The Paleo Diet Review
By WLR's Site Manager, Laurence Beeken
Originally designed to be a lifestyle diet to combat modern day illness, the Paleo Diet has become better known as a weight loss plan which restricts and eliminates certain food groups. We take look at whether eating like a caveman on the Paleolithic diet can help or hinder your weight loss.
The Paleo Diet is now the most searched for diet on Google. It has become the diet of choice by fit, attractive celebrities such as Ray Mears, Megan Fox and Matthew McConaughey; it’s even gained popularity over diets such as the Atkins Diet, the Blood Group Diet, Jenny Craig, the South Beach Diet, etc. Even the highly popular Dukan Diet has been knocked into second place.
What is The Paleo Diet?
The Paleolithic Diet is also referred to as the Caveman Diet, the Stoneage Diet and the Hunter-Gatherer Diet. The Paleo Diet is not about ripping off chunks of animal with your bare hands – it’s about the type of foods you eat. Based on the understanding that the best human diet is the one to which we have evolved, it is based on the foods that were eaten by those living during the Paleolithic era.
The Paleo diet is based around foods that our ancestors are assumed to have eaten in the Paleolithic era 1000 years ago - basically anything that could be hunted or gathered - hence the alternative names for the diet.
It's a particular favourite diet for men, who see the paleo diet as a logical and straight forward way to lose weight.
Paleo Diet Food List
The main foods eaten within the scope of the Paleo Diet are:
Grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar and processed oils are all banned because these types of food appeared after the development of agriculture. You are encouraged to eat a high protein/low carb diet with no calorie counting and no exercise plans to follow.
Paleo Diet Recipes
The internet is awash with diet recipe books for paleo eating, and is one of the most searched categories on Amazon.
Paleo recipes tend to be high in protein and low in carbs, making them popular with followers of low carb diets and with men.
How Does Weight Loss Resources Differ from The Paleo Diet?
Many diets fail because they are too difficult to live with. Because the Paleo Diet bans certain foods it could leave you feeling deprived - which often leads to rebellion and overeating. Read about the Pros and Cons of the diet.
Weight Loss Resources is not a diet, but rather a set of tools to enable you to make gradual changes to your eating habits. Having real awareness about the things you eat and drink each day enables you to start losing weight by making relatively small changes that suit your tastes and your lifestyle.
How Could The Paleo Diet Benefit Me?
Weight loss is a side effect of the restrictions imposed by the Paleo Diet. Different diet programs, all based on the Paleo Diet, have been designed to help people address particular conditions including:
What’s the Theory Behind The Paleo Diet?
The theory is that the caveman diet was more ‘organic’ than our modern eating habits. Stoneage man didn't eat cakes or chips or burgers; they were hunter-gatherers and ate what the human body was designed to eat.
It is thought that as a result there were fewer incidences of degenerative disease - arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease. Stoneage people were fit and healthy, and if they died young, it was not because of disease but rather due to accidents and a harsh environment.
The ‘natural eating’ of the paleo diet is said to improve the body’s performance. It is only because of the availability of processed and fat filled, carb based foods that we are experiencing the current obesity epidemic.
How Does this Caveman Diet Work?
The diet encourages you to replace dairy and grain products with fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods that are believed to be more nutritious and high in beneficial nutrients such as:
- soluble fibre
- antioxidant vitamins (A, E & C)
- omega-3 and monounsaturated fats
- low-glycemic index carbohydrates
In addition, they are low in substances linked to weight gain, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, such as:
- refined sugars
- saturated and trans fats,
- high-glycemic index carbohydrates,
- processed foods
How Much Weight Could I Lose on a Paleolithic Diet?
We know that to lose weight we must burn more calories than we take in, and that the best way to accomplish this is to eat a low-fat, healthy, balanced diet. However, with many restrictive diets we are hungry all the time, and for the vast majority, any weight lost is regained rapidly or within a few months of the initial loss.
Because the Paleo diet emulates what our ancestors ate, you get a high protein, high fruit and vegetable diet with moderate amounts of fat, but with high quantities of healthful omega-3 and monounsaturated fats. Protein is believed to have a greater thermic effect than either fat or carbohydrate, meaning that it boosts your metabolism, speeding weight loss. Additionally, protein makes you feel full up – more so than either fat or carbohydrate, so it puts the brakes on your appetite.
Weight loss may be rapid in the first few weeks, due to the low quantities of carbs consumed and the water that is expelled from your body. There are associated side effects such as lethargy, headaches and bad breath.
Like any other eating plan, slow and steady will win the race and, if you are losing more than 2lbs per week, then you need to be adjusting your rate of loss, and that is where WLR’s tools are an essential resource.
How Do I Follow the Paleo Diet?
There are many books on the subject, all written with a different emphasis. Basically as long as you eat from a select list of foods, the theory is that you should lose weight.
What Can I Eat?
- meat and offal
- vegetables (especially root vegetables)
- nuts, e.g. walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamias, almonds.
- Berries- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc
Some versions simply say that if it can't be eaten raw, don't eat it (though this doesn't mean that it must be eaten raw, only that it should be able to be eaten raw).
Ideally, the animals from which the eggs and meat come from should be fed a natural (to the animal) organic diet. That is, chickens have access to greens, insects, etc, as well as grain. Cattle eat grass and other greenery. Fish should come from the wild, or at least be fed what wild fish eat.
What Can’t I Eat?
- grains- including bread, pasta, noodles,
- beans- including string beans, kidney beans, lentils, peanuts, snow-peas and peas,
- peanuts and cashews
- potatoes and sweet potatoes
- dairy products
- coatings of any kind (breadcrumbs, batter etc)
Sample Diet Plan
- omelet with spinach and mushroom
- fresh berries
- grilled salmon
- large mixed vegetable salad and flax oil dressing
- raw carrots and celery
- grilled chicken
- steamed broccoli
- tomato salad
- baked walnut cinnamon apples
What Will the Paleo Diet Cost Me?
The Paleolithic diet consists of foods that can be hunted and fished, such as meat, offal and seafood, and those that can be gathered, such as eggs, fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables, mushrooms, herbs and spices. Some sources advise eating only lean cuts of meat, free of food additives, preferably wild game meats and grass-fed beef. This does mean that your weekly shopping bill may increase as you buy the more expensive cuts of meat and organic produce.
You are allowed to drink water, and some advocates recommend tea as a healthy alternative. Alcoholic and fermented beverages are restricted from the diet.
If you need more information, a Paleo Diet book will cost you around £9.99.
- Emphasizes fruit and vegetables which may reduce the risk of developing many diseases and disorders such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
- Intake of essential fatty acids will be high on this diet.
- May be beneficial for dieters who have difficulty with carbohydrate cravings and those watching blood sugar levels.
- Does not require counting or measuring.
- Does not require any specialist diet foods
- No exercise plan is needed
Cons of The Paleo Diet
- Highly restrictive and eliminates many favorite foods such as pasta, bread, potatoes and desserts.
- Recent research has shown that eating Paleo style could have negative effects on heart health
- May be socially disruptive; difficult to eat out or at social occasions plus is not family friendly.
- May be an initial withdrawal period when dieters commence the diet due to eliminating coffee, sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates.
- Diet is based on speculation to some degree, as it is impossible to be certain what exactly our Paleolithic ancestors ate.
- Will require careful planning to ensure that calcium is adequately supplied due to the absence of dairy products.
- Not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
Do I Need to Exercise?
Although some books on the Paleo Diet may include an exercise regime, the general scope of this diet does not include a specific exercise plan.
Since the Paleo diet involves cutting down on processed foods it is certainly a good way to ditch the junk. The Caveman Diet bans booze, high-fat, calorific processed foods and refined carbs (although diet fizzy drinks are allowed).
It encourages you to eat more good-quality protein such as lean meat, chicken and fish, which helps to keep you fuller for longer. Eating more fruit, veg and nuts is a good way to boost fibre and to help fill you up and to increase intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
However, there are several concerns with the Paleo Diet. Because dairy products are eliminated, intakes of bone-building calcium are likely to be low, and a lack of recommended exercise will not help tone and strengthen your body.
Many people who embark on the Paleo Diet do feel drained initially because they cut back on carbs and rely on fats and protein as a source of energy. Combined with reports of bad breath, headaches and irritability you really need to be sure that this diet is for you.
Like all drastic changes in diets and lifestyle, if you do decide to go ahead with the Paleo Diet, ease yourself into it slowly. As with similar eating plans, no extreme is the right way to go, so your approach should be to modify and change depending upon your needs and lifestyle.
If you want to keep track of what’s in your food, WLR can help. You’ll get access to the UK’s largest online calorie and nutrition database plus you can calorie count your own recipes and plans.