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What Is The Paleo Diet And How Can It Benefit You?

Updated on April 1, 2016
dwelburn profile image

David is an army-trained biomedical scientific officer, writer, and lifelong health and fitness enthusiast.

A great paleo meal
A great paleo meal | Source

Paleo Diet Benefits

The paleo (or Paleolithic) diet is becoming extremely popular these days, but there is still a lot of confusion about what this method of eating actually entails, as well as whether it is in fact a good idea to eat this way. So in this hub I’ll describe what the basic paleo diet consists of, what some sensible modifications might be, and what benefits you might expect to derive from eating in this manner.

What Is The Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet is a way of eating that attempts to emulate the diet that our ancestors are supposed to have eaten thousands of years ago.

Eating the paleo way involves eating only natural whole foods, e.g. meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. All processed, refined and packaged foods are avoided, as are grains, legumes, sugar and dairy products. Potatoes and sweet potatoes can be eaten in small amounts. And that’s about it.

Most people who eat this way adopt a high protein low carb approach, eating lots of animal proteins, some vegetables and very little else. However it can be adapted to your personal preference, so if you prefer to eat less animal proteins and more plant based foods that is perfectly acceptable.

How Can You Modify The Paleo Diet?

A diet focused on natural whole foods with little or no processed, refined or sugary foods will obviously help to keep you healthy, as well as making it much easier to lose weight. But what about the grains, legumes and dairy?

Well, all of these can cause problems for some people. Whole grains and legumes contain various ‘anti-nutrients’ which can cause digestive problems and inflammation.

The gluten containing grains (wheat, spelt, barley and rye) are particularly problematic as many people have gluten intolerance to some degree. And even if you don’t have gluten intolerance there is still evidence that gluten can cause damage to the intestinal walls and may also cause certain types of neurodegenerative disorders in some people. So it could be a good idea to eliminate these grains from your diet.

But if you have good digestion it’s perfectly reasonable to add some gluten free grains (e.g. rice and oats) to your diet. And if you work out regularly and are looking to optimize performance and/or build muscle then this is highly recommended.

Do bear in mind however that oats are often contaminated with wheat as they are usually produced on the same machinery. So if you are gluten intolerant look out for oats that are certified gluten free.

Dairy products can be a problem for many people too (especially the homogenized, pasteurized stuff that’s sold in the supermarkets) as they can also be inflammatory, as well as mucus producing. And apart from that most adults are lactose intolerant to some extent anyway, as our production of the enzyme lactase (required to break down lactose into glucose and galactose so that it can be absorbed from the intestines) diminishes as we get older.

Certain types of dairy can be beneficial though, even if you are lactose intolerant, as products such as butter, hard mature cheese and whey protein isolate contain very low (almost zero) levels of lactose.

And a moderate amount of legumes can also be a good healthy addition to the diet for most people.

Apart from the above some sensible indulgences you could consume occasionally include dark chocolate (quality dark chocolate with 70%+ cocoa content is very healthy and nutritious) and red wine (which is full of antioxidants and other beneficial ingredients).

And when you are thirsty, apart from water which is obviously the best thing to drink, tea (especially green tea) and coffee are also fine. In fact both tea and coffee have many health benefits as they contain high levels of antioxidants and other nutrients.

Christa Orecchio talks about the pros and cons of the paleo diet

Have you tried the paleo diet?

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How Can The Paleo Diet Benefit You?

The most obvious benefit of eating in this way is that you will find it easy to lose weight, or maintain your weight at the optimum level. However if you are looking to lose quite a bit of weight you should keep your carb intake low (so not too many grains, potatoes or sweet potatoes). And don’t eat too many nuts either.

Also if you have any digestive or intestinal problems you may find this method of eating will help to alleviate those too.

Apart from this you will have a much lower risk of developing most of the common illnesses of today, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer etc.

So in summary the paleo diet, especially with the modifications I have suggested, will help you achieve and maintain optimum health, increase your energy levels and probably live longer too. Have you tried the paleo diet, and what is your experience of it? Let me know in the comments below.


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    • dwelburn profile image

      David 2 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      Thanks Irdl; yes I think we all need an indulgence once in a while don't we?

    • lrdl3535 profile image

      Richard Lindsay 2 years ago from California

      This is a good post, I try to eat foods that aren't processed most of the time. But that doesn't always work for me.

    • dwelburn profile image

      David 3 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      Yes you don't buy or eat any processed foods so that will save you money even though a lot of the natural whole foods can be quite expensive. Overall you should save.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      so, you can save cost on paleo diet? I mean you don't but pre-processed food or eat any right?