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The paleo diet has surged in popularity in the 21st century. Proponents claim it allows followers to return to the food that the human body is naturally designed to eat. Critics claim it is a fad diet with little scientific support. As with any diet, there are several things to keep in mind to ensure you stay healthy and manage to obtain your weight loss goals.
Paleo is short for Paleolithic, referring to the period of ancient human history. You may also hear it called the caveman diet or the Stone Age diet, and that really tells you the basic premise. The paleo diet is about trying to recreate what our ancient ancestors consumed before processed foods became so common, and even before agriculture became widespread.
That generally means the paleo diet has a lot of fruits and vegetables as well as meat, nuts and seeds but avoids dairy, sugar, grains (such as those used to make bread and pasta), tea, coffee and alcohol. Variations on this concept have been around for a few hundred years, but it’s only in the last couple of decades that it has become really popular. You still find many different standards about what food qualifies for the paleo diet and what doesn't.
Many claims have been made about the ability of the paleo diet to combat disease, with varying degrees of scientific support. There is some evidence that it may offer a good short-term weight loss solution, but like with many other diets, the challenge is sustaining it. You may have more chances at success if you listen to the following advice:
One of the key problems with making diets sustainable is that they often involve removing the foods you most like to eat. If you are missing your favorite meals, you are going to be tempted to stray. That means you need to find alternatives that allow you to still feel satisfied. For example, some people find products made with glucomannan an excellent substitute for grains that are banned in the paleo diet. You can even eat pasta thanks to products like Zero Noodles Fettuccine. This can be cooked with onions, mushrooms and other vegetables. You can still create a tomato sauce for your glucomannan pasta, even if you cannot eat a cream or cheese-based one.
Glucomannan is a popular substitute for many grains because it is very low in carbohydrates and calories, which can be an advantage when trying to lose weight. When you are removing certain foods for a diet like the paleo diet, you need to be careful not to replace them with something equally or more high in calories or something that poses its own health problems.
With most other forms of protein banned, it is easy to start eating a lot more red meat while following the paleo diet. Meat contains a lot of important nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron and zinc. It is also, however, high in saturated fat, which can cause health problems when consumed in large amounts and is not particularly friendly to weight loss. You can negate this slightly by choosing lean cuts of red meat, in addition to using fish and eggs as sources of protein. Large amounts of red meat have also been associated with an increased risk of some kinds of cancer.
Dairy products are generally banned on the paleo diet because our ancient ancestors had not started farming cows for their milk. Today, however, dairy is a major source of calcium, a mineral that is essential to healthy teeth and bones. If you are following the paleo diet, you need to find alternative sources of calcium, such as green, leafy vegetables. Some types of fish are also good sources of calcium.
Similar principles apply with other nutrients. For example, grains and legumes are a valuable source of fiber banned by the paleo diet. Pay careful attention to ensuring you still receive a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, fiber, fat, vitamins and minerals. Your normal nutritional requirements do not vanish because you are trying to lose weight.
Following the paleo diet is a good way to reduce the amount of salt you consume. Too much salt is associated with high blood pressure, which can contribute to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. It may not be directly linked to weight loss, but reducing salt is a valuable health change.