What Is the Paleo Diet?

Diets seem a lot like fashion these days, coming and going, easily replaced with the next big thing. However, this does not mean every diet you hear about is just a flash in the pan fad that has no real value. In fact, many are often quite healthy and provide a structured approach to eating that can be beneficial. Many of us have heard of the different diets out there, even if we do not know exactly what they entail. The Paleo diet has garnered some popularity, but do you know what it is? Do you know if it works or, more importantly, if it is safe? You came to the right place for the answers to these questions.

The Paleo diet is actually quite simple: it focuses on eating natural, real foods that have endured either little or no processing. It is sometimes referred to as “the caveman diet” because it essentially calls for its followers to eat the way nature intended. As a response to the faults in the Standard American Diet, which features sugar overwhelmingly, the Paleo diet seeks to eliminate the copious amounts of various sugars present in the average diet.

What Can I Eat While on the Paleo Diet?

This is probably the biggest question you might have when considering a diet. Here is a basic overview of what you might eat on a regular basis while living the Paleo lifestyle:

  • Lean meats, including beef, veal, poultry, and bison, which should be grass-fed if possible
  • Fish, such as salmon, tilapia, and bass, or seafood in general
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits lower on the glycemic index, such as berries
  • Nuts, excluding peanuts, and in moderation
  • Natural oils, such as olive, coconut, and avocado

You can probably see that some things are missing from this list. Grains are not considered Paleo. Why? Well, despite the fact that the food pyramid places a heavy emphasis on them, followers of the Paleo diet do not believe they are good for you, given their high carbohydrate content and anti-nutrients.


Grains are simple carbohydrates, which means they break down into sugar rapidly and cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Consequently, they have higher insulin levels. Higher insulin levels prevent the body from burning fat because it redirects the body’s focus toward converting excess glucose into energy, storing the rest as fat. Eating too many simple carbohydrates can lead to obesity issues and pre-diabetic symptoms.

Now, you might be wondering what kind of anti-nutrients grains have. There are three main ones – lectins, phytates, and gluten. Many of us are familiar with gluten, which can cause bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea. You might be less familiar with lectin, which is a sticky protein that can cause intestinal damage and compromised intestinal bacteria. They are not entirely avoidable, but are less present in nutrient-dense foods. Lastly, phytates are the salt form of phytic acid. They bind to essential minerals in the body and render them unavailable.


You might have also noticed the absence of dairy on the list. While Paleo doesn’t eliminate all dairy, it does restrict your options. When it comes to dairy, the rule of thumb is that the more processed a food is, the less it is considered Paleo. For example, whole milk is processed, but not as much as skim milk or 2% milk. Grass-fed butter is considered Paleo, offering a good source of fat and an excellent omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid ratio.

Ice cream is a major no-no, given the level of sugar present, which is also the problem with most yogurts in the market.


Another food group you might have noticed was missing from the above list is legumes. Legumes include beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, soy, and other pod fruits. While legumes are a good source of protein and fiber, the argument for those who follow a Paleo diet is that, unless you are a vegan or vegetarian, there are better sources available for both of these nutrients. If you really want to include these in your diet, you can keep it Paleo by sprouting and soaking them. This reduces the amount of lectins and phytates present.

Does it Work?

Not every diet is suitable for everyone. That said, many people find the Paleo diet effective for losing fat due to the significant lack of carbs, which turns the body’s focus toward burning fat. Without the overwhelming presence of simple carbohydrates in your diet, your body will have to turn to fat stores for energy.

Additionally, this approach eliminates preservatives commonly added to your foods, which is always a good thing.

Is it Safe?

We are generally not concerned about asking if ice cream or cereal is safe, but when a diet seeks to eliminate unnecessary food items, there tends to be a bit of worry. As long as you focus on eating unprocessed foods and high-quality lean meats, this approach can be beneficial. Of course, just because something is considered Paleo, does not mean you should overdo it in quantity to compensate for the junk foods you might miss. Moderation is always key.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare providers.