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The term ‘paleo diet’ refers to the ‘Paleolithic diet’, a type of diet that traces back to what human hunter-gatherer ancestors ate thousands of years ago. Other names for a paleo diet include the stone age diet, the caveman diet and the hunter-gatherer diet. The paleo diet is designed to resemble what early humans ate. It is based around whole foods that are unprocessed or only minimally processed. The diet primarily composes of meat, poultry, fish and seafood, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds and certain fats. The diet excludes grains, legumes, refined sugars, refined vegetable oils and some dairy products. These are considered processed foods that emerged only after the industrial revolution and processing plants became conventional.
In the recent years, there has been an association between a diet high in processed foods, refined grains, sugars, unhealthy fats and an increase in inflammation and chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. This has paved the way for some people to return to a Paleolithic type of diet that offers less inflammatory foods and more healthful whole food choices.
A feeling of fullness between meals, due to the higher intake of fiber, protein and healthy fats. This may be a contributing factor to weight management and balancing portions.
Studies have shown weight loss and reduction in waist circumference while following a paleo diet. Contributing factors to weight loss are likely due to eating less processed foods containing added salt, sugar, unhealthy fats, additives, preservatives, or chemicals.
Blood sugar management:
It may improve glycemic control. Because the diet eliminates refined sugar, there is less risk of having spikes in blood glucose levels, and also helps avoid the feeling of fatigue that you might get from low blood sugar or sugar crashes.
Chronic inflammation has been associated with frequent consumption of processed foods and it increases the risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and hypertension. A paleo diet offers anti-inflammatory benefits from the plant-based nutrients in fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, and seeds.
The paleo diet has the potential to be a healthy diet pattern to follow. While it is not required, the paleo diet emphasizes local, sustainable, organic and non-genetically modified foods (non- GMO) foods and grass-fed meat options whenever possible. The paleo diet is often compared to the Mediterranean diet which also emphasizes on fruits, vegetables and healthy oils, however the paleo diet is more restrictive with avoidance of legumes and grains. While the Mediterranean diet is often considered more of a lifestyle choice, the paleo diet may be harder to adhere to for a long period of time. Finding the right diet for you may take trial and error and if needed, consult a registered dietitian for advice.
Due to the limitations on most dairy products, it may put most people at risk for deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, which are critical to bone health. Consider monitoring lab values with your doctor and supplement the diet as appropriate. It may be beneficial to include vitamin and mineral-enriched and fortified products. The paleo diet may be less suitable for those who have a history of osteoporosis or are at risk of compromised bone health or those with certain kidney diseases since an excessive intake of protein could potentially strain the kidneys.