If cavemen did not eat it, neither should you. That is the gist of the Paleo diet, created in the 1970s by gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin. It is no coincidence that this diet—which is really a lifestyle—was invented by a doctor who specializes in gut health.The diet is comprised of meats, fish, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. Anything processed—anything that comes in a box, bag, jar, or can—is avoided. Dairy products are avoided as well. The paleo diet is virtually gluten-free and dairy-free, and ideally organic and limited in salt. Are you thinking of going Paleo? You may find that you have increased overall health because the Paleo diet provides the following benefits:
Have you ever experienced sudden and dramatic highs and lows of energy throughout the day? Maybe you show up to work rearing to go, but come 2:00 pm, you can barely hold your head up. These dips in energy are common, and they’re largely due to a diet riddled with sugar and refined carbohydrates—which cause your blood sugar to spike and then drop—leaving you feeling sluggish and slow. The paleo diet is free from sugar and refined carbohydrates which cause these spikes and drops in blood sugar, allowing you to fill up on foods which provide a steady release of energy, keeping you feeling alert throughout the day.
Free radicals are harmful compounds in the body which are released as a result of oxidative stress or ingested from smoke, pollution, and other toxic elements. Uncontrolled, free radicals can cause changes and mutations to healthy cell DNA— resulting in cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other inflammatory conditions. Antioxidants are compounds which fight free radicals. A balance of antioxidants and free radicals are necessary for good health and proper functioning of all systems in the body. Antioxidants are found in fresh fruits and vegetables— especially in leafy green vegetables, berries, and certain nuts and beans. The paleo diet essentially cuts out foods which do not contain antioxidants, and provide no protection from free radicals— and instead encourages foods with high levels of antioxidants.
As mentioned above, antioxidants reduce inflammation in the body. In addition to introducing more foods into your diet that contain antioxidants, on the Paleo diet, you’ll also be cutting out a lot of foods which are known to cause inflammation. Inflammatory foods include sugar, fried foods, refined flour, dairy, artificial sweeteners, artificial additives, saturated fats, and certain oils. The Paleo diet is free from the majority of these inflammatory products. Avoid these things to reduce your chances of developing chronic inflammation and inflammatory diseases like allergies, arthritis, asthma, Crohn's disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Parkinson’s disease, and many others.
Although the Paleo diet is not specifically geared toward losing weight, this is the outcome for many dieters. It’s no secret that processed foods and sugars cause weight gain. You will probably find that after a full week or two on the Paleo diet, you aren’t even craving sweets or carbs anymore. Instead, you’ll feel satisfied and full after each meal or snack, and you’ll begin to crave healthy foods like nuts, seeds, and lean protein.
Not only are you removing empty calories from your diet to fuel weight-loss, but you’re adding foods which help to build muscle— like lean protein and plant-based foods which contain amino acids. If you really want to build muscle, the paleo diet along with weight training can really help to tone you up.
Brain foods are foods that are packed with important nutrients to maximize healthy brain development and stimulate memory and cognition. They contain healthy fats—like omega-3 fatty acids— as well as complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which support neurons and overall brain function. Many Paleo-friendly foods are included in the ‘brain food’ category because they are just that— foods which improve brain health. Some of these foods include avocados, beans, berries, broccoli, leafy greens, salmon, and walnuts.
Going on the paleo diet can improve your overall cholesterol levels by lowering ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Bad cholesterol endangers the heart by building up inside blood vessels and forming plaque, which causes restricted blood flow, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. On the Paleo diet, you’ll be eating foods which naturally lower LDL cholesterol. You’ll also be avoiding foods which cause plaque buildup. This includes baked goods and fried and processed foods that have trans fats and saturated fats.
Processed foods and sugars can wreak havoc in your gut, which is the center of your immune system and home to the good bacteria in your body. ‘Junk’ food, fried foods, and processed foods can cause inflammation in your intestinal tract. This can lead to blockage— or constipation— as well as decreased absorption of important nutrients from the foods you eat. You may find that all of your digestive problems are solved once you switch to a Paleo lifestyle.
Your immune system is your body’s defense against foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, and fungi which can enter your body through the air. The immune system also fights viruses which hang around and lie dormant, causing flare-ups at times when your body is especially weak. The Paleo diet supports immune function because it consists of gut-friendly foods. And foods rich in vitamins and minerals necessary for proper respiratory, digestive, cardiovascular, renal, endocrine, nervous, musculoskeletal, reproductive—and of course, lymphatic (immune)—systems.
The paleo diet is not just a diet—it’s a lifestyle. There are communities of people out there living the same way. And they’re all on the internet sharing recipes, tips, and tricks to make your Paleo living easy, fun, and delicious.
You will find that eating Paleo does not mean depriving yourself— quite the opposite! Paleo living means eating fresh, nutritious, and delicious foods that invigorate your mind and body. Hop on over to some Paleo websites and forums for inspiration.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.