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Getting Started with the Paleo Diet

A paleo diet is a dietary plan based on foods similar to what might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era, which dates from approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. The paleo diet is designed to resemble what human hunter-gatherer ancestors ate thousands of years ago.

Although it’s impossible to know exactly what human ancestors ate in different parts of the world, researchers believe their diets consisted of whole foods. 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.

Advocates of the paleo diet reject modern diets that are full of processed foods. Proponents of the paleo diet believe that the human body has not evolved to process dairy, legumes, and grains and that eating these foods could increase the risk of certain health conditions, such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

In fact, several studies suggest that this diet can lead to significant weight loss and major improvements in health.

Foods to eat and avoid when on a Paleo diet

There is no ‘right’ way to eat for everyone. Some diets have stricter guidelines than others. These are the guidelines a general paleo diet follows:

Foods to eat: 

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Oils from fruits and nuts (olive oil, walnut oil etc.)
  • Meat like beef, lamb, chicken, turkey etc.
  • Fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna and mackerel

Foods to avoid:

  • Sugar and high fructose corn syrup
  • Grains such as wheat, oats and barley
  • Dairy products
  • Legumes such as beans, lentils, peanuts etc.
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oils like sunflower oil, grapeseed oil etc.
  • Artificial sweeteners

A simple guideline: If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it. Try to avoid any processed food in general when you’re on a paleo diet.

Exceptions 

When on a Paleo diet there a few modern-day food and beverages you can indulge in, in small amounts. 

  • Wine: Quality red wine is high in antioxidants and beneficial nutrients.
  • Dark chocolate: Choose one that has 70% or higher cocoa content. Quality dark chocolate is very nutritious and extremely healthy.

Remember that these are only to be taken in small amounts and from time to time, not on a regular basis. Doing so would be completely against what the Paleo diet stands for.

The paleo diet also emphasizes drinking enough water and being physically active every day.

A Typical Paleo Meal Plan

Each individual can alter the diet to their preferences. Not everybody can adapt to the diet immediately, so it’s completely fine if you slowly start adopting it. This is what a sample menu of a Paleo diet looks like.

  • Breakfast: Fruits, vegetables or eggs. You can even eat leftover meat from the night before. 
  • Lunch: Broiled lean meat and salad (romaine, carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, walnuts and lemon juice dressing).
  • Dinner: Baked fish, broiled meat, or vegetable stir fry. You can be creative and make a lettuce leaf sandwich with meat ad vegetables.
  • Snacks: Baby carrots, hard-boiled eggs, a piece of fruit, a bowl of berries or leftovers from the day before.

Benefits of the Paleo Diet

A number of randomized clinical trials have compared the paleo diet to other eating plans, such as the Mediterranean Diet. These trials suggest that a paleo diet may provide some benefits when compared with diets of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, legumes and low-fat dairy products. These benefits are:

  • More weight loss
  • Improved glucose tolerance
  • Better blood pressure control
  • Lower triglycerides
  • Better appetite management

A paleo diet may help you lose weight or maintain your weight. It may also have other beneficial health effects. you can even try intermittent fasting for the same results. However, there are no long-term clinical studies about the benefits and potential risks of the diet. 

A paleo diet may be very hard for first-time dieters due to its considerably small repository of foods. You can achieve the same results with regular exercise and a balanced healthy diet.

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