You may have heard of the “paleo” diet. It was the world’s most popular diet in 2013. But what is it? Is it a fad? Is it right for you? Scientist and “Paleo Mom” Sarah Ballentyne, Ph.D. defines it as:
“The Paleo diet is a nutrient-dense whole foods diet based on eating a variety of quality meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. It improves health by providing balanced and complete nutrition while avoiding most processed and refined foods and empty calories.”
The name “paleo” is from the “paleolithic” time when earlier humans (thousands of years ago) were hunters and gatherers. It is thought to represent the era of nutrition before agriculture.
What you can (and can’t) eat on the paleo diet
Of course, being a “diet,” paleo has food guidelines. The paleo diet was created to increase the amount of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods; while reducing the number of gut-disrupting, hormone-disrupting, and inflammatory foods.
But this doesn’t mean there are only a couple of foods to choose from! There is a pretty wide variety of food to choose from in the paleo diet.
You can include fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat (including organ meats), seafood, healthy fats, fermented foods, herbs, and spices.
The paleo diet excludes processed and refined foods (e.g. sugar, vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, etc.), grains (e.g. wheat, oats, rice, etc.), dairy, and most legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, peanuts, etc.).
The paleo diet can be thought of as more of a “template,” rather than a strict set of rules.
It’s a diet that seems to be easy to maintain, and with little to no negative side effects. There is no measuring or counting of calories or carbs. And there are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods to choose from.
Many proponents of the paleo diet even encourage experimentation by adding in a few of the (healthy whole) foods on their list of exclusions. High-quality dairy, white rice, or potatoes may be added to less restrictive forms of the paleo diet.
How does the Paleo diet affect health?
Several clinical studies have been done to find out whether there are health benefits of eating this way.
Some of the research has shown that the paleo diet can help with weight loss and belly fat. That alone may be reason enough to give it a try.
Not to mention its effect on several modern-day chronic diseases. For example, it can improve risk factors for heart disease. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, improve glucose tolerance, and even reduce symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.
It’s also thought to be “gut-friendly” because it includes a lot of high-fiber foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds), fermented foods (which contain gut-friendly probiotics), as well as being full of nutritious natural foods.
Who should consider a paleo diet?
Some people recommend the paleo diet for those with food intolerances or autoimmune diseases. Those at high risk for heart disease or diabetes may also be good candidates to give the paleo diet a try.
If you react to gluten or lactose, this diet removes them both by eliminating all grains and dairy.
Even if you don’t choose to go paleo, the elimination of added sugars, processed and refined foods can (should?) be a goal to move toward.
Paleo vs. Keto- What’s the difference?
For those of you who have heard of the Keto diet, here is a quick explanation of how it differs from Paleo. The ketogenic diet focuses on manipulating the three macro nutrients, which are fat, carbs and protein for those keeping score. The Paleo diet is more about the food choices. You eliminate dairy, grains and processed foods, but balance the macro nutrients any way you want.
It is important to note that historically the ketogenic diet is a tool for disease management, not weight loss. It is a common dietary intervention for conditions such as epilepsy, for example.
The goal is to force the body into a state of ketosis— the process of the body burning stored fat. On this plan, you achieve ketosis through fasting, the reduction of carbohydrates and the increase of dietary fat.
A 2004 study published in Experimental & Clinical Cardiology found that long-term adherence to a ketogenic diet may: – Reduce body mass – Lower blood LCD and glucose – Increase the level of HDL or “good” cholesterol The incredible piece here is that this diet actually seems to treat epilepsy very well, but there is a catch; it’s incredibly difficult to tolerate. According to WebMd, the diet prescribes that dieters to consume three calories of fat for every calorie of protein or carbohydrate. That’s a lot of fat.
And what about Macro Counting?
Macro counting is a way of eating to optimize nutrition, performance and body composition by focusing on the quality and quantity of our macros. Our macros meaning Protein, Carbs, and Fat. Our bodies do best when we get these macros balanced, when the scale is tipped the wrong way, that is when weight gain, joint pain, diabetes and many other conditions usually occur. It isn’t necessary the calories you are consuming, but the type and quantity of those calories. For ex. 500 calories of broccoli will react a lot differently in your body compared to 500 calories of crackers. I have found that over the years of working with clients, most of us are over in carbohydrates and fat, and under in protein. When they get these ratios turned around, the magic begins and their body composition changes immediately.
If you’d like to know more about macro counting, you can join me for my 6 Week Shape Up that I run 3-4 times a year. We are starting a group October 1st, and the next one will begin in January, 2019.
Here’s the link to learn more about Macro Counting and the 6 Week Fall Shape Up
The paleo diet is based on what hunters and gatherers ate thousands of years ago. It is a whole-food based, nutrient-dense diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, seafood, and fermented foods.
Science has shown that it can help some people to lose weight, reduce risks of heart disease, improve glucose tolerance, and reduce inflammation. At the very least, eliminating added sugars, processed, and refined foods are a great goal, even if you decide not to “go paleo.” My suggestion: try using the Paleo diet as a set of guidelines, 80% of the time if you are struggling to lose weight or want to give your health a boost.
And if going full on Paleo doesn’t feel right, check out my 10 Day Body Reset Detox . Both gluten and dairy are eliminated for the 10 days so you get a taste of how your body feels, but whole grains such as rice are included.
So, if you’d like to recharge your body, reset your hormones to get your sugar cravings under control and shed a few inches, check out my 10 Day Body Reset HERE:
10 days worth of recipes and a meal plan, along with 4 brand new (short) Pilates workouts will give you the kick start you need this Fall!