Should You Do Paleo? The Basics and Advantages

Our cave-dwelling predecessors didn’t eat microwaved diet dinners or meet friends for happy hour. They didn’t hit the drive-through on the way home from the office. And Loren Cordain, PhD, the originator of The Paleo Diet, believes returning to the diet of the past could be the key to solving many contemporary health issues.

Cordain has been researching the diet of early humans since the 1970s. The diet he came up with has gained popularity among athletes and dieters alike, spurring spin-offs, as well as food product lines, restaurants, and a renewed interest in bone broth.

What exactly is the Paleo Diet and can it help you shed hard to lose pounds and gain optimal health? The underlying idea behind Paleo is to optimize nutrient-dense foods while eliminating any foods with anti-nutrients that lead to health problems.


The Shopping List

  • Lean meat, such as chicken, turkey, pork, lean beef, and buffalo (bison)
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Non-starchy Vegetables: Lettuce, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and spinach
  • Nuts, like almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and pistachios (no peanuts)
  • Seeds, like pumpkin and sunflower
  • Eggs
  • Plant-based Oils, such as olive, walnut, grapeseed, and coconut oil


Foods to Avoid

  • Grains: Oats, wheat, barley, rice, cereal, bread, pasta, bagels, crackers, granola, tortillas, popcorn
  • Starchy Vegetables: Potatoes, corn, chips. Some Paleo dieters include sweet potatoes
  • Legumes or Beans: No peanuts, peanut butter, soy foods, including soy milk, tofu, edamame, hummus or beans of any kind
  • Dairy: No milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream
  • High-Fat and Processed Meats: No hot dogs, salami, bologna, pepperoni, ground meat, rib roast, ribs
  • Sugars: Soft drinks, honey, jam, jelly, syrup, candy, cake, cookies, sports drinks
  • Diet Soda and Artificial Sweeteners


Pluses of Paleo

Eliminates Processed Foods and Sugar: By eliminating processed foods and sugar, you will be focusing on whole foods, without additives, chemicals, or preservatives. You will also be eliminating added sugar in any form. The typical American diet includes over 130 pounds of sugar per year. Numerous health organizations, including the World Health Organization and American Heart Association, recommend restricting sugar intake to 25 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men. Sugar increases the risk for inflammation and numerous health conditions.

Includes Anti-Inflammatory Foods: The Paleo diet includes fruits, vegetables, healthy oils, nuts, and seeds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Satisfying: Including protein and healthy fats can restrict fluctuating appetite and blood glucose levels, which lead to increased appetite, overeating, and weight gain.

Weight Loss: Restricting excess calories from processed foods, and sugar, as well as the limited selection of foods, can lead to weight loss.

Cholesterol, Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes & Other Health Issues: Cholesterol is an important part of cell membranes but high levels low-density lipid cholesterol in the bloodstream is indicated as a risk factor for heart disease, specifically atherosclerosis or buildup in the arteries. LDL is just one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk for both Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. By limiting refined grains, processed foods, and grains (as well as excess abdominal weight), you lower your risk of metabolic syndrome.


The Bottom Line

The Paleo Diet has plenty of good takeaways. Restricting processed foods, sugars, additives, and chemicals in favor of whole foods provides numerous health benefits. As with any diet or nutrition plan, it’s important to focus on whole foods rather than packaged foods formulated to fit the diet.

Focus on eating lean proteins. Include cold water fish such as salmon, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid vegetable oils, which throw off the omega fatty acids ratio in favor or pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

Choosing nutrient-dense foods will support your health and help you lose or maintain weight.

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