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Paleo 101: What Are the Benefits?

By now, you’ve probably heard of the paleo diet — which, while it rose to popularity in the early 2000s, has actually been around since the 1970s. The guidelines of the paleo diet are intentionally simple: eat foods that could have been around during the Paleolithic Era. This includes primarily food that could have been hunted or gathered, such as lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. 

January 9, 2020

While some followers of the paleo diet adhere to the principles more strictly than others, the general purpose is to eat simple, clean, unprocessed foods. Eating paleo means avoiding almost all commercially produced food, as well as grains, legumes, dairy, potatoes, salt and refined sugar. Many people who adopt a paleo diet do so with the intentions of losing weight, but that’s not the only potential benefit of this clean, protein-forward way of eating.

Benefits of Eating Paleo

Though results certainly vary, followers of the paleo diet generally report the following changes or improvements to their health and body:

  • More energy throughout the day
  • Better and deeper sleep at night
  • Clearer skin
  • Improvements to skin and teeth
  • Reduced allergy symptoms
  • Reduce gut inflammation
  • Fat loss
  • Improved glucose tolerance
  • Better blood pressure
  • Improved condition or relief to symptoms associated with diabetes, auto-immune diseases and cardiovascular disease

The paleo diet also encourages drinking lots of water and getting daily activity — two healthy habits that likely contribute to the benefits.

What to Eat on the Paleo Diet

While much of a paleo meal plan is plant-based (almost all fruits and vegetables are encouraged), the diet also includes several servings of lean meats, with a particular focus on fish, grass-fed animals and poultry devoid of any hormones or antibiotics. That’s why it’s important to note that though people who eat paleo eat a lot of meat, they’re eating quality meat.

Here’s a potential day-in-the-life of a paleo eater:

Breakfast: Two eggs with spinach, avocado and bacon.
Lunch: A salad with leafy greens, broiled salmon, tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced almonds, and lemon juice dressing.
Dinner: Lean sirloin steak topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions, with a side of broccoli.
Snacks: Carrot sticks and strawberries

Sounds pretty delicious, right?

What to Consider When Starting a Paleo Diet

Before starting any new diet, it’s always best to consult with your doctor first. However, there are also some basic criticisms of the paleo diet that are worth considering. For starters, some of the foods that paleo eaters avoid — namely grains and legumes — are typically considered part of a healthy diet since both are good sources of fiber and other nutrients. Dairy is also excluded, which is a primary source of calcium for many people.

Another big criticism of elimination diets is that depriving yourself of certain foods will only make you want them more. If you think this concept may be a challenge for you mentally, a fully devoted paleo diet may not be for you.

Yet, despite these exclusions and limitations, it’s perfectly possible to eat a balanced, well-rounded diet and still adhere to paleo principles. Just be mindful of what your body may be missing and talk to your doctor about any risks.

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