Before we became farmers and shepherds, we were hunters, fishermen, and gatherers. Our meals were completely different than what you can see on today’s plates. We used to eat a lot of meat, fish, fruits, and herbs, whole grains such as wheat and maize were completely lacking from our diet.
These are some of the principles that the Paleo diet relies on. You might know this diet under a different name since it has quite a few: the Paleolithic diet, the Caveman diet, and the Stone Age diet are among the most popular. Before getting into any debate, let’s see the rules of this diet.
The Paleo Diet Rules
Foods you can eat: high-quality meats from grass-fed or free-range animals, fish, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy vegetable oils (olive, coconut, avocado, flaxseed, macadamia, walnut).
Banned foods: cereals, legumes, dairy, sugar, processed foods, potatoes, salt and hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Even for those not following or not intending to follow the Paleolithic diet, some of its premises are good and can be used as guidelines for eating properly.
– Avoid processed foods – “Processed” is a word that now sounds worse than it was supposed to. Practically even a home-cooked meal is a processed food, but with the commercially available kind, the word gains an entirely different significance. Often the quality of ingredients is questionable, and you cannot judge by the food’s aspect since it no longer looks like the food in its natural form. Another problem is the efforts of the food producers to increase the shelf-life of their products, obviously by adding all sorts of chemicals. Last but not least, they are also striving to improve the taste and appearance of their products by adding sugar, salt, artificial flavors, and colorants.
– Regular exercise – The Paleo diet encourages its followers to move often and perform regular workouts, no matter which kind. After all, no lifestyle can be called healthy without physical activities.
– Eating mostly home-cooked food – Since the Paleo diet focuses so much on natural foods, its followers will have to eat home-cooked food a lot, which is very good. The cheapest way to eat quality food is only to prepare it yourself. Plus, you’ll know exactly which ingredients go into it.
– Lower salt and sugar intake: Salt is on the list of banned foods in the Caveman diet, and since all foods allowed are natural, the salt intake would be greatly reduced than in any normal, modern diet. The Paleolithic diet doesn’t allow processed foods, which include most of the sweet temptations we all indulge in. Instead, you can appease your sugar cravings with fruits and the occasional teaspoon of honey. We always recommend eliminating sugar altogether by doing a sugar detox diet.
Despite the real benefits offered by the Paleo diet, which is more likely a lifestyle than a simple diet, it does have its flaws.
– Eliminating entire groups of nutrients – Grains, legumes, and dairy are out of the question if you decide to follow this diet properly. Refined grains are indeed stripped of many nutrients, but whole grains consumed in moderation do provide a series of health benefits. Legumes and dairy are also important sources of fiber, calcium, vitamins, and minerals, which cannot be overlooked, and the lack of these food groups makes it very difficult to find nutritional balance.
– Costly foods – The Caveman diet recommends eating meat from grass-fed and free-range animals, but this type of meat is also expensive, thus not everyone can afford it.
– Cooking your own food – Obviously, not everyone likes to cook, but it would be very difficult to comply with the diet’s rules with food bought from stores and restaurants. Also, some people would love to cook regularly but have very busy work schedules or other obligations, which simply makes it impossible.
– Avoiding temptation – No chocolate, cookies, alcohol, popcorn, peanuts, and so on. Our world is full of tempting treats and it’s a hard task to resist all of them. What do you do when you meet with friends or go to a party, and all you have are foods and drinks you’re not allowed to eat?
The Paleo diet supports a healthy diet with an emphasis on physical activities, and it does have scientific studies backing up its claims. Followers can successfully lose weight and improve their overall health as well as reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other common diseases associated with obesity and eating unhealthy foods.
Nevertheless, through its well-established rule set, the diet can be quite pricey, time-consuming, and difficult to follow without giving into culinary temptations every now and then. My advice would be to get the best of both worlds: find the balance between healthy eating and the occasional not-so-healthy treats you love.