The Paleo Diet - How it works, what to eat and the risks involved
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A paleo diet is based on foods that were eaten 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. The diet includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Our ancestors used to hunt and gather food from the resources available. It was fresh and unadulterated, which ensured good health.
Let’s find out how apt the paleo diet is in modern times:
Purpose of the paleo diet
The aim of a paleo diet is to eat like what early humans ate. The diet establishes that the modern farming practices used are not ideal for the human body. This mismatch is the main factor why more and more people are suffering from obesity, diabetes and heart disease today.
Reasons to opt for the paleo diet:
If you want to lose or maintain a healthy weight, you may plan your meals accordingly. This follows:
- You must eat fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. As a source of protein, have lean meats, especially grass-fed animals. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna can be eaten. Olive oil or walnut oil can also be included in your diet.
- You must avoid grains such as wheat, oats and barley, legumes, such as beans, lentils, peanuts and peas, dairy products, refined sugar, salt and potatoes. These are considered to be highly processed foods in general.
- The diet also emphasizes the importance of drinking water and being physically active every day.
Benefits of the paleo diet
While this diet may sound extreme, you’re cutting out on processed foods which are usually a good thing. It can be a healthy alternative and help you manage weight, improve glucose tolerance, lead to better blood pressure control, lower triglycerides and help better appetite management.
However, in the long term, cutting out whole food groups can put you at the risk of missing out on key nutrients. Eliminating dairy products will leave you with lower levels of calcium and vitamin D. This means you could be more prone to developing osteoporosis, bone fractures, or rickets.
Too much meat and too few plant-based foods can mean you are at increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Red meat is high in saturated fats, which can raise blood and lead to heart disease.
Concerns of the paleo diet
The primary difference between the paleo diet and other healthy diets is the absence of whole grains and legumes in the later, which are good sources of fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. The absence of dairy products in the diet means missing out on protein and calcium.
The paleo diet is actually quite expensive as it concentrates on foods which are not easily affordable and accessible in modern times. You must remember that variations in diet are based on geography, climate and food availability, not only on the transition to farming.
The paleo diet is not for everyone.
It can help people with type 2 diabetes but it is important to consult a doctor first because any drastic reduction in carbohydrate intake for people, who are on insulin, can make their blood sugar levels plummet. Along with the diet, changes to your medications must be made too.
You may have heard that the paleo diet helps in treating autoimmune conditions; you must be careful before switching onto it and consult your doctor.
People who are suffering from osteoporosis should avoid the paleo diet as it means inadequate calcium and vitamin D in your food.
Finally, people with chronic health conditions such as heart disease or kidney disease should also consult a doctor before starting the paleo diet.
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. It is best to take your doctor’s advice and remember what works for someone else, might not work for you.