Understanding What the Paleo Diet is and If It’s Right for You

Everyone is arguing about the paleo diet, what it is, what it is not, and whether or not it works. Despite years of claims to the contrary, the most recent peer-reviewed science comparing high-carb low-fat diets to low-carb high-fat ones seems to favor the latter.

For years, scientists and nutritionists have told us to eat less fat and to move more, but it has not worked, and Americans have been gaining weight at an alarming weight since the late 1970s. The paleo diet is built around the idea that humans did not evolve to eat high-carbohydrate processed food, and that early humans primarily subsisted on meat and fat. Vegetables are also part of such a diet more so than fruit, but fruit is considered preferable to sugar and to artificial sweeteners that raise your insulin levels and keep them off.

A paleo diet works as long as you stick to it. The way it works is that eliminates sugar, soy, seed oils, starches, grains, wheat, rice, and legumes because of their insulin-raising properties and their anti-nutrients. Just because something is a plant does not automatically make it healthy. Vegetables are part of a paleo diet, as long as they are organically sourced. Even with meat, you should check the source of the meat before you eat it. Organically sourced meats, especially grass-fed beef, are the best kind to get, even though they cost more. Cheap meats are often taken from factory farmed, grain-fed livestock that was injected with hormones.

Another component of the paleo diet that makes all the difference is intermittent fasting. Proponents believe that since early humans ate only when food was actually available, which was not nearly as often as today to say the least, so they kept excess weight off because they were not putting in food as often. The goal of a paleo diet is to get the body into a state of ketosis. This is when your body has run out of glucose for fuel, so it resorts to fat for fuel. Some people confuse this with ketoacidosis, but they are two different things. When your body has to consume its own fat, then that is when your weight starts to go down.

What does all this mean in real-world terms of what you can eat? Well, it means you can still have a cheeseburger, but make it a lettuce wrap instead of the bun, and make sure the ketchup does not have HFCS or sugar in it. It also means you can still cook Chinese food if you skip the noodles and rice and go for the stir-fried meat, fish, and vegetables, and use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. The paleo diet restricts carbs more than calories, and while some people think it means you can eat more protein than fat, the opposite is the case in reality. Fat should be the primary source of calories, followed by protein, and carbs should come last. One of the secrets to why it is so successful is because protein and fat are harder to overeat than carbs. Simple carbs such as sugar and starches burn up quickly, which spikes your insulin for a short period before dropping back down to levels that leave you sluggish, tired, and listless. With a paleo diet, you no longer get those insulin spikes.

But is it right for you? If you are ready to give up an unhealthy lifestyle for a healthy one, then paleo is for you. If you can resist the urge to eat high-carb, low-nutrition snack foods and replace them with real foods that are as close to Earth as possible, then you are ready to commit to a paleo eating plan. So what are you waiting for? Make a grocery list of foods to eat and get started as soon as possible. Just remember to talk to your doctor first.

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