You may have heard of the "paleo" diet. It was the world's most popular diet in 2013. But what is it? Is it a fad? Is it right for you? Scientist and "Paleo Mom" Sarah Ballentyne, Ph.D. defines it here;
“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” is from the “paleolithic” time when earlier humans (thousands of years ago) were hunters and gatherers. It is thought to represent the era of nutrition before agriculture.
What you can (and can’t) eat on the paleo diet
Being a "diet," paleo has some food guidelines. It was created to increase the amount of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods; while reducing the number of gut-disrupting, hormone-disrupting, and inflammatory foods. But this doesn't mean there are only a couple of foods to choose from! There is a pretty wide variety of food to choose from on a paleo lifestyle.
You can include fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat (including organ meats), seafood, healthy fats, fermented foods, herbs, and spices. This diet excludes 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.) I would put a lot of emphasis on leafy greens and colorful vegetables, as some well-meaning people could go overboard with the fats and proteins and forget this very important vitamin and fiber-rich group, which can actually cause constipation and other bad effects.
This diet can be thought of as more of a "template," rather than a strict set of rules. It’s a diet that seems to be easy to maintain, and with little to no negative side effects, except if you forget to eat more of the veggies like mentioned above. There is no measuring or counting of calories or carbs. And there are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods to choose from. I lean toward this sort of lifestyle for this very reason, and I find that many who are transitioning to a healthier diet, from the standard American diet for example, find it easy to follow as well..
Many proponents of this way of eating even encourage experimentation by adding in a few of the (healthy whole) foods on their list of exclusions. High-quality dairy, white rice, or potatoes may be added to less restrictive forms of the paleo diet.
How does the Paleo diet affect health?
Several clinical studies have been done to find out whether there are health benefits of following a paleo lifestyle. Some of the research has shown that the paleo diet can help with weight loss and belly fat. That alone may be reason enough to give it a try. It has shown positive effect on several modern-day chronic diseases. For example, it can improve risk factors for heart disease. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, improve glucose tolerance (remember our blood sugar talk last week?) and even reduce symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.
It’s also thought to be “gut-friendly” because 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, and I absolutely love this!
Who should consider a paleo diet?
Some experts recommend a switch to paleo for those with food intolerances or autoimmune diseases. Those at high risk for heart disease or diabetes may also be good candidates to give the paleo diet a try. If you react to gluten or lactose, this diet removes them both by eliminating all grains and dairy (called the Autoimmune Paleo diet or AIP)
Even if you don't choose to go the paleo route, the elimination of added sugars, processed and refined foods should be a goal to move toward, this is imperative if you want to improve any condition you might have, especially a digestive one.
The recipes on my Kick Sugar for Good challenge are a great way to get your feet wet in the paleo lifestyle, so go check those out! Please reach out if you have any questions. Here's a recipe similar to the ones you will find on my free challenge:
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!
Tip: You can top muffins with walnuts before baking.
'til next time!