Advantageous for losing weight and improving health, the paleo diet continues to be talked about in the media and in the daily lives of many people. Beyond this reputation, we wanted to distinguish the true from the false and we found that there are irrefutable truths on this subject. Find out all you need to know about the paleo diet!
What is the paleo diet?
The paleo diet consists of eating like our ancestors. Also called “Paleolithic diet“, this diet was theoretically the one adopted by cavemen. Concretely, the principle of this paleo diet aims to eat raw and to permanently eliminate cereals and dairy products. A diet in which you will have to give way to fruits and vegetables as well as animal proteins. Moreover, if we go back to the 80s, a certain doctor Boyd Eaton says in his book that we still have the same nutritional needs as our ancestors during the Stone Age.
Of course, during this period, the hunter-gatherers never experienced diabetes, obesity or cholesterol levels. They didn’t even count their calories. Since 1985, many scientists have looked into this way of life by analyzing the remains of the bones found. Result: our ancestors were in better health than the current populations whose diet is very distant. Is this the only reason? Some studies Recent studies question a direct cause and effect link between the ketogenic diet and the benefits often mentioned. Still, since the advent of agriculture and industrialization, our health has never stopped deteriorating. Hence the desire of many of us to return to a so-called paleo diet. Either way, the latter would represent a healthy alternative to our current diet .
The origins of the Paleo diet
Concretely, we cannot say that this diet was created by someone since it is based on what the first human beings ate. Nonetheless, various health professionals have decided to do further research on the subject. Dr S. Boyd Eaton was the first to attempt in 1985 to shed light on the link between the diet of the past and the absence of degenerative disease.
Ten years later, Dr Jean Seignalet used the research of his predecessor to highlight the importance of changing food to effectively fight against diseases such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis. But the modern Paleo movement is mainly based on a book published by Loren Cordain and which highlights among the different existing regimes, the one that would be the most suitable for our present time.
Note that there is still a disagreement between the adept of the Paleo diet on the need to cook food or eat it raw. A majority of followers, however, would opt for gentle cooking. The paleo diet also has a derivative with the ketogenic diet which also banishes carbohydrates.
What are the principles of the paleo diet?
In addition to facilitating weight loss and more particularly fat loss , the paleo diet also aims to prevent certain diseases and improve athletic performance. There are also different profiles of people who start to follow this diet and they do not all have the goal of losing weight.
First, the paleo diet will influence weight loss by avoiding the consumption of foods rich in carbohydrates such as bread and pasta . This change may also have a beneficial effect on your liver, notably by relieving it of its usual fat load. By offering its followers to follow a healthy and natural diet, the paleo diet will also play a role in the fight against chronic diseases. In addition to that, this new type of diet aims to improve physical form by playing, for example, a beneficial role on the quality of sleep, on the improvement of performance (physical and intellectual) and on the feeling of well-being.
How does the paleo diet work?
As we mentioned above, the paleo diet excludes all kinds of industrially processed foods. Therefore, it is recommended to anyone who wants to “eat well” by favoring natural and raw products.
However, this is a difficult task, if not impossible, as it is a real way of life that requires time and motivation. Concretely, the paleo diet consists of approximately 40% of carbohydrates, 30% of lipids and 30% of proteins.
Paleo diet: what foods are allowed and foods prohibited?
If you want to try the Paleo Diet, you’re going to have to sift through your food stores considerably and think about your shopping lists in a whole new way. Indeed, you must say goodbye to cereals such as wheat, rice, corn, pasta, bread, semolina, bulgur, breakfast cereals or even flours of any type. Sugars and starches are also to be avoided, so you must draw a line on potatoes, peas, quinoa, industrial jam, powdered sugar, candies or even syrups.
Legumes are also to be put in the trash, among them we find lentils, white beans, bean sprouts and chickpeas. Also forget about oil, whether it is sunflower, peanut, corn or rapeseed. You should also cross out everything that is canned soup, ready-made sauce, ketchup, chips and dessert mix.
To continue on the list of prohibited foods , you will have to take a little tour in your refrigerator. Milk, cheeses, yogurts, margarine and creams are to be thrown in the trash, as are fruit juices and sodas. In your freezer, you will have to remove the pizzas, quiches, pies, petit fours, ice cream and any other food that is not allowed in the Paleo diet.
Concretely, for your diet to be effective, you will have to consume mainly so-called “authorized” products. Among them we find fresh meat and frozen meats such as chicken, beef, lamb but also eggs, fish and seafood. At the plant level, you can stock up on fruits and dried fruits (note that frozen fruit is allowed). Also, don’t forget to buy fresh vegetables. In your diet, you can also include so-called good fats such as duck fat, olive oil or coconut oil . You can also add almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and spices to your shopping list.
In the prehistoric era, our ancestors used to hunt and fish wild animals in order to survive. There was no game at the time. As a result, the paleo diet favors lean meats such as skinless poultry, turkey or veal.
• THE FISH
As you may have noticed, fish are also included in the Paleo diet. We just advise you to eat them 2-3 times a week.
We recommend that you include eggs in your paleo diet and consume them 3-5 times per week.
• THE FRUITS
You can also eat fruits such as strawberries, blueberries or raspberries. It is a good idea to opt for fruits that are rich in antioxidants and less sweet.
• THE VEGETABLES
Don’t hesitate to include vegetables in your paleo diet, regardless of their quantity. It should be noted that the vegetables were used by cavemen to balance proteins and meats.
• SEEDS, WILD GRAINS AND NUTS
As there was no agriculture yet, our ancestors used to gather grains, nuts and seeds. So, you can eat almonds, hazelnuts, linseed or sunflower seeds …
At the time, the berries were part of the Paleolithic diet. This is why we recommend them as a dessert for example.
Foods to eat in moderation
In the paleo diet, some foods can be tolerated, but in small amounts. Like tea or coffee, avocados, dried fruit, cold-pressed oils or alcoholic drinks. At the start of this nutritional program, we advise you to avoid them first. Once you get used to it, you can gradually incorporate them into your diet. Remember again: it is to be consumed in moderation.
Of course, our ancestors already found and used fire during the Paleolithic period. However, it should be noted that their diet is mostly raw food. So, the following foods should be banned:
Anything that is legumes and chestnuts is to be avoided.
• THE CEREALS
You will need to eliminate wheat, rice, rye, corn, oats, or barley in your paleo diet. Including the derivatives of these foods (bread, pasta…) In fact, in the wild, the cultivation of these different grains did not develop well until agriculture appeared.
Especially those which contain a lot of starches such as potatoes, sweet potatoes or even cassava. Indeed, these foods still require cooking before consumption. This is why they are to be banned!
• DAIRY PRODUCTS
Several theories have shown that nomads during the prehistoric period did not consume the milk of animals. This is why they are not allowed in the paleo diet.
• SWEETS AND SOFT DRINKS
These are foods to absolutely avoid in a Paleolithic diet. This is also the case for all processed or canned products.
The fundamental goal of the paleo diet is therefore to re-adopt the eating habits of cavemen. Suddenly, in this basic principle, the Paleolithic diet is not a slimming diet, but a diet to be in better health or to preserve it.
It is also not a balanced diet, as it is made up mostly of protein and fat. Finally, it should be noted that the paleo diet is not for everyone. It could have more or less significant side effects without taking some precautions (we will tell you about it below).
The benefits of the paleo diet
Do you know what are the health benefits of the paleo diet? Well, know that the promises of this food program are many. Here are a few non-exhaustive examples:
It is obvious that the more you deprive yourself of starches and processed foods, the more weight you will naturally lose, especially in your waistline. Especially since the paleo diet allows a significant feeling of satiety thanks to fibers from plants and proteins obtained from lean meats.
If you are on a paleo diet, you are no longer likely to need cravings or snacks from time to time. And for good reason, it is a diet high in fiber and protein. This promotes a better feeling of satiety and therefore reduces your appetite. It also results in a significant increase in your energy.
Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
The paleo diet is a real ally in preventing the risks of cardiovascular disease. Since it causes weight loss naturally, it can also fight diabetes or obesity. Moreover, several studies suggest that the paleo diet can relieve most autoimmune diseases (sclerosis, arthritis, rheumatoid, celiac disease…).
A detox ally
Whether you want to cleanse your body in the short or the long term, the paleo diet is perfect for achieving better results. Indeed, it is able to normalize intestinal functions, reduce digestive disorders as well as acid reflux. In addition, it is among other things a gluten-free diet since you will have to deprive yourself of cereals.
A well-being ally
By eating paleo, you will feel good about yourself. This diet improves sleep and reduces fatigue. Also, it is not necessary to count calories. This is not the case for other food programs. However, we recommend that you only eat when you are hungry.
To know: if your goal is to lose weight on the paleo diet and you want to achieve a better result quickly, you will need to limit calories, exercise and balance carbohydrates (focusing on calories from nuts, seeds , fruits and vegetables).
Paleo diet and cholesterol
Some believe that the Paleo diet is too fatty and that it could promote an increase in bad cholesterol . Even if the improvement of the latter is a benefit advanced by the followers of Paleo, it often depends on the type of meat that the person consumes. In Cordain’s Paleo Diet book, it is recommended to favor lean meats and not to consume too much eggs so as not to see this type of inconvenience appear.
Paleo diet and acidity
Some people liken the Paleo diet to a high protein diet that will play a bad role on the kidneys and acidify the body. But it should be understood that the presence of lipids will annihilate this harmful effect. In people who decide to remove all forms of sugar from their diet, a state of ketosis may develop. Hence the need to ingest enough fruits (low glycemic index) and vegetables to promote an alkaline organism .
Paleo diet and calcium
While following a Paleo diet, you should also be especially vigilant with your calcium levels. Remember that you are eliminating all dairy products from your diet and this could have consequences for your body. To be sure not to have deficiencies, do not ignore foods that contain calcium such as vegetables or fish.
Disadvantages and contraindications
Remember, the paleo diet is not for everyone. According to the British Dietetic Association study, it is not well balanced in terms of nutrients. According to this study, it is forbidden for young girls because of the absence of glucose and calcium.
Concretely, it lacks carbohydrates which are only 22 to 40% while they must represent 45 to 54% of our daily calorie intake. So the paleo diet may increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies in some people.
Also, going on a paleo diet can be monotonous, especially if you plan on adopting it for the long term. Especially since it is difficult to maintain this diet due to the fairly large number of dietary restrictions. This is why we said above that this nutritional program requires good motivation.
On the other hand, if you adopt it in the short term, the yoyo effect can take place when the diet is stopped, especially after a few months. In other words, you risk having a significant weight gain after your diet. Despite this, it should be noted that it all depends on your motivation.
Typical Paleo Diet Day Menu
Homemade vegetable juice
2 slices of chicken breast
Peanut butter chicken
Sweet potato and carrot fries
Mixture of nuts
Carrot soup with coconut milk
Chicken stuffed with cranberries and hazelnuts
Precautions to take before adopting the paleo diet
As you will have understood, not everyone is able to follow a Paleo diet. Indeed, this new way of life must result from a thoughtful choice and a desire to radically change one’s diet. If you just want to lose a few pounds, then this diet is most likely not the best fit.
Prepare well before starting
Before adopting the paleo diet, we advise you to prepare yourself physically and morally. Physically, because this type of diet requires discipline. Morally, because you will have to determine your objective. Is it weight loss, a detox or just improving your overall health? Depending on your answer, you will be able to determine whether to adopt this diet in addition to another or not.
Choosing the right meat
It should also be noted that certain meats consumed in France are high in saturated fat. If you don’t make the right choice, you risk increasing your cholesterol levels or developing cardiovascular pathologies during your diet.
Watch out for calcium and vitamin D
Also, you will need to compensate for nutritional deficiencies, especially in calcium and vitamin D. Otherwise, it can quickly require you to take drug supplements. To better reassure you if the paleo diet is for you or not, do not hesitate to consult a doctor or a nutritionist before starting your diet.
Continue or start physical activity
Regarding weight loss, be aware that physical activity is recommended if you want to achieve good results quickly. Indeed, the paleo diet is able to reduce the rate of fat mass and increase muscle mass . This allows you to improve your physical performance. It’s complementary!
The opinion of professionals (dietitian / nutritionist)
According to Anne-Laure Meunier, a nutritionist doctor, “our genetics always match that of cavemen. This is what determines the majority of our nutritional needs ”. However, she adds that we must take into account the changes that our society has undergone.
In other words, you will have to keep in mind that the dietary restrictions demanded by this diet are difficult, if not impossible to maintain in the long term. Good hydration is desired so that protein can easily be purified by the kidneys.
In addition, another professional, notably a dietitian, states that “the paleo diet is very popular because of the weight loss and muscle mass gain it promotes. However, it is wise never to fall into the extreme, because in the long term, this excessively restrictive diet can have harmful consequences for health ”.
CONCLUSION: The paleo diet is a way of life in its own right
The paleo diet should not only be considered on the diet aspect, but also, and above all, on the physical and social aspect. It is a true WAY OF LIFE. You will never again be able to live exactly with the habits and life principles of our ancestors. So, you just have to adopt this diet to learn to respect your genes and / or to get rid of your bad habits on a daily basis.
Contrary to what some might think, the Paleo diet is not a quick fix for achieving a dream body or optimal physical performance . Adopting this new diet is a whole way of life. It is not trivial to remove the majority of the food you eat from your daily life. To do a simple test, you can stand in your kitchen and look at the foods around you. Most of them are sure to be thrown away if you decide to adopt a Paleo lifestyle. So, are you ready?