What is The Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet is based upon the basic concept that the optimal diet should be the one to which we are genetically adapted. It is a way of eating which is to consume the foods available to our ancestors before the Neolithic age, i.e. before the development of agriculture.
The diet of our Paleolithic ancestors, the hunter-gatherers, was devoid of dairy products, cereals, sugar, salt and other refined products. So, the Paleo diet is a kind of diet which involves food items derived straight from nature, without any modification.
The Paleo diet encourages a higher intake of proteins and fibers, moderate to higher intake of fat, but lower intake of carbohydrates. There is no calorie counting or limitation of the amount of food intake.
The founder of the Paleolithic movement is Loren Cordain, Ph.D., the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets. In his popular book, The Paleo Diet, he claims that by eating in the way of our Paleolithic ancestors, we will be able to lose weight as well as prevent and treat modern day illness such as heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and many other health problems.
The Main Characteristics of The Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet is based on modern daily foods which resemble the food groups of our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors with no agricultural products. There are 7 main characteristics of this modern day Paleo diet:
- Higher protein consumption: Proteins make up of 19-35% of daily calorie intake. The main sources of protein are meat, seafood, poultry and other animal products
- Lower carbohydrate intake (mainly low GI): Carbohydrates make up of 35-45% of daily calorie intake. The main sources of carbohydrate are non-starchy fruits and vegetables, which mainly have low glycemic indices that will not raise the blood sugar levels quickly.
- Higher fiber intake: The dietary fiber which is important for good health is mainly obtained from non-starchy vegetables and fruits, which have more fiber than whole grains.
- Higher potassium but lower sodium intake: Fresh, unprocessed foods have higher potassium than sodium. Potassium is important for the body organs to function well. Low potassium and excessive sodium is associated with some health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Moderate to higher fat consumption: The fats are mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids) fats. Daily diets should include more healthful monounsaturated fats. The intake of Omega-3 and Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids should be in a good balance. A good ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 would be at around 1: 1 to 1: 3.Trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) are cut out from the diet.
- Higher vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant phytochemicals intake: Free-range meats are rich in vitamin B12 and vitamin A, fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in phytochemicals, vitamin C and vitamin A.
- Net dietary alkaline load diet: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (which are alkaline-forming) to off-set the acid formed by digestion of meats and fish and maintains the net alkaline load. A prolonged excessive dietary acid may lead to loss of bone and muscle mass, as well as other health problems such as high blood pressure and kidney stones.
What Foods Can You Have with The Paleo Diet?
Among the foods that are allowed in the paleo diet are fish and seafood, meats and poultry, eggs, fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as oil or fat from healthy sources.
Fish and Seafood in The Paleo Diet
Fish and seafood are good sources of protein. Fatty fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, herring, tuna, etc.) is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which is good for your heart. Seafood (e.g. clams, oysters, mussels, crabs) and fish are also high in vitamin B12. Below are some examples of fish and seafood that you can have:
Meats, Poultry and Eggs in The Paleo Diet
Meats and poultry should be from healthy sources, i.e. grass-fed or pasture-raised, or wild game. Always go for lean cuts or trim off extra fat. Cook the food in healthy ways, such as roasting, baking, broiling, stewing, steaming, etc. without too much fat added, and skim off any extra liquid fat after cooking. Eggs are another great sources of protein. Go for omega-3-enriched or free-range eggs and limit yourself to 6 eggs a week. Below are the examples of meats, poultry and eggs in the Paleo diet: