Author: Ioannes Salamanes
Editors: Liane Xu
Artist: Daisy Zheng
What is the paleolithic diet? What does ‘paleolithic’ even mean? Paleolithic refers to the early phase of the Stone Age, which lasted for about 2.5 million years and is known for its development of stone tools. Now that we know what paleolithic means, we can learn about the paleolithic diet. Other names for this diet include the caveman diet, hunter-gatherer diet, and Stone Age diet. As its name suggests, the paleo diet is based on the diet of prehistoric humans. It includes eggs, fish, fruits, healthy fats and oils, herbs, lean meats, nuts, seeds, spices, and vegetables—food obtained by gathering and hunting. Since farming only emerged about 10,000 years ago, food that comes from farming such as dairy products, grains, and legumes is not included in the paleo diet.
Following a paleo diet has many beneficial health effects and can help people lose weight. Some other benefits include better appetite management, better blood pressure control, improved glucose tolerance, and lower triglycerides. Because this diet consists of whole and unprocessed food, scientists believe that it can reduce risks of modern health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. The paleo diet is unique because it does not include counting calories; it actually restricts food groups such as dairy and grains, processed foods, and sugar. However, some alternative paleo diets allow rice and dairy. Studies have shown that diets emphasizing the consumption of whole foods are better for overall health and weight loss because they have fewer calories, are more filling, and reduce the intake of processed foods associated with many diseases and health issues.
Paleo diets provide about 25% - 35% calories from protein, a key nutrient for weight loss, and they also encourage eating food rich in protein such as eggs, fish, and lean meats. Eating protein helps control hormones that regulate weight, increase metabolism, and reduce appetite. Paleo diets also reduce carbohydrate intake because they eliminate food such as bread, potatoes, and rice—all common sources of carbohydrates. According to multiple studies, low-carb diets are more effective than low-fat diets for weight loss. Although lowering carb intake can lower calorie intake, it’s important to note that carbs are not actually bad for you. Carbohydrates are our source of short-term energy, so having too little can make you feel tired. Reducing calorie intake also helps with weight loss, which is why it is very important to choose filling foods: they will fend off hunger. Paleo diets are more filling than diabetes or Mediterranean diets. Studies have shown that paleo diets help produce more hormones such as GIP, GLP-1, and PYY, all of which keep you feeling satiated after eating. The paleo diet includes foods that are lower in calories and richer in nutrients as compared to highly processed foods which are related to the current rise in obesity. The paleo diet promotes fresh fruits and vegetables—natural sources of sugar—and eliminates any added sugars. Too much added sugar is low on nutrients, adds calories to foods, increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease, and prevents successful weight loss.
If starting a paleo diet is something that interests you, eggs, preferably free-range, are a good source of protein; try not to eat more than six per week. You should also add fish, including shellfish, and fruits such as cantaloupe, figs, mango, and strawberries to your shopping list. For meat, you should get game animals such as bison, quail, and venison as well as lean cuts of poultry, beef, and pork, preferably free-range, grass-fed, or organic. Make sure to look into nonstarchy vegetables such as onions, peppers, asparagus, and pumpkin. Seeds and nuts like walnuts, cashews, almonds, and pumpkin seeds, as well as flaxseed oil, olive oil, and walnut oil as long as they are taken in moderation.
As mentioned earlier, food that is not available during the Paleolithic era is not included in the paleo diet, although there are some variations of the diet that are less restrictive. Some examples of food to stay away from are artificial sweeteners, highly processed foods, fruit juices, and sugary soft drinks. All dairy products, which include butter, milk, cheese, and yogurt, and cereal grains, including barley, rice, rye, and wheat, are also off-limits. You should also avoid legumes such as peas, beans, and peanuts as well as potatoes and other starchy vegetables. All sweets, including candy, honey, and sugar, and cured and processed meats like deli meats, hot dogs, and bacon are also forbidden.
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