You hear a lot of people talking about the Paleo diet today, including many enthusiastic supporters who claim that it changed their life. Most supporters think of it as a lifestyle rather than a diet because they intend on following the associated eating patterns for the rest of their life. If you ask around long enough, you may also realize that there is more than one way to live this lifestyle.
This is because numerous books have been published about the Paleo diet, and they all give their own spin on what it means to eat like our ancestors from the Paleolithic period. You can learn a lot by reading some of those books, but the starting point is always a basic understanding of what it means to live the Paleo way.
Paleolithic humans didn’t suffer the alarming rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer that populations around the world now endure. Paleo followers believe that they can improve their health by living more like their ancestors. To what degree each person embraces the Paleolithic lifestyle is a personal decision, and that is why there are so many variations of the diet today.
During the stone age, humans survived by hunting and gathering their food. They consumed a lot of meat from animals that they expended a lot of energy catching. Berries, fruits and plants were also collected on a routine basis. These foods were consumed fresh or with minimal processing, so they never exposed their bodies to the preservatives, fertilizers, and other chemicals that are found in much of our food today.
The modern Paleo diet follows those guidelines and focuses on these basic foods:
When you compare specific Paleo-based diets, you will come across more in-depth recommendations for these food sources. For instance, some Paleo followers will only eat meat from grass-fed animals, some eat only lean meats to limit fat intake, and some will only consume wild game. Still others open the field to any meat that they feel like eating.
What you won’t find in any legitimate Paleo meal is processed ingredients. This rules out refined sugar and vegetable oil. Paleo followers will often eliminate foods that weren’t available during the Paleo Era, including potatoes and dairy products. This is another area where you may see some variation between diet plans.
While some Paleo-based diets focus mainly on food recommendations, it makes sense to exercise while following this lifestyle. Many of the benefits that your ancestors enjoyed during that era were likely due to their high activity level. They had to hunt and gather their own food constantly because they didn’t have modern refrigerators and deep freezers. You probably won’t start hunting all of your meat, but increasing your daily activity level is a good way to live a more authentic Paleo lifestyle.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the Paleo diet, you might wonder if this lifestyle is effective for losing weight, building muscle or improving your overall health. Research into the benefits of eating the Paleo way is limited at this point, but Authority Nutrition completed an overview of five small studies. The results showed that a strict Paleo diet has the potential to control cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes. It can also promote weight-loss.