The paleo diet is the new diet in mainstream health, and it’s anything but a fad. It’s a lifestyle change that incorporates meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, and tons of produce — essentially all of the foods humans were forced to live off for more than a few centuries. It’s typically referred to as the “primal” or “caveman” diet based off the notion that our paleolithic ancient ancestors from about 3 million years ago were leaner, fitter, moved faster, and were stronger than modern day, disease-ridden humans.
Our caveman ancestors consumed three times more produce than the average American, more fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, unsaturated fat, vitamins and minerals and less saturated fat and sodium. Of course, they weren’t without their fair share of health problems, like infectious diseases and parasites. Yet, their diet was far more nutritionally beneficial than what Americans eat today.
About 35.7% of Americans are considered obese, in part thanks to unhealthy, processed foods like sweetened beverages, grain-based snacks and desserts, alcoholic drinks, and yeast breads. The paleo diet doesn’t allow any of these foods, and those who follow a paleo diet seek to combat the unhealthy Western ways by implementing a hunter-gatherer approach to their food choices.
Paleo often gets grouped in with the gluten-free fad, which unless you have celiac disease, is nothing more than a marketing tool. An estimated 1 in 133 Americans have celiac disease. Many with celiac disease turn to the paleo diet, as it is gluten free, but many that don’t have celiac turn to the paleo diet to lose weight, get clearer skin, and increase their health. Going paleo is similar to going vegetarian or vegan — it is a lifestyle changed aim to rid your body of unprocessed foods and focus on clean, wholesome eating so you stay fit and strong like, well, a caveman.
Check out seven reasons why you should consider going paleo.
1. May lower your risk for heart disease
A Swedish study found that meat-centric paleo eaters versus carb-heavy Nordic eaters had lower levels of triglycerides — a blood fat that raises the risk of heart disease. HDL (good) cholesterol increased, blood pressure decreased, and blood sugar levels decreased while on the diet. In addition, the study found that paleo dieters lost 4 kilograms more than the Diabetes diet (a low fat/low calorie plan).
About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. every year.
2. Reduces bloating
The paleo diet rules out salt, sugar, and processed foods, meaning no bloat. The diet is high in fiber and requires drinking lots of water. Your abs will show through in no time. Fiber pushes everything through your intestines quicker, which is usually why you have to go to the bathroom after eating fibrous foods. Whole foods like berries, apples, and other fruits and veggies pack on the fiber so you never have to feel puffy and bloated.
3. Keeps you full for longer
Studies show that protein actually keeps you satiated for a longer period of time than carbs and fats. On the paleo diet, you’ll be eating plenty of lean protein paired with healthy vegetables and fats. Healthy fats, like olive oil and avocado, are proven to keep you fuller for longer too because they slow down digestion.
4. You could lose weight
Taking out processed grains, legumes, and dairy (we’re looking at you cheese), the pounds may finally fall off. Because the paleo diet is so filling with healthy fats and lean proteins you will stay fuller for longer. In addition, you’ll be cutting all of the nasty things out of your diet so you won’t be allowed to binge on things like cookies, candy, or cake.
5. Clearer skin
Your gut and skin are connected, so what you eat most definitely can affect your skin. If you are acne prone, trying something like a paleo diet (or even an elimination diet) may carve your pathway to clearer skin. Dairy is often connected to acne.
6. More muscle, less fat
We all know eating protein builds muscle. The more muscle you have, the more efficient your metabolism will be. Fat cells shrink and expand based on your diet and exercise, so going for a protein-rich paleo diet can help ward off unwanted pounds.
7. Improved energy
Eating foods with a low glycemic index (sugars are absorbed slowly) can help you stop that lag in energy, or that afternoon slump we so often see. Going paleo will give you more sustained energy because you’re filling your body with energy-boosting healthy fats, proteins and veggies.
If you don’t want to make the commitment to go full-blown paleo, you can follow a modified paleo diet. This includes eating more vegetables and lean protein and reducing your processed food intake. The good news? Alcohol and wine is allowed in moderation. (Phew!)
Before embarking on a lifestyle change such as paleo, check with your doctor to make sure that it’s right for you.