What the heck is the paleo diet, and is it for me? Find out the facts and health benefits, of “going paleo.” Read more below!
Paleo Diet 101
You may have heard of the Paleo diet. It was the world’s most popular diet in 2013 and is still going strong. Why? Because more and more studies are showing how eating a whole foods based diet low in sugar and carbs can dramatically cut inflammation and improve health.
According to “Paleo Mom” Sarah Ballentyne, Ph.D. defines it as:
“The Paleo diet is a nutrient-dense whole foods diet based on eating a variety of quality meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. It improves health by providing balanced and complete nutrition while avoiding most processed and refined foods and empty calories.”
The name “paleo” is from the “paleolithic” time when earlier humans (thousands of years ago) were hunters and gatherers. It is thought to represent the era of nutrition before agriculture.
What you can (and can’t) eat on the paleo diet
Of course, being a “diet,” paleo has food guidelines. The paleo diet was created to increase the amount of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods; while reducing the number of gut-disrupting, hormone-disrupting, and inflammatory foods.
But this doesn’t mean there are only a couple of foods to choose from! There is a pretty wide variety of food to choose from in the paleo diet.
You can include fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat (including organ meats), seafood, healthy fats, fermented foods, herbs, and spices.
One of the best resources is using guidelines and recipes from the Paleo Autoimmune Cookbook. It really can be easy to implement these dietary changes!
The paleo diet excludes processed and refined foods (e.g. sugar, vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, etc.), grains (e.g. wheat, oats, rice, etc.), dairy, and most legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, peanuts, etc.).
It’s a lifestyle change, not a diet
The paleo diet can be thought of as more of a “template,” rather than a strict set of rules. It’s a diet that seems to be easy to maintain, and with little to no negative side effects. There is no measuring or counting of calories or carbs. And there are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods to choose from.
Many proponents of the paleo diet even encourage experimentation by adding in a few of the (healthy whole) foods on their list of exclusions. High-quality dairy, white rice, or potatoes may be added to less restrictive forms of the paleo diet.
How does the Paleo diet affect health?
Several clinical studies have been done to find out whether there are health benefits of eating this way. Some of the research has shown that this anti-inflammatory diet can help with weight loss and belly fat. That alone may be reason enough to give it a try. The main findings on how the paleo diet can impact health are coming from studies on autoimmune disease and inflammation. Studies show having your diet follow the “Autoimmune Protocol” (AIP) can help all autoimmune conditions, especially Hashimoto’s (autoimmune thyroid disease).
In addition, eating anti-inflammatory can have an effect on other several modern-day chronic diseases. For example, it can improve risk factors for heart disease. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, improve glucose tolerance, and even reduce symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.
It’s also thought to be “gut-friendly” because it includes a lot of high-fiber foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds), fermented foods (which contain gut-friendly probiotics), as well as being full of nutritious natural foods.
Who should consider a paleo diet?
Some people recommend the paleo diet for those with food intolerances or autoimmune diseases. Those at high risk for heart disease or diabetes may also be good candidates to give this lifestyle a try. In addition, if you are gluten-sensitive or lactose intolerant, this maybe the perfect diet to follow as it eliminates all grains and dairy.
Even if you don’t choose to go paleo, the elimination of added sugars, processed and refined foods can (should?) be a goal to move toward.
The paleo diet is based on what hunters and gatherers ate thousands of years ago. It is a whole-food based, nutrient-dense diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, seafood, and fermented foods. Science has shown that it can help some people to lose weight, reduce risks of heart disease, improve glucose tolerance, and reduce inflammation.
At the very least, eliminating added sugars, processed, and refined foods are a great goal, even if you decide not to “go paleo.”
Recipe (Paleo): Banana Muffins
3 large eggs
5 mashed bananas
½ cup almond butter
¼ cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup coconut flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups with liners. In a food processor or stand mixer, blend eggs, bananas, almond butter, coconut oil, and vanilla. In a large bowl mix coconut flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add blended wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined.Spoon batter into muffin tins, ¾ full. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can top muffins with walnuts before baking.
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Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist in Bothell, WA at her practice Starting Point Acupuncture. She is a pain specialist, seeing people who suffer from chronic pain, migraines, as well as digestive issues. Offering pain relief injections, acupuncture, facial rejuvenation, and nutrition consults. Most insurances accepted. Dr. Ellie Heintze is also the author of the book, A Starting Point Guide to Going Gluten-Free on Amazon.
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Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc
- Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
- Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
- Master’s Degree in Chemistry
Northern Arizona University
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