The paleo (or Paleolithic) diet is based on the idea that humans should eat the same kinds of foods they consumed during the Paleolithic era, which dates back to approximately 2.5 million years ago. Proponents of this diet believe that modern-day diets are a major cause of illnesses like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and that by returning to a more primitive diet we can reduce our risk for such conditions. But is the paleo diet really as healthy as it claims to be? Let’s take a look at what research has revealed about this popular diet plan.
What Does a Paleo Diet Consist Of?
The basic premise of this diet is that you should only eat “whole” or unprocessed foods, and avoid processed foods like white bread and sugary snacks. Eating this way means consuming mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and seeds, some dairy products (although most paleo followers opt for non-dairy sources of calcium), and healthy fats like olive oil or coconut oil. On the other hand, all grains, legumes, refined sugars, dairy products, condiments (like ketchup and mustard), processed meats (like bacon or hot dogs) are not part of a paleo meal plan.
Is the Paleo Diet Healthy?
Studies have found that following a paleo diet can lead to modest weight loss in overweight individuals when compared to other diets. However, this may also be due to its low energy density—the amount of energy per gram—which makes it easier to consume fewer calories without feeling hungry all the time. Additionally, research has shown that people who follow a paleo diet tend to have higher levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind) than those who don’t follow the plan; however, there is no evidence yet that these changes translate into improved health outcomes over time.
Before beginning any type of new eating plan it’s important to talk with your doctor first. The paleo diet may offer benefits in terms of weight loss and improved cholesterol levels; however, it may not be ideal if you’re lactose intolerant or vegan/vegetarian as it relies heavily on animal-based proteins like eggs and fish as well as dairy products like yogurt and cheese. Ultimately you’ll need to decide whether or not this type of eating plan fits in with your lifestyle before giving it a try. Good luck!