The Paleo Diet

What is the Paleo diet?

Paleo diet gets its name from the paleolithic era where humans were cavemen or hunter-gatherers. The Paleo diet tries to mimic the diet our ancestors used to follow thousands of years back. Animals do adapt to changes in the environment. But the change in our food recently was so rapid that our bodies didn’t get enough time to cope with those changes. So what was different in their diet?

  • During the agricultural revolution, the demand for food grew exponentially, giving birth to GMO food. Our ancestors had access only to organically grown food which was nutrient-rich.
  • It was during this time the production of grains increased tremendously. Hunter-gatherers’ diet did not comprise of so many grains. They relied more on fresh produce like fruits, vegetables, and hunted animals.
  • almost 70% of the food consumed by modern humans has come into existence only in the last 100-200 years. Oils, processed sugars, refined food, etc are a result of the industrial revolution. It was the invention of steel roller mills in the late 1800s that made a refined floor possible. As compared to the age of human existence, the food processing industry is very recent.
  • Caveman didn’t bother about micronutrient ratios. In fact, it was never a constant ratio as the diet was based mainly on immediate availability. It was more focused on the quality or health quotient of the food.

Benefits of Paleo diet

  • A good diet for people having gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.
  • Improved gut health reduces bloating aiding in weight loss.
  • Complete omission of refined foods improves digestion and metabolism.
  • Avoidance of Processed Foods reduces lifestyle diseases, improving overall health.
  • Reduced refined sugars and fats reduce the risk of diabetes and heart diseases.
  • Nutrient-rich organic foods help to get nutritional balance.
  • No dairy and wheat also can reduce inflammation.

Paleo and Menopause

Weight gain during menopause or perimenopause is an unfortunate but inevitable truth for many women. This happens due to changes in hormones, reduced activity with age, and reduced metabolism in midlife. This weight gain is different than weight gain during early age. At an early age, you might gain more subconscious fat which is relatively harmless. During menopause or perimenopause, you are at a higher risk of gaining visceral fat. Visceral fat can lead to serious health issues. This is the reason the midsection starts growing out of nowhere. To combat weight gain, a sustained lifestyle change with nutrient-dense foods is required instead of a crash diet.

Paleo can be a good option as a lifestyle change. Moreover, since it is not restrictive from the perspective of the quantity of food, it is a less stressful diet to follow for a long time. Reducing sugar, refined food and processed food helps in a great way to reduce inflammation and can avoid many lifestyle diseases.

What can you eat on Paleo?

You can eat organic natural food in a quantity that satisfies you. There is no macro counting in Paleo, so go ahead and indulge when you wish to. The main emphasis is on eating clean and healthy food containing protein and complex carbohydrates along with healthy fats and a lot of fiber.  You can eat grass-fed organic Meat, wild varieties of fish, organic eggs to get your protein. For carbohydrates, vitamin minerals you can have non-starchy vegetables, starchy vegetables like sweet potato, butternut squash, pumpkin. For snacking grab fruits, nuts, seeds, and season the food with herbs, spices, healthy fats, and oils.

What you have to avoid on Paleo

Avoid all types of refined food. Thus refined sugar, refined flour, refined rice. Avoid processed /packed food. Processed food is packed with sugar and fats hence not allowed in Paleo. Soda, packed juices, frozen ready meals, canned food should be avoided on Paleo. Almost all grains should be avoided, like wheat, quinoa, rice, legumes, beans, etc. White Potato being very high in simple carbs also should be avoided or strictly restricted in Paleo. Most types of dairy, especially low-fat dairy should be avoided. Some Paleo options include full-fat dairy like cheese.

Vegan & vegetarian Paleo options

Paleo is frequently seen as a meat eater’s diet. As they say in Paleo eat anything that walks, flies, or swims… basically animal protein. With grains and beans out of the picture, it seems like no protein options left for vegetarians to consume in Paleo. However, even vegetarian or vegan people can follow the Paleo lifestyle to some level if not 100%. Here are few ways to go closer to paleo being vegan or vegetarian.

  • Include healthy seeds like sunflower seeds, quinoa, amaranth, chia seeds to improve protein intake.
  • Sprout everything – Beans/legumes have some antinutrients. Soaking or sprouting of beans can reduce these antinutrients. The sprouting process also improves the protein levels and makes them ok to consume in paleo.
  • If you are not strictly vegetarian and can eat eggs, include more eggs.

Keto Vs Paleo

Keto & Paleo are often confused as similar diets. Both diets promote organic whole foods and restrict processed or refined food. But they are very different in many ways.

  • Keto is a high-fat diet.  Paleo restricts fats to moderate amounts.
  • Keto is an extremely low carb diet, while Paleo is not low carb.
  • Paleo diet emphasizes a protein-rich diet, while Keto has a moderate amount of protein.
  • Paleo diet encourages vegetables and fruits while keto limits them strictly.
  • In the Keto, diet ketones are the main source of energy. In the Paleo diet, both glucose and ketones are sources of energy.
  • Keto demands strict measurement of macros. Paleo on the other hand only restricts the type of food. Paleo does not restrict the amount of allowed food.
  • Both Keto, as well as Paleo, limit dairy but Keto allows cheese and cream as it is a source of fat.

A word of caution

Paleo is also a restrictive diet as it removes dairy, grains & legumes completely from your diet. This can lead to many deficiencies hence it is very important to talk to your doctor before trying this diet. Make sure to check specifically for Vitamin D and calcium deficiency and ask your doctors if any supplements are needed.

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Shilpa is an entrepreneur, blogger, certified yoga instructor, and certified nutritionist.

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