The paleo diet has been on and off trend for the past decade. Some celebs swear by it — or at least they’re rumored to eat Paleo, some have called it that Silly heresy. Whether you like the idea of eating like a caveman – caveman? — or no, it seems clear that the meat-heavy diet trend isn’t going away any time soon.
At first glance, Paleo diet It may seem ideal for carnivorous people. But meat lovers beware. Nutritionists say that just because steak and eggs are allowed doesn’t mean you have to eat meat all day — or at every meal. Here’s everything you need to know about the paleo diet.
What is the paleo diet?
Some versions of this diet are called the caveman or paleolithic diet because you are supposed to eat foods that were available to our prehistoric ancestors. Think of things that can be hunted and gathered, such as meat, produce, and nuts. The paleo diet avoids foods such as dairy products and grains that humans began eating after the advent of agriculture and industrialization.
The term paleo diet was coined by Lauren Cordain in his 2002 food book, The Paleo Diet (a revised edition of the book was published in 2010). It is based on Paleolithic nutrition theory, which puts forth the idea that many chronic diseases – such as cancer and heart problems – became more common after the advent of agriculture and the industrial revolution, according to anthropological evidence.
What foods can you eat on the paleo diet?
Some versions allow limited amounts of non-palatable foods such as grains, dairy products, legumes, and other processed foods. Cordan’s original Paleo diet recommends following the 85-15 rule, which means that 85 percent of the food you eat should be paleo and 15 percent could be non-paleo. He said that choosing a modified version of the diet can make it much easier to stick to it over the long term Amy Shapiro, RD, Founder and CEO of Real Nutrition in New York City.
Any paleo diet includes:
- Bacon – as long as it doesn’t contain any added sugar.
- fish and shellfish.
- Game animals – such as venison, rabbits and quail.
- Meat – such as pork, poultry, and beef.
- Non-starchy vegetables – such as sweet peppers and asparagus.
- Nuts and seeds.
- Oils – such as olive, flaxseed, and walnut.
- sweet potato.
Foods to avoid on the paleo diet
Some versions of the paleo diet are more flexible than others. For example, some allow limited amounts of non-palatable foods — such as grains, dairy, legumes, and other processed foods.
Cordan’s original Paleo diet recommends following the 85-15 rule, which means that 85 percent of the food you eat should be paleo and 15 percent could be non-paleo. Most nutrition experts agree that a modified version of the paleo diet is easier to stick to and healthier.
You’ll avoid foods that humans began eating after the advent of agriculture and industrialization, including:
- Dairy products – including milk and yogurt.
- Legumes – all beans, lentils, peas and peanuts.
- Grains – such as oats and wheat.
- Most packaged or processed foods.
- processed sugars.
- White Potatoes – Some versions of the diet allow small amounts.
Paleo diet meal plan template
Here’s a sample meal plan from Shapiro that suggests what your day on Paleo might look like:
breakfast: A frittata made with whole eggs, mushrooms, asparagus, and dill
lunch: Salad with grilled chicken, avocado, butternut squash and spinach
Snack: Apple slices (or celery) with nut butter and cinnamon
Dinner: Roasted salmon with Brussels sprouts, roasted sweet potato and olive oil
Dessert: Avocado chocolate pudding
What does research say about the paleo diet?
The science on the paleo diet is murky — at best.
While some studies show that people can reap some health benefits by switching to a Paleo-style diet, researchers say the jury is still out on whether these benefits are actually better than switching to another diet. Diets that have been more thoroughly researched.
For example, a 2015 review was published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Show that studies comparing the paleo diet with diets that include dairy, legumes, and grains revealed that people eating paleo were better able to lose weight, improve glucose tolerance, lower triglycerides, and control blood pressure and appetite.
But the story gets more complicated when you look at the trials more closely, he explained Deirdre K. Tobias, Scd, an assistant epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. The legume and grain diets — the “control” groups — were also fairly high in processed foods. And everyone in those trials had risk factors for metabolic problems to begin with.
So it’s hard to say for sure whether or not the beneficial conclusions drawn from that study can really be attributed to eating paleo. Som experts are skeptical. “Did these benefits come instead from cutting out processed foods and increasing fruits and vegetables?” asked Tobias. “Because there are so many aspects of the diet that are being altered, it is virtually impossible to attribute any one component of the patterns to their success.”
Also, a lot of other components of our lifestyles have changed since the caveman era. So linking the onset of chronic diseases to specific foods is still somewhat theoretical.
Is it really okay to eat all that red meat?
If the idea of eating meat with most meals worries you, well, your fears are justified. There is a very large body of nutrition research suggesting that eating lots of red meat — especially processed red meat like sausage, ground beef, and bacon — is associated with negative health outcomes When it comes to things like heart health and cancer. If switching to an old-fashioned diet means significantly increasing the amount of red meat in your diet, “it can actually put you at greater risk for these health problems,” Tobias said.
Are grains and beans really bad for you?
The short answer is infinite. Organizations such as the World Health Organization and the US Department of Health and Human Services regularly Nutrition guide review For the Healthy Eating Guidelines, both groups consistently report that whole grains and legumes are generally associated with a lower risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetesheart disease, stroke and cancer.
If you’re improving the quality of your diet — meaning you’re eating more nutrient-dense, whole foods and fewer processed foods — by switching to the paleo diet, you’ll likely see benefits. But there is no evidence to prove that in the long term you will notice more benefits than if you switched to a healthy diet that includes grains and legumes and is backed by clinical evidence – such as Mediterranean diet or Vegetarian eatingsaid Tobias.
Are there other diets similar to the paleo diet?
There are many high-protein, low-grain diets out there. Basically, the paleo diet isn’t the only fad that has tried to turn meat into a diet staple.
Similar to the paleo diet:
- full 30which also excludes grains, legumes, dairy, and sugar.
- Keto diet, which also excludes whole grains and legumes. The diet allows dairy products, but no fruits or starchy vegetables.
- pegan dietwhich combines the principles of the paleo diet and a vegan diet.
- Atkins dietwhich limits but does not eliminate grains, legumes, and sugar.
If you focus on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods, the Paleo diet can be healthy, Shapiro said. But many people end up relying a little on animal proteins when following a Paleo-style diet because they feel like they won’t be filling up on other foods — like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds — the diet allows, she explains. “Then we risk consuming too much saturated fat.”
If following the diet means increasing your consumption of red meat, it probably isn’t a good move for your long-term health.
Going paleo means you’ll also cut out whole grains and legumes—both of which are great fiber sources. Vegetables and fruits also contain fiber, but most people will find they’ll need to make a very concerted effort to reach the recommended amount of fiber a day — for adults, it’s about 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.
Before switching to the paleo diet, be sure to talk to your doctor, who can recommend the best diet for you based on your specific health needs.