Last Updated: February 23, 2015
The Paleolithic diet is about eating like how our human ancestors did in the prehistoric age, which is why it’s also known as the ‘caveman diet’. There are simple benefits of eating a Paleo diet.
The Paleo concept is simple: Humans’ bodies were evolved to eat a natural diet instead of many of the processed and manufactured foods we eat today, which have been a result of agricultural technology. However, our bodies have not evolved as fast to digest such foods.
Therefore, many Paleo advocates argue that to be healthier, leaner, stronger and fitter like a caveman, we must re-evaluate our diet and remove some of the common food groups we consider basic today, but didn’t exist back in the past – The major no nos for the Paleo diet are grains, bread and sugar.
So what can you eat on a Paleo Diet plan?
Basically the premise is a higher intake of protein, lower carbohydrates, less sodium, higher vitamins and fibers, and moderate unsaturated fat intake.
I’m writing this article because I do believe in the benefits of a Paleo diet, although there are some limitations which I will explain at the end of the article.
But here are some reasons why you should consider going on a Paleo diet, or at least try to incorporate some of its foods in your diet:
This is probably the biggest reason why you should consider going on a Paleo diet – It lets you lose weight. In multiple studies conducted, men and women have lost between 2 – 4kg over weeks of converting to a Paleo diet.
In the study ‘Osterdahl M, et al, Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2008‘, volunteers lost an average of 2.3kg while waist circumference was reduced by 1.5cm over 3 weeks of going on the Paleo diet; that’s pretty fast weight loss in my opinion.
With a slimmer you, you are more energetic as well as more confident with your appearance which will make a huge impact in your life.
As compared to short term diet fads or detox programs, the Paleo diet aims for a long term change in eating habits. As long as you sustain this diet and can incorporate it into your routine eating habits, weight loss can be sustained without any form of ‘crash’ which happens in many short term starvation diets once you finish the program. You won’t need to constantly jump from diet to diet.
The high protein and low carb ingredients have shown to improve metabolic processes and gut health as well as improve the healthy ratio of Omega-3/6 fatty acids, all aiding in constant fat burning too.
When you consume a diet high in sugars and fructose, your liver is overworked as it cannot properly make cholesterol while simultaneously processing fructose. As a result, you end up with impaired cholesterol formation, which can eventually lead to a excess cholesterol and cholesterol sulfate deficiency
Free sugars have no nutritional value and basically just pile on the calories (in turn turning excess calories into fat) and increases the risk of liver disease, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.
The Paleo diet restricts the consumption of fructose and grains thus eliminating the underlying cause of hypertension, daibetes and many other health diseases associated with high
Processed foods like canned products as well as sodium (salt) all increase blood pressure, but the Paleo diet cuts these foods out. A lower blood pressure reduces the chances of having a stroke, heart problems and even improves your eyesight.
According to the ‘Frassetto, et al. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009′ study, when switched to a paleolithic type diet participants saw Insulin AUC went down by 39%. and Diastolic Blood Pressure went down by 3.4 mmHg.
They concluded that even short-term consumption of a paleolithic type diet improves blood pressure, decreases insulin secretion, increases insulin sensitivity and improves lipid profiles in healthy humans.
Impaired glucose tolerance greatly increases the risk of progression to diabetes and development of cardiovascular disease. Research shows that people on the Paleo diet have improvements in glycemic control thus lowering their risk to such health risks.
In the Lindeberg S, et al. A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia, 2007 study, there was a 26% decrease of AUC Glucose in the Palaeolithic group (as shown on the left of the graph) compared to a 7% decrease in the control group on the right.
Every patient in the paleo group ended up having normal blood sugars, compared to 7 of 15 patients in the control group.
The Paleo diet comprises a lot of meat, so you’ll be getting a higher amount of protein to sustain muscle growth. This in turn creates a leaner physique and is enhanced further if combined with weightlifting. Lesser carbohydrates also means less excess calories which you won’t need unless you’re a professional athlete.
All scientific evidence have suggested that the caveman was very lean and did not have much excess fats or underdeveloped muscle due to their diet and the need to have a saber tooth tiger hunting physique. Move faster and get more things done efficiently while feeling a boost of confidence. You won’t feel out of breath just climbing a couple of stairs anymore.
High fat content of liver and muscle cells are a risk factor for metabolic disease like Alcoholic/non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. A paleo diet is high in protein, but limits saturated fats and carbohydrates which in turn reduces lipid content in liver.
In the study ‘Ryberg, et al. A Palaeolithic-type diet causes strong tissue-specific effects on ectopic fat deposition in obese postmenopausal women, Journal of Internal Medicine, 2013‘, the women had an average reduction in liver fat of 49%.
Energy is release rapidly from sugars and simple carbohydrates like bread and rice. This gives a spike in energy and bloatedness immediately after eating. However, after a couple of hours you will feel hungry again which affects your mood and also leads to binge eating that piles on the calories again.
With in the Paleo diet, there is higher amounts of protein, unsaturated fats and low GI Carbs though and the energy your body gets is released slowly and evenly throughout the day. Because of this, the blood sugar levels stay stable and you rarely experience energy dips; hunger develops gradually without any crazy mood swings and the need to snack or stuff your face with excess food.
Many diets have you watching the calorie count and how much fat/carbs you have had in the day. A Paleo diet plan though is pretty simple and easy enough to follow without having to keep score.
There are no strict rules or limitations on how much food you can eat as long as you eat the right foods each day. This makes it a lot easier to stick to the recommended list of foods which is actually quite diverse and not that hard to find. Eat normally and no one will even be the wiser that your diet has actually changed.
The advantages of lowering your cholesterol include decreasing the risk of plaque formation in your arteries. Plaque in the arteries can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and peripheral artery disease.
Both the Ryberg and Frassetto studies mentioned previously show that Cholesterol levels go down as well for people on the Paleo diet.
Specifically, the Frassetto study shows a cholesterol drop of:
I’m not a fan of detoxes although the idea sounds beneficial enough. The Paleo diet though restricts a lot of artificial ingredients like: MSG, trans fats, caffeine, white sugar and more, which gives your body a rest from all these inorganic additives. Increase in antioxidants from fruits as well as nutrients and fibers from vegetables also purge your body of accumulated toxins.
If you follow a strict paleo meal plan for a set time, this overall provides a similar detoxifying effect on your body without making you starve like crazy. Many Paleo followers including myself report feeling lighter and more energized after a couple of weeks. It’s sort of like a lazy detox and you won’t have to go to the extremes like a juice detox (which is arguably very unhealthy based on several researches).
Hardcore Paleo proponents argue that you should not eat any Legumes (beans, lentils and peanuts) as they have high concentrations of anti-nutrients like lectins or phytates. Research however suggests that the benefit of legumes outweigh their anti-nutrient properties, while cooking eliminates most anti-nutrient effects.
The Paleo diet suggests cutting out altogether cereal and grains too. I think that whole grains are perfectly fine though as they are complex carbohydrates like brown rice which breaks down slowly throughout the day, and the research mostly shows that eating whole grains improves health and reduces hunger as well.
I do however agree that a higher ratio of protein to carbohydrates as suggested by the Paleo diet makes more sense, so you still want to cut down on grains and carbs in general – A low carb diet is the way to go. For most people, I think the hardest staples to cut down on would be rice, bread and noodles.
Given our daily routine, it’s going to be near impossible to stick to a 100% pure Paleo diet, but it is definitely worth considering eating a majority of your meal referring closely to such a Paleo plan as the health benefits as well as weight loss evidence is strikingly clear.
The Paleo diet is also continuously evolving together with scientific research, so learn to think for yourself what is best and not just stick stringently to a diet. I find the best effects come when you can adapt the Paleo diet to your daily meal routine and turn it into a long term eating habit that you can follow – extract the fundamentals and you can create a more effective personalized meal plan.