The basic premise of the paleo diet is that you eat what your very distant ancestors ate. That would be the pre-agrarian period or the hunter-gatherer period before any processed food. So, what does that mean? Well, in a nutshell, that means foods like grains, pasta, cereal, and candy are a no-no. Foods that your hunter-gatherer ancestors ate are the focus so foods like meats, fish, nuts, and leafy greens. We’ll go in more depth about which foods are paleo and which are not later.
So, something you should consider right of the bat is that the paleo diet narrows down your food choices. Simplifying what you put on your plate long term. Inevitably you will end up doing less calorie counting because your food selection is simplified. Calorie counting has its place, but it is essential to know that not all calories are created equal. Eating calories from candy is not the same as eating turkey breast with some green veggies.
Grains and Pains
So, what is the big deal with grains? Why does it seem like everyone who advocates the paleo diet hate grains? It's a complicated story as you can imagine, but I’ll try and give you the salient points here.
There are three big issues with grain that make it a pariah for the paleo menu:
Don’t Fill You Up
The first is that grains tend to be high in carbs and low in their satiety potential. That combination, lots of carbs + doesn’t make you feel full, is a sure-fire way of increasing your body fat. The low down on lots of carbs goes like this. You eat a lot of carbs; your body produces a lot of insulin. When your insulin levels are high, your body focuses on using those carbs for energy and storing them as fat.
Note: Want to banish late night hunger cravings? Check out our Learn How to Control Hunger Cravings, Starting Now Guide.
Gluten gets a bad name for a couple of reasons. For starters, gluten is a protein that your body has lots of trouble digesting. The aggravation causes in your digestive system can lead to inflammation, bloating, and even vomiting. That isn’t pretty. Also, this kind of digestive system problems tampers with your ability to absorb nutrients that are healthy for you. So, gluten gets the boot for a good reason a la paleo.
Lectin is a small defense mechanism that plants produce to keep themselves from being eaten. So, legumes, nuts, and seeds synthesize these proteins with the sole purpose of aggravating digestive systems. Consuming lots of lectins can lead to problems such as:
- intestinal damage
- disrupting your natural gut bacteria
- interference with your body’s absorption of healthy nutrients.
Alright so you’ve got the scope of what foods to avoid while adhering to paleo diet guidelines.
Here are the Foods You Can Eat While Adhering to Paleo Diet Guidelines
Alright enough with what you can’t. Let’s talk about what you can. The paleo diet focuses in on those foods a hunter-gatherer would get his hands on. Here is a rundown of the food categories that you’ll be sinking your teeth into once you get started.
Note: You don't want to leave our site without first checking out our 111 Delicious Paleo Diet Recipes. Who says eating healthy has to be boring and bland. Not us!
Grass Fed Meat and Seafood
Meats are an excellent source of protein and protein is prominent in the paleo world. Protein helps you build lean muscle and keeps feeling full.
Grass-fed meat tends to be leaner and has more omega-3-fatty acids. Omega-3-fatty acids help support a healthy heart and aid your body in anti-inflammation.
Nuts, Seeds, And Healthy Oils
Nuts and seeds were easily accessible to the primitive man. That was good news because nuts and seeds are chock full of fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
Paleo diet oils consist of olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado and coconut oils.
Fruits and Veggies
No surprise here. Can’t argue with the nutritional utility of fruits and veggies on almost any diet. Fruits and vegetables get you lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
On the paleo diet, avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes.
A staple of anyone following paleo diet guidelines is eggs. They are high in antioxidants, vitamin B, minerals, and protein. You’ll want to buy cage-free and organic eggs so that you get a higher amount of omega-3’s for yourself.
So now let’s talk about why anyone would eat this way. What in the world is so great about eating like a cave dweller?
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The Pros of the Paleo Diet
Following Paleo Diet Guidelines Keeps You Feeling Full
The paleo diet opts you out of the world of grain. Avoid foods like bread and pasta while on the paleo diet. Those foods are high in carbs and tend to leave your stomach wanting. Instead while on the paleo diet you will be grubbing down on high protein foods like meats and fish.
High protein diets have long been known to keep your stomach feeling fuller. This side benefit could lead to you establishing a healthier eating pattern. Consistent good eating patterns mean easier body fat management and that is good news for you.
The Paleo Diet Reduces Risk Factors of Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes
The paleo diet treats processed foods like the devil. Processed foods are often the ones responsible for getting you all that extra sugar into your body. Sugar in moderation isn’t Satan incarnate, too much sugar does more than pack on body fat though. Constant high sugar leads to diabetes, and no one wants that. Sticking to paleo has also been shown to improve your triglyceride levels. That nifty little fact could reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Following Paleo Diet Guidelines Means Lower Body Fat for You
Sticking to the paleo menu means you will be eating a lower carb diet. Now carbs are a hot topic nowadays, and you might have the impression that they are like mustard gas…they should be avoided at all costs. That’s not the case. It’s not that carbs are outright bad for you; it’s just that you need to moderate them properly. The issue with carbs is that they tend to get you to overeat and then get stored as fat. On paleo, you’ll be keeping your carbs in check by getting them from foods like green veggies and fruits.
Paleo Can Help Improve Your Blood Pressure
If you go paleo, you’ll be opting into an eating pattern that is low in sodium and high in potassium. This kind of nutrition paradigm has long been known to help keep blood pressure at a healthy level.
The Cons of the Paleo Diet
Following Paleo Diet Guidelines Might Be Tough to Sustain
There is no question that the paleo diet is a big challenge for many people. Many people have a very firm grip on grains being a staple in their daily life. Trying to avoid bread, pasta, and good ole breakfast cereal could be a Mount Everest for you. If these are foods you very much indulge in, you should try and ease your way into it. Try to drop grains cold turkey could be too dramatic of a change.
Following Paleo Diet Guidelines Could Deplete You of Certain Nutrients
The foods eliminated could be foods that are supplying you with a certain amount of essential daily nutrients. Everyone’s eating patterns are different. Good news there is a simple solution, and that is to be religious about taking your daily vitamins. In most cases, this addresses the issue adequately.
Because of $$$
The paleo diet can put a strain on your wallet because unprocessed foods cost more. Well for whatever reason, don’t ask me, in some food categories getting stuff that is untreated costs more. I don’t understand why but sometimes that is the case. Getting the meats could digging into your pocket’s deep.
Low Carb Diets Can Be Tough on The Fitness Rat
If you're into working out you know you need the energy to make that happen. Keep reading how to get that energy while strictly following a paleo diet.
Paleo Diet Guidelines for Weightlifting/Bodybuilding
The paleo diet can be a good hack for the gym rat for a couple of reasons. The paleo diet does give you an excellent nutritional foundation with its heavy emphasis on meats and veggies. Steadily feeding yourself meats and veggies will give your the protein you need for building lean muscle comes naturally.
Must Have Energy
One of the main contentions for any gym rat is having to cut carbs while on the paleo diet. Many people who love hitting the weights rely on high carb foods such as bread and pasta. The thought process is that these foods are converted to energy fast.
So, is there a way around this if you want to adhere to paleo diet guidelines? The short answer is to use high carb fruits as your go-to for workout energy. Whether you use them immediately pre-workout or you indulge the first thing in the morning or both. Fruits like bananas, cherries, and pineapples are super good for this.
The other solution is to rely on oats. Oats are one of the more hotly debated foods on the paleo circuit.
If you are reading this, you also probably heard most of your life that oatmeal is healthy for you. So, this is one of those catch-22’s where you can’t win. I’ll venture to say that using oatmeal strategically as a workout food can be managed on the paleo diet. Usually, if people are using grain as a source of energy, they have it in their pre-workout meal.
If you wish to be a “doctrinaire” paleo eater you can conjure up oatmeal alternatives that are considered paleo friendly.
Now based on your current weight, the macronutrient ratio you should be consuming is:
- 45-60% carbs
- 10-35% protein
- 20-35% from fat
If you are trying to pack on serious muscle, increase your protein ratio higher than 35%. Which of course is only a general rule of thumb.
Paleo Diet Guidelines for Weight Loss
Is the paleo diet good if you want to lose weight? Would eating like a caveman make me look like the typical caveman or cavewoman? Usually, when you see artists rendition of them, they are slim right?
Well, there is some credibility to this line of thinking. Eating in a prehistoric way can be beneficial to you if you are looking to burn fat.
The Paleo Diet Is High in Protein Which Keeps You Feeling Full
High protein diets are very beneficial for you because protein tends to keep you feeling full. High satiety levels, of course, mean you are less inclined to snack spontaneously. Consistency in your nutrition plan is always vital. Remember the magic isn’t just the plan you have but how consistent you are. Study after study has shown that the more sustainable the meal plan, the better the health benefits.
The Paleo Diet Is Low in Carbs Which Means You’ll Burn Fat for Energy
The carb craze doesn’t seem like it's going away anytime soon. Carbs get people worked up, but I’ll try and simplify the issue for you. It’s not that carbs are all bad; it's just that they need to be consumed in proper amounts and from the right sources. Too many carbs in your diet tend to get your body into the fat storing mode. Your body will start to take those carbs and put them into fat stores.
Following consistent paleo diet guidelines means your body is more apt to tap into your fat stores as energy sources. Also, the paleo diet emphasizes you are getting your carbs from fruits and veggies.
The Paleo Diet Eliminates Processed Foods and Excessive Sugar
Processed foods are often the culprit when it comes to weight management. They tend to contain a lot of additives and extra junk for taste or preservation. We could go on and on about the garbage packed into processed foods, but that would take forever. Processed foods also tend to have lots of added sugar and why they can be so addictive. These kinds of foods are garbage and play no role in the paleo diet. Which leads to a more consistent way of eating that keeps your blood sugar levels low. Remember consistency is key to success in any nutritional plan, and those processed foods generally throw you off track.