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A Look at What the Paleo Diet Is, Including the Numerous Potential Health Benefits

So, What Exactly Is The Paleo Diet?

Let’s go back, way back, to a simpler time when people had to walk around for hours, and sometimes even days, in search of their next meal. These people couldn’t walk into a fast-food restaurant or a grocery store—they had to physically search for nourishment throughout their natural environment just to feed themselves and their community.

Yes, it probably took a long time to find food, but these people weren’t suffering from all the health issues that plague modern-day humans. Instead, they consumed the natural, chemical-free foods that were full of nutrients. Furthermore, they also had plenty of exercise from scavenging all day.

Although this lifestyle may not seem completely necessary with today’s technology and expansive food industry, many people are adapting to the lifestyle of our early ancestors. While today we often go to farmers markets and grocery stores instead of foraging in the bush to find our foods, those following the paleo diet eat only what our early ancestors could get their hands on. This means nothing processed, just good ole’ hunter-gatherer grub. They also got plenty of exercise from pursuing an active, healthy lifestyle.

The paleo diet encompasses the ideal healthy lifestyle. By ensuring you get enough exercise, sleep, and nutrients from a Paleo diet, your body and mind will profit from many exceptional health benefits that are truly worth the effort.

What Does Paleo Mean?

Paleo refers to the Paleolithic Period, often known as the Stone Age of early prehistoric humans (also known as cavemen). This cultural period approximately 2 million years ago when humans first started creating and utilizing tools. Back then, they followed a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, subsisting on foods that could be found in their natural habitats—such as wild animals, fruits, berries, seeds, and vegetables.

Paleo Diet Foods

An easy way to remember what you can eat on a paleo diet is by asking yourself, “Would our early ancestors have access to this food?” If the answer is “Yes” then you’re taking the first step in adopting the paleo lifestyle. However, if you’re not 100% sure, since there are some foods that could have been found back then, here is a more definitive list of the foods you can eat while following a paleo diet:

Lean Proteins

These proteins are an essential part of the paleo diet, and are important for muscle growth, energy, and overall healthy immune system function—plus, they help you feel full for longer.

  • Eggs
  • Poultry—such as chicken and turkey
  • Beef—sirloin, tenderloin, or round
  • Pork—loin, tenderloin, sirloin, leg, or chop
  • Lamb—loin chops, arm chop, and foreshanks
  • Veal—cutlet, blade, or arm steak
  • Fish and seafood

Healthy Fats

Monounsaturated and Omega-3 fatty acids are considered healthy fats that are essential to any healthy diet. These fats are responsible for cognitive function and overall health. You can get these healthy fats from the following foods:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Coconuts
  • Avocados
  • Grapeseed Oil, and
  • Fish Oil

Fruits and Vegetables

A healthy, balanced paleo diet includes getting the essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants from fruits and vegetables—with an emphasis on vegetables rich in nutrients, like bright orange veggies and dark leafy greens.

Foods to Avoid

There were certainly no dairy farms, sugar refineries, or bakeries back in the Paleolithic day, so a large portion of the modern-day diet “staples” are not part of the paleo diet. Here are the foods you shouldn’t consume while maintaining a paleo diet.

Dairy

While dairy is a staple food for many North American households, it wasn’t part of the natural diet of our early ancestors. To this day, it can do more harm than good for our health, especially for those who can’t tolerate lactose. For a paleo diet, avoid all dairy products, such as:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Cream
  • Yogurt and
  • Ice cream

Grains

Processed grains were not around some 2 million years ago, and many pose health problems today in the forms of gluten intolerance, insulin spikes, and obesity. Examples of grains to avoid include:

  • Breads
  • Baked goods—fresh or packaged
  • Anything with flour, and
  • Pastas

Legumes

This one might be a shocker since legumes are often the main protein source for vegetarians and vegans. But, these were not an original food for hunters and gatherers back in the day, and can also sometimes cause insulin imbalances.

  • Beans
  • Lentils, and
  • Peanuts

Starches

Starches are complex carbohydrates that contribute to spikes in blood sugar levels and will make you feel hungry soon after eating them. Since some of these were included in the other categories, you shouldn’t have any problem remembering these unconventionally unhealthy foods to avoid.

  • Grains
  • Rice
  • Cereals
  • Flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Breads
  • Pastas
  • Muffins
  • Bagels
  • Crackers
  • Pinto, lima, and black beans
  • Corn
  • Peas, and
  • Potatoes

Alcohol

Although it’s possible that cave men discovered the intoxicating effects of eating fermented fruit, alcohol production was not part of their culture. The alcohol we know today is full of sugars, causing insulin spikes, and is also considered a toxin that will harm your organs—especially your stomach and liver, as well as your overall health.

Processed Food and Sugars

If the food comes in a package and is anything other than fresh proteins, fruits, or vegetables, then the rule here is simple – don’t eat it! Processed foods are full of all the bad stuff like refined sugars, preservatives, coloring, saturated fats, and other chemicals that are extremely harmful to our bodies and responsible for most of the health problems that plague North Americans today.

Health Benefits of The Paleo Diet & Lifestyle

By only eating naturally-occurring foods that early humans survived on, the paleo diet and lifestyle can help the body thrive and reap the following health benefits:

  • More energy
  • Reduced hunger
  • Healthy weight loss
  • Improved immune system
  • Clear skin
  • Strong, healthy bones and teeth
  • Improved sleep
  • Stabilized blood sugar levels
  • Efficient workouts
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Stable, balanced energy all day
  • Reduced allergies; and
  • Reduced diet-related chronic diseases—such as autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes

Although the paleo diet is based on a prehistoric way of life, the health benefits that come with eating only natural foods is especially important today since so many people are suffering from chronic diseases that could be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle. The paleo lifestyle revolves around simplicity when it comes down to it—just eat what our ancestors did to sustain their bodies and energy levels and stay active so you can reap the many health benefits. Taking care of your body the way it was always meant to be taken care of.