In 2013, the Paleo Diet was the most searched diet method on Google. Famous personalities like Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Kobe Bryant, and many others swear by it. It’s become one of the most popular diets out there, helping people lose weight and live a healthier life.
By now, you might even know someone who’s switched to the Paleo or ‘Caveman Diet.’ However, what is the Paleo Diet? Is the Paleo Diet really as healthy as everyone says? How exactly does the Paleo Diet help with weight loss? Let’s take a look and learn more!
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo Diet—or Paleolithic Diet, is based on an early period in human history and imitates the nutritional patterns of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Instead of eating modern processed food, grains and dairy, you eat like a caveman – focusing on meats, fruits and vegetables – anything a caveman could’ve either hunted or foraged. The result is a highly-nutritious diet that is naturally absent of refined sugar and high-sodium foods.
It might feel like we, as humans, have given up hunting and gathering a long time ago, but let’s put human digestive history in perspective.
- Modern humans evolved during the Paleolithic era, approximately 200,000 years ago.
- We’ve only eaten processed food since it became popularized during World War I – the early 20th century.
- Although humans have been eating grains for about half of our history, the processed flour, now commonly used, didn’t enter our diet until the Industrial Revolution, during the early- to mid-19th century.
Keeping this timeline in mind, it becomes easier to see why our bodies are still much better equipped to process natural meats, fruits and veggies, rather than modern processed offerings overflowing on store shelves. The result?
Epidemic levels of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity!
A Brief Background on the Paleo Diet Movement
The Paleo Diet movement was founded by Dr. Loren Cordain who first published research about the topic in 1985. Since then, many scientists have also performed studies and wrote books about the Paleo Diet.
Dr. Cordain has written over a hundred peer-reviewed scientific articles, including research on the health benefits of the Paleolithic Diet for people in the modern age. In 2001, he wrote The Paleo Diet, a book which gained acclaim and respect from the scientific community. The Paleo movement has inspired Paleo Diet communities and support groups around the world.
Is the Paleo Diet Really as Healthy as Everyone Says?
The Paleo Diet’s goal is simple: to help people return to healthy eating habits before processed food was widely introduced during World War I in 1914. People didn’t consume as much processed food with carbohydrates and sugars back in the early 1900s, leading researchers to conclude they had healthier diets with more fresh meat and organic vegetables compared to today.
To give perspective, a study released by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012 illustrated the causes of death in the United States in the year 1900 versus 2010. It highlights top three diseases with estimated deaths:
- Heart disease
1900: 13,740,000 deaths
2010: 19,290,000 deaths
1900: 64,000,000 deaths
2010: 18,580,000 deaths
1900: not in the list of diseases that caused deaths
2010: 2,230,00 deaths
Doctors indicate diabetes – once not in the list of diseases that caused deaths – was the third leading cause of death in 2010, while heart disease is still the number one cause of death after over a hundred years. On the other hand, cancer mortality rates have decreased since 1900 due to many medical advancements in cancer research. However, this shouldn’t undermine the fact that cancer is still prevalent in modern society.
To prevent these diseases, researchers note we don’t really need grave medical innovations. While doctors are working hard to find the cure for cancer, diabetes and heart disease, curbing these mortality rates can be as simple as shifting to a healthy diet and engaging in exercise.
Today, many of us rely on processed food products. People have become dependent on eating grains, which include pasta, bread and rice. Modern life affords us the convenience to buy food easily, many of which are loaded with high fructose corn syrup—the ingredient that causes type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It also doesn’t help that the government continues to recommend 6-8 servings of grain-based food a day for adults (from the Food Guide Pyramid released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
According to journalist Melanie Warner, author of the book Pandora’s Lunchbox, the average American’s diet is comprised of 70 percent of processed food. Most of what you see in the grocery store, like potato chips and cookies and even low-fat milk and yogurt, are loaded with additives. These foods are infused with all sorts of chemicals to extend their shelf life, as well as lots of sugar and salt to make sure they taste good.
Based on Warner’s research, it’s clear processed food is not healthy. We shouldn’t be surprised processed food is removed from the Paleo Diet. It’s about time we take control of our nutrition to avoid high-carb food loaded with harmful calories.
How Exactly Does the Paleo Diet Help with Weight loss?
The Paleo Diet is a high-protein, low-carb diet that helps the body lose weight by reducing calorie intake, increasing nutrient intake and helping prevent the blood sugar surge that occurs with high-carb food. When you don’t consume processed food and grains, you avoid putting empty calories into your body. It removes unnecessary sugar and carbs in your diet that spike blood sugar and hinder weight loss.
Moreover, eating protein-rich food increases your metabolism, helps reduce your appetite and makes you feel full longer. Protein is also an essential nutrient that builds muscle and helps regulate hormones for weight loss.
What Carbs Can You Eat on the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo Diet isn’t necessarily a “low-carb” diet, like the Ketogenic Diet. Instead you can eat as many carbs as you’d like, as long as they come from veggies, and low-glycemic fruits, like berries, apples and pears.
And, don’t skip those snacks!
When it comes to snacks, it’s actually good to have a mid-morning snack and a mid-afternoon snack to keep you from overindulging. Just make sure to replace those cookies and chips with healthy Paleo-approved snacks.
Remember, more than just a diet, the Paleo Diet is a healthy lifestyle. Adopting the Paleo Diet lifestyle will encourage you to eat healthy food alternatives from fresh and organic sources. Once you adapt healthier eating habits, you will lose excess weight, and it will help you keep the pounds off.