The Paleo diet follows the basic principle of “eat foods a caveman would have access to.” Or better yet known as “eat whole foods.” This would include plenty of healthy fats, proteins, and produce, but exclude grains, dairy, and processed foods. This diet also emphasizes grass-fed, sustainably caught, and free-range options – similar to the type of protein options a caveman would have to hunt or gather on their own.
The theory behind this style of eating stems from the theory that our DNA make-up has changed very little since paleolithic times, yet our diets have changed drastically. And paleo advocates argue that we have fallen susceptible to numerous diet-related diseases because of our modern diet (1).
While the research behind this theory is far from conclusive, a well-executed paleo diet is one way to focus on nutrient-dense foods and might be a sustainable approach to weight loss and better health for some.
The Benefits Of A Paleo Diet
Perhaps one of the largest benefits of a paleo diet, from a nutritional standpoint, is that it is a balanced way of eating. This sets most participants up with a great framework for not only losing weight but actually eating a healthier diet.
Growing research continues to suggest that eating a diet consisting of mostly whole foods is associated with more weight loss (2,3,4). Not to mention that highly processed foods tend to be higher in added sugar, sodium, and trans fats, which research suggests may play a role in increased inflammation and actually counteract your weight loss efforts (5).
Is Paleo Gluten-Free?
Because a Paleo diet excludes all grains – including wheat, rye, and barley, a paleo diet is also naturally gluten-free. And for those looking to avoid gluten, paleo options are a safe bet!
How a Paleo Diet Helps With Weight Loss
An added benefit of the paleo diet is the simplicity of it. The rule to “eat foods a caveman would have access to” makes it very easy to shop, plan, and stick with the diet.
Even when eating out, or ordering food, it is still relatively easy to differentiate between processed foods and whole foods “a caveman would have access to.”
Because of the simplicity of a paleo diet, it does not require participants to do too much thinking. While calories in versus calories out is the most basic rule to weight loss, a paleo diet takes a lot of thinking out of dieting. As long as you are eating whole, nutritious foods, you will probably find that weight loss will follow naturally—mainly because this style of eating cuts calories automatically.
And while this certainly is not a “one size fits all” approach to dieting, most people will find that if they are filling their body with natural, whole, nutrient-dense foods, it will have a substantial impact on your overall weight and body composition as opposed to processed foods.
One study even suggested that your body may burn twice as many calories digesting less processed foods (2).
A Comprehensive Paleo Diet Food List
Paleo foods include plenty of plant-based fats, grass-fed and sustainably caught proteins, and nearly all fruits and vegetables. Here are all of the foods considered to be “paleo.”
Protein is a staple of the caveman diet- specifically, options that are grass-fed, sustainably caught, or organic, as these options are often from animals raised in environments that encourage natural behavior. And because our ancestors didn’t just live off chicken and beef, they hunted a wide variety of meat, the more variety you can add to your proteins, the better!
The best paleo proteins include:
- Wild Boar
Sustainably Caught Seafood
- Cage-free Eggs
Because a Paleo diet eliminates all grains, this diet tends to be naturally low in carbohydrates. But if you are looking to add some more carbs to your meal plan, here are the best starchy foods that are also paleo:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Acorn Squash
- Butternut Squash
Many plant-based fats – like nuts and seeds, as well as less processed oils, fit into a paleo diet. However, it is important to note that fats are also an easy source of calories and if you are looking to lose weight on a paleo diet, you’ll want to limit your portion sizes for these foods:
Nuts and Seeds
- Almond Butter (no added sugar)
- Cashew Butter (no added sugar)
- Macadamia Nuts
- Chia Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- Pine nuts
- Sesame seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
Oils and Butters
- Coconut Oil
- Coconut Butter
- Olive Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Shredded Coconut
Just about any fruit or dried fruit (as long as no sugar is added) can fit into your paleo meal plan. Look for more low carb options like these: