The Potential Benefits of Going Paleo

July 27, 2019

"When you eat this way, you’re going to really reduce your risk of having to come in to visit you doctor with a health issue."

In today’s Inside Health, Dr. Keller Wortham will be exploring the Paleo diet, as part of his series on popular diets. We’ll take a look at where this diet came from, what foods to avoid and which ones to indulge, and the potential benefits of this increasingly popular eating style, which is also known as “The Caveman Diet”. If you’re looking to feel better and avoid potential health issues, don’t miss this show!

Video Highlights

  • 00:36: The caveman diet/Paleo Diet 
  • 01:57: What did cavemen eat?
  • 02:25: Discordance Hypothesis
  • 03:11: Problems Associated with today’s diets
  • 03:41: Benefits of the Paleo Diet
  • 04:58: How do you eat Paleo?
  • 05:09: What to include in the Paleo diet
  • 06:55: What not to include in the Paleo Diet
  • 10:55: Paleo Diet Recommendations
  • 12:40: Best Paleo Foods for Health
  • 16:33: Wrap-Up

The Caveman diet/Paleo Diet

As we’ve evolved as a society, many things have improved! But there are some areas where we don’t do as well as we used to, and eating may be one of those areas. To understand more about diet, it is important to go all the way back to the beginning when we were still living in caves so to speak. The caveman diet, also known as the paleo diet, refers to the way people ate back in the paleolithic era. Basically, this refers to the time period when we were hunters and gatherers long before industry and agriculture started shaping the way that we eat. 

What did cavemen eat?

The paleo diet basically included the stuff that you would get from hunting and gathering, such as:

  • Lots of fresh meats (pork, beef, and goat)
  • Lots of Vegetables
  • Seeds
  • Fruits
  • Berries

Discordance Hypothesis

So why is there a recent interest in the way our ancient ancestors ate? Well many believe that although the way that we’re eating right now has evolved a lot, especially over the last several thousand years, our bodies have not evolved nearly as quickly as our eating habits have. It’s believe that this has caused a kind of mismatch in the ways that we eat and how our bodies are genetically programmed to process what we eat. This mismatch is known as the Discordance Hypothesis.

This is basically saying we are not really suited biochemically in our genes to eat the kind of foods that we’re eating. 

Problems Associated with today’s diets

The modern diet and lifestyle can lead to a host of different health issues, such as:

A lot of these are modern diseases and conditions. They’re not things that existed back in our early ancestors’ days, or if they did, they were far less prevalent than they are today. 

Benefits of the Paleo Diet

So there is some argument to be made that the way that we’re eating right now (by and large) is actually bad for our health. Paleo has been studied quite a bit in recent years, and lots of different studies are looking at its effect on our actual metabolism, as well as the various health conditions above. Multiple, randomized controlled studies show that the paleo diet does actually reduce, compared to other diets, the risk of diabetes, the risk of heart disease and heart attack, and it can help with weight loss and reduce inflammation. So all of these are wonderful things that can start to happen just by changing the way you eat. 

How do you eat Paleo?

There are basically two main categories of foods when it comes to paleo: stuff that you can eat and stuff that you should avoid. Primarily, you want to be looking for whole foods. This means unprocessed foods, which is what our ancestors ate. They got it by hunting and gathering — you can get it by shopping local farmer’s markets, and the outer perimeter of grocery stores. So when we talk about whole foods we talk about things in a lot of different categories:

  • Non-processed meat, including chicken, turkey, lamb, and other types (processed meat, on the other hand, includes things like sausage and bacon).
  • Seafood such as wild-caught fish
  • Eggs that are free range and have not been loaded down with a lot of the hormones and the antibiotics you get in some of the egg products out there
  • Vegetables, such as broccoli and cucumbers, peppers, celery, and leafy greens 
  • Whole fruits like mango, oranges, and bananas. 
  • Healthy fats that include avocados and olive oil
  • Nuts and seeds like black chia seeds and almonds
  • Root vegetables that include sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, and turnips

There are lots of options out there to choose from.

What to avoid if you go Paleo

However, there are some things that you’re supposed to avoid if you choose to try this diet. These include:

  • Refined sugar — This is a big no-no in paleo. These are things you find in soft drinks, cookies, and candies. High fructose corn syrup, which is another kind of processed sweetener or sugar is in many, many processed foods, including some that aren’t necessarily sweet. For sweeteners, you can reach for things like maple syrup, raw honey which are non-processed sugars. 
  • Try to avoid meats that have been produced with a lot of antibiotics and a lot of hormones. 
  • Try to limit dairy. You can have some whole dairy on a lot of the paleo diets, but you really want to limit certainly non-fat dairy and keep dairy to a minimum, since it’s often highly processed.
  • Avoid things like vegetable oils like corn oil and saffron oil, opting instead for avocado oil or olive oil. 
  • You’re not supposed to have a lot of legumes. These are basically your beans, black beans, and peanuts. This is because they can have an effect on your gut and on your metabolism.
  • Trans fats — These are fats that are chemically modified to make them basically last longer and be able to help preserve foods. However, they’re really terrible for your body. We need fats to help make our hormones and our cell membranes and help store energy. However, trans fats are so modified that when they incorporate themselves into our bodies, they can lead to increased inflammation, and they can increase the amount of cholesterol that forms on the inside of your arteries, which can lead to health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease that we’re trying to avoid.
  • Another big no-no in paleo is artificial sweeteners. These did not exist until recently and they can have a profound effect on your metabolism, even though they do not have any calories. They can trigger insulin cascades in your body and this then causes an increase in inflammation and an increase in fat storage. 

Paleo Diet Recommendations 

The Paleo diet is a clean diet in which you get rid of hormones and antibiotics, pesticides, and other chemicals that can increase inflammation in the body. In addition, you’re deriving most of your meals from things like fruits and vegetables, which have a lot of fiber, and from protein that helps satisfy your hunger and makes you feel full for longer and so you don’t get those sugar swings that you get when you eat processed things. 

Best Paleo Foods For Health

On the standard Paleo diet, you get about 50% of your calories from plants and 50% from animals. When you look at an actual plate, because animal protein is a lot more calorically dense than vegetables, fruits, and plants, your plate is going to be about 25% animal proteins and 75% vegetables or plant-based foods.

A good example would be a piece of grilled salmon for proteins, some veggies such as spinach, a nice root vegetable like a sweet potato, as well as a healthy fat like avocado. 

When it comes to dressings, stick to a healthy combinations such as olive oil and some lemon squeeze. In Paleo, spices are basically all allowed. If you want to add a little salt, a little pepper, or some of the other spices like cumin, paprika, chili flakes and cinnamon, go for it!

You can make some really delicious paleo meals without using carb-heavy processed foods like pasta or bread. If you’re looking for a dessert, there are plenty of options in fruits such as peaches, and grapes, and apples, some of which you can actually roast in the oven with a little bit of olive oil or cinnamon. 

If you get hungry throughout the day with Paleo, there are also lots of snack options available. Try an egg, for example, which has proteins and fats which will help keep you satisfied. It’s basically non-processed so that’s great. You can hard boil an egg, or fry the egg. Remember to not boil the egg for too long as this helps preserve the nutrients and not denature the cholesterol that’s in the egg. You can also have celery and nut butter such as almond butter. This gives you some nice fiber from the celery and some nice healthy proteins and fats in the almond butter. 

There are tons of paleo recipes online, so you can find all kinds of ways to cook and all kinds of snacks that you can easily make at home. This will help you to feel healthy, happy, and reduce risks of disease such as diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as reducing inflammation, which is a great thing.

Wrap-Up

Paleo is a caveman diet which is a great diet and very easy to eat. It is basically whole foods and things that our ancestors ate when they were hunters and gatherers. It means avoiding things like artificial sugars, processed foods, trans fats, and artificial sweeteners and going for that good stuff that exists in nature. When you eat this way, you’re going to really reduce your risk of having to come in to visit you doctor with a health issue. This will make you live longer and feel better. Give it a try. 

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