Paleo Diet

Information provided by the Mayo Clinic Staff and Healthline.

A paleo diet is a dietary plan based on foods similar to what might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era, which dates from approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.

A paleo diet typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — foods that in the past could be obtained by hunting and gathering. A paleo diet limits foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago. These foods include dairy products, legumes, and grains.

Other names for a paleo diet include Paleolithic diet, Stone Age diet, hunter-gatherer diet and caveman diet.

Purpose

The aim of a paleo diet is to return to a way of eating that’s more like what early humans ate. The diet’s reasoning is that the human body is genetically mismatched to the modern diet that emerged with farming practices — an idea known as the discordance hypothesis.

Farming changed what people ate and established dairy, grains and legumes as additional staples in the human diet. This relatively late and rapid change in diet, according to the hypothesis, outpaced the body’s ability to adapt. This mismatch is believed to be a contributing factor to the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease today.

One might consider following a paleo diet because they want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight or want help planning meals etc. Although recommendations vary among commercial paleo diets, and some diet plans have stricter guidelines than others. In general, paleo diets follow these guidelines.

What to eat

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Lean meats, especially grass-fed animals, or wild game
  • Fish, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel, and albacore tuna
  • Oils from fruits and nuts, such as olive oil or walnut oil

What to avoid

  • Grains, such as wheat, oats, and barley
  • Legumes, such as beans, lentils, peanuts, and peas
  • Dairy products
  • Refined sugar
  • Salt
  • Potatoes
  • Highly processed foods in general

A Sample Paleo Menu for One Week

This sample menu contains a balanced number of paleo-friendly foods. And is provided by Kris Gunnars, BSc on August 1, 2018 for Healthline.

Adjust this menu based on your own preferences.

Monday

  • Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables fried in coconut oil. One piece of fruit.
  • Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil. Handful of nuts.
  • Dinner: Burgers (no bun) fried in butter, with vegetables and some salsa.

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs, with a piece of fruit.
  • Lunch: Leftover burgers from the night before.
  • Dinner: Salmon fried in butter, with vegetables.

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: Meat with vegetables (leftovers from night before).
  • Lunch: Sandwich in a lettuce leaf, with meat and fresh vegetables.
  • Dinner: Ground beef stir-fry with vegetables. Some berries.

Thursday

  • Breakfast: Eggs and a piece of fruit.
  • Lunch: Leftover stir-fry from the night before. A handful of nuts.
  • Dinner: Fried pork with vegetables.

Friday

  • Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables fried in coconut oil.
  • Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil. Handful of nuts.
  • Dinner: Steak with vegetables and sweet potatoes.

Saturday

  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs with a piece of fruit.
  • Lunch: Leftover steak and vegetables from the night before.
  • Dinner: Baked salmon with vegetables and avocado.

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Meat with vegetables (leftovers from night before).
  • Lunch: Sandwich in a lettuce leaf, with meat and fresh vegetables.
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken wings with vegetables and salsa.

There is usually no need to track calories or macronutrients (protein, carbs or fat) on the paleo diet, at least not in the beginning.

However, if you need to lose a lot of weight, it is a good idea to cut carbs somewhat and limit your intake high-fat foods, such as nuts.

Simple Paleo Snacks

Here are some paleo snacks that are simple and easily portable:

  • Baby carrots
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • A piece of fruit
  • A handful of nuts
  • Leftovers from the night before
  • Apple slices with some almond butter
  • A bowl of berries with some coconut cream
  • Homemade beef jerky

Paleo snacks are easy to prepare and take with you on the go. A few ideas include fruit, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, or baby carrots.

The diet also emphasizes drinking water and being physically active every day.

Several randomized clinical trials have compared the paleo diet to other eating plans, such as the Mediterranean Diet or the Diabetes Diet. Overall, these trials suggest that a paleo diet may provide some benefits when compared with diets of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy products. These benefits may include:

  • More weight loss
  • Improved glucose tolerance
  • Better blood pressure control
  • Lower triglycerides
  • Better appetite management

However, longer trials with large groups of people randomly assigned to different diets are needed to understand the long-term, overall health benefits and possible risks of a paleo diet.

Questions about paleo diets

Concerns or questions about the paleo diet include both food selection and the underlying hypothesis.

Dietary concerns

A paleo diet is rich in vegetables, fruits and nuts — all elements of a healthy diet. The primary difference between the paleo diet and other healthy diets is the absence of whole grains and legumes, which are considered good sources of fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. Also absent from the diet are dairy products, which are good sources of protein and calcium.

These foods not only are considered healthy but also are generally more affordable and accessible than such foods as wild game, grass-fed animals, and nuts. For some people, a paleo diet may be too expensive.

The bottom line

A paleo diet may help you lose weight or maintain your weight. It may also have other beneficial health effects. However, there are no long-term clinical studies about the benefits and potential risks of the diet.

You might be able to achieve the same health benefits by getting enough exercise and eating a balanced, healthy diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables.