Are you confused about what to eat, and researching the paleo diet? You’re in the right place to have the paleo diet explained to you in simple and easy terms.
The Paleo Diet – the Brief History of an ‘Ancient’ Diet
Despite it’s name, the Paleo diet (Paleolithic diet, caveman diet, stone age diet) was developed recently – in 1975 – by a gastroenterologist called Walter Voegtlin.
In 2002, American Health Scientist Loren Cordain built on that original concept and released his book ‘The Paleo Diet.’
The main thrust of the Paelo diet is that:
- we should eat like people of ancient times – hunter gatherers – because our body has not adapted to modern foods
- ‘modern’ foods include grains, dairy and processed foods which are said to be unhealthy for our bodies.
Offshoots of the Paleo diet have sprung up, most notably the Primal diet (which includes dairy foods).
The Paleo diet explained simply
The Paleo diet is as much about the quality and origin of the food you eat, as it is about the type of food you eat.
Simply, the Paleo way of eating aims to:
- increase vegetable intake
- get plenty of seafood and grass-fed meats and free-range poultry
- increase healthy fats like avocado, coconut, egg yolks, nuts and seeds
- eliminate legumes, dairy, sugars and grains.
Here’s the paleo diet explained in terms of macronutrient ratios – designed to be more like our Paleolithic ancestors ate:
- 19 – 35% of your daily calories from protein (seafood and lean meat), evenly divided between meals
- 28 – 58% of your daily calories fats – mainly omega 3 sources
- 35 – 45% of your daily calories from carbs and fibre – mainly vegetables, and some fruits
Cordain says these percentages are meant to be a guide that allows you to experiment and find the ratios that are right for you. This post explains more about that concept.
In comparison to the modern Western diet, the Paleo diet is higher in protein, higher in fat and lower in carbohydrates. The theory is that we should be eating more like our ancestors.
Who Does Best on The Paleo Diet?
When Karen came to see me two years ago, she’d been eating ‘pretty Paleo’ for a long time and had felt good.
She’s a medium height, a naturally athletic build and is quite sporty and loves walking. As a classic mesomorph body type, a Paleo approach to eating works well for her.
However, alcohol and sweet stuff had crept in….and she couldn’t lose weight, or get motivated.
She went through Downsize Me for a hormonal reset, and to get clear on what how wanted to eat longer term, and why.
After losing 10.1kg she easily transitioned back into a Paleo-style eating plan which still suits her perfectly today.
What You Can Eat On The Paleo Diet
Here’s a simple list of allowable foods for the paleo diet:
- grass-fed meats and poultry
- fish and other seafood
- vegetables and fruits
- nuts and seeds
- healthful oils that are higher in omega 3 (olive, macadamia, walnut, flaxseed, avocado, coconut)
Here’s a list of what you avoid on the Paleo diet:
- all grains
- all dairy products
- legumes (including peanuts)
- refined sugar
- refined vegetable oils
- processed food
A Typical Paleo Meal Plan
A typical paleo breakfast might be:
- Eggs cooked in olive oil, parsley and a grapefruit, OR
- Fish and green vegetable broth, OR
- Bone broth.
A typical paleo lunch might be:
- Salmon with a large green salad and olive oil/lemon dressing, OR
- Grilled chicken with stir-fried vegetables, OR
- A beef and vegetable soup.
A typical paleo dinner might be:
- Grilled turkey with avocado, tomato, broccoli, slivered almonds and some fresh berries, OR
- Roast lamb with carrots, cauliflower, a spinach salad and avocado, OR
- Baked fish with a Greek salad and a baked apple for dessert, OR
A typical paleo snack (if needed) might be:
- 1/2 an apple with some almonds, OR
- Sliced roast beef with mustard, OR
- Almond butter on celery sticks.
Health Benefits of The Paleo Diet Explained
Loren Cordain says that the idea of lowering acidity in your body, and at the same time boosting anti-inflammatory compounds like omega-3 fats and plant nutrients (phytonutrients), has numerous benefits in your body.
These are claimed to be:
- lower rates of bone loss
- lower incidence of kidney stones and osteoporosis
- lower blood pressure
- lower incidence of inflammatory conditions (which is basically anything ending in ‘itis’ – like arthritis, and airway conditions like asthma)
- lower blood sugar/diabetes
- lower risk of cancer
- weight loss.
These are ailments tend to be typical of mesomorph and endomorph body types.
And it’s probably no coincidence that the mesomorph and endomorph body types are typical in the indigenous people of the recent past (within the past 500 years) who naturally ate a higher protein, higher healthy fat diet and managed to stay healthy.
Remember, the healthiest and most sustainable approach is to avoid feeling restricted and following super-strict diets, as I explain here.
If you want to try eating the Paleo way, start slowly and remember to be flexible as you need to be to feel healthy and free with your eating.
Need help working out if this approach is right for you, or whether you need some hormonal reprogramming first?
Chief Inspiration Coach
I'm a quirky scientist and a Health and Wellness Coach who helps 35+ women to understand and eat right for their body type.