This article has been Fact-Checked by Kendall Kennedy MS, RD, RYT
There are a lot of diets out there. One of the more popular ones is the paleo diet. but what exactly is the paleo diet? Is it healthy to follow this diet?
The paleo diet is way of eating based on how prehistorical ancestors ate. It’s hard to know exactly what their meals looked like but most researchers seem to agree that whole foods played the main role.
By eating whole foods and being physically active hunter-gatherers supposedly had lower rates of lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Another reason this diet might be what’s best for our body is that for most of the time period human have been around we were eating this way. In terms of the complete timeline humans have been around it’s only recently that processed foods have entered our diets.
It’s not hard to see that from an evolutionary standpoint, our bodies have not yet adapted to thrive with the recent change in our diets.
Concerns of the paleo diet
The paleo diet is rich in nuts, fruits and vegetables. These foods are part of most healthy diets.
The main difference with other diets is that you don’t eat whole grains and legumes on the paleo diet. These foods can be good sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients.
You also don’t eat dairy products which can be a great source of protein and calcium.
All in all, some foods you don’t eat on the paleo diet can be an inexpensive source of nutrients. You might be able to get most of these nutrients from other food sources but at a higher price and higher volume of food.
Disagreement on the paleo hypothesis
Not all researchers agree on the underlying principle of the paleo diet.
It’s possible that at least some groups of people had to adapt to “newer” food sources to survive.
For example people from northern Europe are more likely to tolerate dairy products. Other examples from all over the world can apply.
It’s also not that straightforward to know exactly what the humans from the paleolithic era ate. Some findings suggest that wild grains might have been part of their diet.
Paleo diet food plan
Following this diet is not an exact science. Your paleo diet food plan might not be exactly the same as someone else’s. There are however, some guidelines you need to follow.
Food you can eat on the paleo diet plan:
Meat , fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats and oils
Foods you need to avoid on the paleo diet plan:
Processed foods, sugar, soft drinks, grains, most dairy products, legumes, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils, margarine and trans fats.
If it looks like it is made in a factory you shouldn’t eat it.
Paleo diet food list
You’ve learned about the general guidelines. Here is a specific food list for the paleo diet.
- Meat: Chicken, beef, pork, lamb, turkey, game meat,…
- Fish: Salmon, trout, mackerel, shrimp, tuna,
- Vegetables: spinach, kale, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomatoes,…
- Fruits: apples, pears, bananas, avocados, blueberries, strawberries,…
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips,…
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, macademia nuts, sunflower seeds
- Healthy fats and oils: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil,…
- Salt & spices: sea salt, garlic, tumeric, rosemary,…
The less “modern” the food is made the better. This means preferring grass-fed and organic. This is not a requirement to enjoy the main benefits but it is even better for your health.
There are a few different version of this diet plan out there. Here are some foods that are sometimes added to the paleo diet even though they were probably not part of our ancestors’ diet:
- Dairy products like cheese and butter
- Legumes: beans, lentils,…
- Coffee and tea
- High cocoa (70%+) chocolate
It’s not uncommon to use the paleo diet as a baseline diet while adding other foods that have been proven to be beneficial for your health.
Benefits of the paleo diet
Following a whole food based diet plan is always a great idea. It helps a lot with consuming enough micronutrients which are extremely important for living a healthy and happy life.
The amount of nutrient-dense foods like vegetables and fruits you will eat will very likely increase since there are not a lot of other foods you can eat.
These nutrient-dense foods usually fill you up pretty good. This means you will probably automatically eat fewer calories without having to count at every meal.
Another big advantage is that you cut out a lot of foods that are bad for you like sugar-heavy, processed foods. For most people, the paleo diet would be an improvement over what they are currently eating.
That being said, it’s not completely obvious what restricting dairy, grains, and legumes from your diet will do for you in the long-term. More research on the paleo diet is required.