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Paleo Diet 101 – Everything You Need To Know

Regarded for its “caveman” origins which imitate the way our primitive ancestors used to eat back in the good old days, the Paleolithic (or Paleo) diet is starting to gain popularity. With other meal plans such as the South Beach and Atkins diets paving the way for a healthier, low-carb approach to eating, the Paleo diet aims to simplify nutrition, offering our bodies only essential, natural foods.

If you’ve got a love of ice cream, butter, and bread, you may find yourself slowly turning away after reading this article. The Paleo diet strictly forbids dairy intake, along with sugars, processed foods, or any form of gluten (such as pasta, bagels, rice, or baked goods). On the other hand, if you think your digestive tract is ready for a blast from the past, you may want to look into the Paleo eating regimen and some of the health benefits it provides.

Developed by Dr. Loren Cordain (a professor of health and exercise science, as well as a leading expert in paleolithic nutrition), the diet focuses on foods humans ate before farming practices (growing crops such as grains, legumes, or using animals for milk) came into play. With an emphasis on high-quality fresh meats, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables along with natural oils, the Paleo diet plan promotes simple eating at its core (despite the lack of calcium intake which is vital to human bodies).

While not vegan or vegetarian friendly due to the importance of free-range or grass-produced meat, the Paleo diet comes with its advantages and disadvantages in the same way as any other diet. It has become popular among CrossFit trainers and athletes, because of its high protein content, along with the low-sodium and sugar-free component.

The diet encourages eating until you become full, as opposed to the traditional way of counting calories. However, it emphasizes only eating certain foods which are permitted, and eating plenty of these throughout the day. Eggs enriched with Omega-3, nuts, and tubers such as yams or sweet potatoes are ideal (although starch-filled potatoes are off the list, for all the French fry fans out there!)

Without junk food, chocolate bars, and chips in the picture, the body is better able to metabolize and make use of the good protein, iron, and other essential vitamins from the Paleo-approved meat and produce. The body can still make use of the natural sugars found in fruit, healthy oils (such as avocado, olive, and coconut oils), and the useful calories found in nuts. One of the advantages of eating the Paleo way is that it’s evidently impossibly to overeat- because everything you’ll be consuming is good for you.

On the other hand, you’ll be missing out on the health benefits of dairy products like skim milk, yogurt, and low-fat cheeses. Also, while grain may have received a bit of a bad rap lately because of gluten intolerances, white flour, and excess carbs, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional slice of whole wheat or multi grain bread. Like any other meal plan, the Paleo diet definitely requires careful consideration and consumption. Be sure to consult with a nutritional expert or your doctor if it’s appropriate for your dietary needs.

Curious about what to eat if you’re going Paleo?

Breakfast: Try pumpkin bread made with blanched almond meal, coconut flour, cinnamon, and pumpkin puree for a great breakfast.

If you’re missing out on the early morning classics, trying out pumpkin pecan pancakes might be a great idea as well. Use coconut flour, pumpkin pie spice, coconut milk, and vanilla extract for this delicious start to your day.

Lunch: We’re all fans of good old-fashioned pasta, but here’s a new twist on a homemade favourite with Spaghetti Squash Pasta and Garlicky Beef Bolognese. Use two pounds of ground beef, one half of a large spaghetti squash, and tomato paste for a hearty meal (this makes an excellent dinner suggestion as well, or a more filling lunch on the weekend).

Dinner: Move over, steak with mashed potatoes! Mashed cauliflower imitates the texture and taste of everyone’s favourite side dish, and the steak fits into the diet plan perfectly.

Snacks: If you get midday cravings while you’re on the diet and aren’t sure if you should reach for those cupcakes or not, try Hazelnut Caveman Brownies with dark chocolate, unsalted almond butter, dried fruit, and hazelnut meal for a more acceptable alternative.

Celebrity Fans:
Megan Fox, Miley Cyrus, Jessica Biel, and Matthew McConaughey have all been rumoured to have been following the Paleo diet at some point (which is quickly gaining popularity in mainstream Hollywood, go figure!).

Like any other meal plan, the Paleo diet definitely requires careful consideration and consumption. Be sure to consult with a nutritional expert or your doctor if it’s appropriate for your dietary needs.

Related Link: Top 10 Most Popular Diets 2012

Photo Courtesy of: ThePaleoDiet.com