Paleo – from the Stone Age into the present day. Everything you need to know about the Paleo diet, including the advantages and disadvantages of a strict Stone Age diet.
Everyone has heard of the Paleo diet at some point, but few can actually tell you how it works. So how does it work and how good is it for us? Is it the new wonder diet or just another hyped up nutrition trend? Here you can find out everything you want to know about the Paleo diet, the most important rules and the No Go’s as well as some delicious recipes to try out.
This is how Paleo works
The motto of the paleo diet is “back to basics”. The term Paleo is derived from the word Paleolithic, meaning early Stone Age. In those days people were hunters and gatherers and could only eat what they had got hold of that day. Paleo followers eat what our ancestors ate thousands of years ago, or rather what they could have eaten. The focus of the modern paleo diet is on not eating any heavily processed foods and cooking with fresh, varied and bright ingredients. In addition to heavily processed foods, a Paleo diet also omits some natural foods such as grains, milk products, and pulses. These are seen as modern food products since they weren’t eaten by people in the early stone age.
What can I eat in a Paleo diet?
The Paleo diet is based on:
Protein-rich foods such as fish and meat boost your metabolism and support fat burning. Fruit and vegetables provide you with many important nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Nuts and seeds serve as important energy sources. The body is therefore provided with all the important nutrients it requires.
The Fundamentals of Paleo Nutrition
|Protein-rich nutrition: People needed strong muscles during the stone age in order to catch their own dinner. They therefore naturally tended towards protein rich foods. They also needed protein for their bones and immune systems to survive. You should get your protein from meat, fish, seafood and eggs. With a Paleo diet, you should make sure that your protein comes from high quality sources.
|Stay away from table sugar and sugar substitutes. Sweets and sodas are off limits. If you do get a craving for something sweet, you can have some fruit or a piece of dark chocolate (make sure it contains at least 90% cocoa though). Honey is allowed in the Paleo diet. The science surrounding the sweetener Stevia is unclear, as this comes from the Stevia plant. We recommend staying away from Stevia.
|Vegetables should make up a large proportion of your diet. You can eat your vegetables however you like, namely, raw, cooked, frozen, fried or boiled. Vegetables contain many essential micronutrients such as phytochemicals, important vitamins and minerals, all of which are vital for good health.
|Carbohydrates take a back seat in the Paleo diet. Cereal products along with quinoa, bulgar and rice are not allowed, since the cultivation of cereal products only began thousands of years after the stone age. It’s worth knowing that the strict paleo diet classifies sweetcorn as a cereal product and so excludes this too. Paleo followers get their carbohydrates from potatoes or sweet potatoes. Since the Paleo diet is naturally low in carbohydrates, it works well combined with a Low Carb Diet.
|Fruit is allowed in the Paleo diet. You should try to eat fruits that are in season (you didn’t get mangos during winter in the stone age). Pay attention to the origin of the fruits you choose and buy fruits grown locally where possible. Watch out for fruits that are high in sugar and enjoy these in moderation only.
|Pulses, as with grain products, are taboo.
|Spices, nuts, seeds and herbs are allowed in the Paleo diet. If you are trying to lose weight, you should limit your nut intake to a handful a day, due to their high calorie content. As with any nutrition form you should pay attention to your salt consumption.
Is the Paleo diet healthy?
The consumption of exclusively natural and unprocessed foods has a positive effect on the body. By cutting out cereal products, table sugar and lactose, the body is still provided with all the important nutrients and there is no risk of malnutrition. Nowadays people consume a lot of table sugar, found in the heavily processed foods which have become synonymous with modern day life.
High sugar consumption is responsible for increased insulin levels, which causes the body to store energy as fat instead of burning it, particularly around the stomach. A high sugar consumption along with heavily processed foods is the cause of many common illnesses (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure and allergies). Many grains consist largely of starch, which has a similar effect on your body to sugar and causes insulin levels to rise. Eating too many grains is not good for healthy weight loss, due to their high carbohydrate and low vitamin /mineral content.
Losing weight on the Paleo diet
To lose weight healthily the body needs an optimal nutrient composition (you can easily determine this with the Upfit BMI calculator). Contrary to popular belief, the way to lose weight healthily and sustainably is not simply through exercising more and eating less food. If you do this, the yo-yo effect will quickly catch up with you. The ideal way to lose weight healthily and sustainably is not by starving yourself but rather by eating a varied and colourful diet. This will ensure that you get a balanced distribution of macronutrients and feel good.
Does this sound like a pipe-dream? Well, it isn’t – the Paleo diet works on exactly this principle. The abundance of fresh and unprocessed foods, combined with enough healthy fats and protein, provides the perfect nutrient distribution. Thanks to the high quantity of vegetables in the Paleo diet, you will not go hungry. The lack of sugar in your diet will keep your insulin levels constant and prevent you from getting cravings. A healthy diet and a lack of milk products also help with problem skin. With the Paleo diet, you also save yourself the psychological stress of weighing your food and counting calories. There is no calorie counting in the Paleo diet. This is good for stress levels, which also helps you when you are trying to lose weight. Food shouldn’t just be seen as a means to an end. The enjoyment factor of food and its effects on your soul are also important. You will feel physically better and you start to become more active as your body begins to crave more movement.
By cutting out all of the processed foods from your diet, you will automatically save unnecessary calories. Such a diet can also prevent many symptoms and illnesses such as diabetes, metabolic disorders and high blood pressure.
3 simple Paleo "rules"
“Eat natural and unprocessed foods”
“Only eat what our forefathers in the stone age were able to hunt and gather”
“Eat a balanced mixture of foods (nutritional variety)”
Low Carb and Paleo diets are based on different principles. A low carb diet is primarily concerned with a reduction in carbohydrates whereas a Paleo diet focuses on the origin of the food. More precisely the aim of a paleo diet is to take natural foods that existed in the Stone Age and prepare them using today’s methods. In practice, the difference between low carb and paleo recipes is hardly noticeable, as the diets compliment each other perfectly and are in no way contradictory.
Paleo recipes are naturally low carb: with the correct preparation, fruits, vegetables, and unrefined meat contain few carbohydrates. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that low carb and paleo diets go well together.