What is The Paleo Diet?
The diet excludes any foods with modern toxins, limiting you to food you could literally hunt and gather (if the mood took you!). The theory behind it, is that our bodies haven't changed since the Stone Ages and we aren't designed to cope with a modern diet, which is why lots of us are overweight.
A big fan of The Paleo Diet is Dr Loren Cordain who belives that processed and artificial foods have had a terrible affect on our health and that they are responsible for many of the diseases of modern civilization such as diabetes and cancer.
Dr Cordain's book, The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy By Eating The Food You Were Designed To Eat is the most popular book on the subject on Amazon and it breaks down how you can incorporate caveman eating rituals into everyday life.
The benefits of The Paleo Diet
Dr Cordain claims that in The Paleo Diet there is no calorie counting and you can't overeat - you simply eat the right types of food until you are full. The diet also allows for a few slip-ups or cheats without ruining the overall benefits.
According to Dr Cordain the main health benefits of The Paelo Diet are:
- Gradual, sustained weight loss
- Increased energy levels
- Lowering of BMI levels
- Loss of late afternoon tiredness
- Clearing of the sinuses
- Loosening of stiff joints
- Normalisation of bowel function
- Reduction of indigestion, heartburn and acid stomach
- Improvements with high cholesterol
Research has also suggested that the protein rich diet of a caveman could reduce the risk of heart disease.
What are the rules of the Paleo Diet?The Paleo Diet, as explained by Dr Cordain, is made up of strict rules about what you can and can't eat, but the basic guidelines are pretty easy to follow.
The basic rules of The Paleo Diet
- All the lean meats, fish and seafood you can eat
- All the fruits and non-starchy vegetables you can eat
- No cereals
- No legumes
- No dairy products
- No processed foods
What foods can you eat on The Paleo Diet?
Lean meats - beef and pork trimmed of visible fat
Lean poultry - chicken or turkey breasts, skin removed,
Rabbit or goat meat
Organ meats - livers, tongues, marrow etc
Eggs - limit to 6 a week
Game meat - goose, wild boar, wild turkey, pheasant, quail etc
Fish - any commercially available fish: bass, cod, salmon, tuna, trout etc
Shellfish - mussels, oysters, lobster, crayfish, scallops, shrimp
Fruit - all non-dried fruit
Vegetables - all non starchy veg
Nuts and seeds - no salted nuts
Oils - (use in moderation - less than 4tbsp a day) olive, avocado, walnut, flaxseed and canola oils
In moderation - Diet sodas, coffee, tea, wine (two 4-ounce glasses); beer (a 12oz serving)
What foods can't you eat on The Paleo Diet?
Dairy foods - all processed foods made with any dairy products including butter, cheese, cream, yogurt and milk.
Cereal grains - barley, corn, oats, rice, rye, wheat, etc
Legumes - beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils, peanuts, soybean products etc
Starchy vegetables - potatoes and all potato products, cassava root, tapioca pudding, yams
Salt containing foods - salad dressings, condiments, ham, olives, processed meats, sausages, smoked/dried/salted meat, canned meats and fish, pickled foods
Fatty meats - bacon, ribs, chicken legs/thighs/wings/skin, pork/lamb chops, etc
Soft drinks - all sugary soft drinks, canned/bottled/freshly squeezed fruit juices
Sweets - candy, honey, sugars
Paleo Diet: the 3 stagesDue to its strict nature, The Paleo Diet can be hard to adjust to. To make the transition easier, Dr Cordain has developed 3 stages to help the body adjust.
Stage 1 - Entry level
Dr Cordain explains that on average we eat 20 meals a week, so to start The Paleo Diet he suggests leaving 3 of the meals 'open'. In other words, you can eat what you like. The open meals, he says, provide a good opportunity to taste some of the foods you may miss the most. This also helps the body adjust to the gradual removal of major food groups.
Also, during this stage you may still have salad dressings, sauces, coffee, alcohol and sugar-free soft drinks. Start using them in moderation to assist with the transitition.
Stay on this stage until you feel comfortable with the adjustments and then move on.
Stage 2 - Maintenance level
For the second stage the 'open' meals are reduced to 2 per week. At this level you should restrict all transitional foods to these 2 meals.
Stage 3 - Maximum Weight loss Level
This stage leaves only 1 'open' meal per week. Dr Cordain says: 'This is the highest level, designed for true Paleo Diet aficionados who wants to maximize health and wellbeing, or for individuals suffering from true obesity or high levels of chronic disease who need to maximize the therapeutic effects of the diet.'
Paleo Diet sample mealOnce you know what you can and can't eat with The Paleo Diet you can make your own meals, Dr Cordain offers a few suggestions in his book.
Breakfast: Beefsteak with peach salsa
1 cup fresh peaches, peeled and finely chopped
1⁄4 cup red onions, chopped
1⁄4 cup yellow or green peppers, chopped
1tsp lime juice
2tsp fresh cilantro
Cayenne pepper to taste
In a medium-sized bowl, stir all ingredients together. Cover and chill for up to 6 hours. Makes 2 cups.
Lunch: Shrimp stuffed avocado4 large avocados, peeled and halved, seeds removed
11⁄2 cup small salad shrimp, cooked and washed
1tsp lemon juice
1tsp onion powder
1tsp black pepper
Set avocados on serving plate with cut side facing up. Combine shrimp, lemon juice, onion powder, and pepper in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Spoon shrimp mixture onto each avocado, covering generously. Sprinkle top of each stuffed avocado with paprika before serving. Serves 4.
Dinner: Broiled tenderloin of pork with spicy rub
1 minced garlic clove
1tsp dry mustard
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp canola oil
1tsp flaxseed oil
1tsp red wine
1lb very lean pork tenderloin, trimmed of all visible fat and cut butterflied down the middle
Mix garlic and dry spices with a mortar and pestle. Add in the oils and wine to make a paste. Rub the paste on the butterflied pork one hour before broiling. Broil pork 2 to 3 inches from heat source for about 6 minutes per side or until it is cooked to desired condition. Serves 4.
Snacks: Fresh fruit, homemade beef jerky, raw vegetables, nuts, sunflower seeds, avocado or tomato slices, cold slices of beef or chicken.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat, by Loren Cordain. Copyright © 2002 by Loren Cordain. New edition featuring updated content will be published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. November 2010.
The Paleo Diet:criticismsThe Paleo Diet is quiet an extreme eating plan to follow and there are a few drawbacks you should consider before starting on it.
- The Paleo Diet is very restrictive and some people find the strict rules are not easy, or even possible, to stick to. The food could also become boring.
- The diet eliminates many essential vegetables.
- By excluding various different types of food, the diet is very low in nutrients like calcium and dietary fibre.
- The diet cannot be followed by vegetarians or vegans as protein is gained through meat.
- It has been argued that the diet contains too much meat, which isn't good for you.