are higher quality than today’s processed foods and eating foods as close to nature as possible.
Even though dairy is off-limits because a lot of people have difficulty digesting it, followers are allowed to consume ghee or grass-fed butter. (Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology)
By removing foods that are difficult to digest, the diet can be very therapeutic for stomach and intestinal health, treating autoimmune diseases, controlling blood sugar, and losing weight. (Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, Nutrients)
What is the Keto Diet?
The Keto Diet is geared to help people achieve a dramatic amount of weight loss. However, as a secondary effect, the Keto diet can also help improve some medical conditions, including:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Various cognitive disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Other forms of dementia
The reason the Keto diet can provide rapid weight loss is that unlike most diets, it reteaches your body how and why to burn fat. By entering into a metabolic state called “ketosis,” your body can burn fat faster.
What is ketosis? Ketosis occurs when carbohydrates are removed from the diet. Since there are no carbohydrates for your body to use as fuel, it must turn to a different energy source. The next most abundant in the body is fat.
Since it is no longer using carbohydrates to create energy, it will be forced to use fat as an energy source. (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
The State of Ketosis
Ketosis is a state of the body. It is the body’s last resort when glucose, the body’s primary energy source, is removed from the diet.
Carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the body. With less carbohydrate intake, the body does not have glucose readily available.
Your body’s natural reaction when glucose is not available is to turn to a secondary energy source. Naturally, the secondary programmed energy source is fat. When the body begins burning fat, it releases a byproduct known as ketones. (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition)
To retrain your body to consume fat instead of consuming glucose, you have to remove almost all carbohydrates from your diet.
This requires you to ensure that carbohydrates make up less than 5% of your diet. You must also increase your fat intake to at least 75% of your diet.
Now that we have covered the basics of what both diets are let’s cover the similarities between the two.
Similarities Between the Paleo Diet and the Keto Diet
There are a number of reasons these two diets are grouped together, and why they are compared to one another so often. Here is a list of the similarities between the two diets:
- Elimination of grains
- Elimination of legumes
- Strong emphasis on healthy fats (both diets insist that you eat seeds, nuts, and animal fats regularly, as well as coconut oil)
- They both encourage grass-fed, organic meat sources
- Neither diet allows refined sugars
- Both diets promote eating a large number of non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens daily
Even though these diets have a lot of similarities, they also have a lot of differences. We have covered the similarities, let’s take a look at the differences.
Key Differences Between the Paleo and Keto Diets
Even though the Paleo and Keto Diets are used to achieve similar goals, the Keto Diet is often tougher for some, and it is more targeted than the Paleo Diet.
The Paleo Diet is Not Considered Low-Carb and High-Fat
The Caveman Diet restricts grains, legumes, refined sugars, and dairy. There is no real need to restrict carbohydrates since the ones you will be taking in are healthy carbohydrates. The carbohydrates you will be taking in will come from fruit and starchy vegetables, which are not necessarily bad for you.
You are also allowed to consume natural sweeteners, like coconut nectar, raw honey, and maple syrup that is considered pure. All of these are higher in carbohydrates.
The Keto Diet, on the other hand, restricts carbohydrate consumption to a point where the intake of 5% or less allows the body to enter a state of ketosis.
Both diets promote the intake of healthy fats, but the keto diet requires large quantities of fat intake for the body to enter ketosis. Without carbohydrate intake, your body will need a lot of fat to use as fuel.
The Keto Diet Allows Dairy
Unlike the Caveman diet, Keto does not restrict dairy intake. Full-fat dairy is not encouraged, but it is allowed. (FDA)
On The Keto Diet, You Must Monitor Fat, Protein and Carbohydrate Percentage
For the Keto diet to work, you must follow a specific formula of macronutrient percentages. If you do not, your body will be unable to enter ketosis. The standard Keto Diet requires you to maintain your macronutrient percentages at 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.
The Keto Diet Requires Testing for Ketosis
The goal of the keto diet is to enter a body state called ketosis. The only way to know that you have successfully entered this state is to test for it.
There are several methods of testing for ketones present in the body, which is the only way to know that you have entered ketosis, and the only way to know that your body is burning fat instead of carbohydrates.
The Final Take on the Paleo Diet
At the end of the day, restrictive diets are ones that often lead people down the road to failure. Eating for health and weight-loss shouldn’t require eliminating entire food groups and, in the case of the Paleo Diet, the majority of foods you’ve grown to know and love. Check out the clinically-proven wellness app Noom to learn how you can lose weight naturally starting today.
Paleo Diet QA
What do you eat on the Paleo Diet?
On the Paleo Diet, you can eat unprocessed foods like meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, herbs, and spices.
Why is Paleo bad for you?
Some believe that restricting dairy intake can negatively affect calcium levels. However, many vegetables supply calcium, as do fortified nut milks.
What can you not eat on Paleo?
On Paleo, you skip processed foods like pasta, rice, bread, beans, dairy, and refined oils.
Can you lose weight on the Paleo Diet?
Yes, if you are adopting Paleo to lose weight, it’s possible. You must watch your calorie and protein intake from your meat intake, as too much can cause weight gain and fat storage.
Is Paleo the same as Keto?
No, the Keto Diet allows some full-fat dairy and focuses on increasing fat intake to 75% of total caloric intake. The Paleo Diet is not based on fat intake.
What is better, Paleo, or Keto?
The two diets are adopted for different reasons, in many cases. Because the diets are different in most aspects, the two cannot be compared for health or weight-loss purposes.
Can you drink alcohol on Paleo?
Yes, a small amount of wine is allowed on the Paleo Diet.
What’s the difference between Paleo and the Mediterranean Diet?
The main difference between the Paleo Diet and the Mediterranean Diet is grains. The Mediterranean Diet encourages healthy grains, which the Paleo Diet forbids.
What does Paleo do for your body?
The Paleo Diet is supposed to take your body back to a time when processed and refined foods, and mass agriculture, were yet to be invented. The idea is to eat how our gut is comfortable instead of eating how most Western Diets have evolved.
Is Paleo anti-inflammatory?
There is a version of the Paleo Diet called the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). The AIP Diet is strict – encouraging the follower to eliminate all inflammatory foods and replacing those foods with healthier, non-inflammatory, varieties.