Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 5 years or so, you’ve probably heard of the Paleo diet. It was, after all, the world’s most popular diet in 2013.
But what is it exactly? Is it a fad or here to stay? Most importantly, is it right for you?
Scientist and “Paleo Mom” Sarah Ballantyne, 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” comes from the term “Paleolithic”. You may have also heard the Paleo diet referred to as the “hunter-gatherer” diet. This is because it’s thought our ancestors were hunters and gatherers (the era of before agriculture).
What Foods Can You Eat on the Paleo Diet?
Any “diet” has guidelines to follow, and this one is no different. The paleo diet was created to increase the amount of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods people while reducing the number of processed, potentially “problematic” & inflammatory foods.
Eating Paleo doesn’t mean there’s nothing to eat or deprivation. In fact, there’s a wide variety of food to choose from on the Paleo diet.
Foods you would want to include are fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat (including organ meats—you will want to choose organic & grass-fed), seafood, healthy fats, fermented foods, herbs, and spices.
Foods you want to exclude are 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.).
You can consider the Paleo diet as more of a “template” rather than a strict set of rules.
It seems to be a maintainable diet with little to no negative side effects. There’s no measuring or counting of calories or carbs, which a lot of people seem to love. Plus, there are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods you can choose from. (Remember, whenever starting new and healthy eating habits, you should focus on what you CAN have NOT what you can’t have!)
Many supporters of the paleo diet even encourage experiments and reintroducing a few of the whole foods on their list of exclusions. Things like high-quality dairy, rice, legumes or potatoes may be some food you can add back if you want a less restrictive form of the diet. Plus, there are some who say different areas of the world ate differently during that time frame.
Does the Paleo Diet Affect Health?
Are there health benefits of eating in a paleolithic way?
Some of the research from clinical studies shows the Paleo diet can help with weight loss and belly fat. This effect alone may be reason enough to at least give it a try.
The studies also show a positive effect on several modern-day chronic diseases. For example, it can improve risk factors for heart disease. Plus, it shows to reduce inflammation, improve glucose tolerance, and even reduce symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.
SIDE NOTE: It’s not clear if the reason for improved is from eliminating processed foods from the diet or from another reason.
This way of eating is also thought to be “gut-friendly” since 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.
Is the Paleo Diet for You?
Some people recommend the Paleo diet for people with food intolerances or autoimmune diseases. Other good candidates for giving this way of eating a go are those at high risk for heart disease or diabetes.
If you’re one who reacts to gluten or lactose, this diet eliminates them both. So, it may be a good option for you!
Of course, eliminating added sugars and processed/refined foods isn’t “bad” for anyone. So, even if you don’t choose to go paleo, removing these kinds of foods (or only eating them on rare occasions) should be a goal you move toward.
The Paleo diet is based on what hunters and gatherers ate thousands of years ago. It is a whole-food based, nutrient-dense “diet” where you focus on eating fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, seafood, and fermented foods.
Science shows it can help some people lose weight, reduce risks of heart disease, improve glucose tolerance, and reduce inflammation.
Even if you don’t decide to go full-on Paleo, you should at the work toward eliminating added sugars, processed, and refined foods.
Paleo Banana Muffins
- 3 large eggs
- 5 mashed bananas
- ½ cup almond butter
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ cup coconut flour
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups with liners. In a food processor or stand mixer, blend eggs, bananas, almond butter, coconut oil, and vanilla.
In a large bowl mix coconut flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Add blended wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined.Spoon batter into muffin tins, ¾ full. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden.
Serve & enjoy!
You can top muffins with a sprinkle of chopped walnuts or pecans before baking.