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Paleo Diet: Eat like our ancestors to lose weight and feel great

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

Find out if the Paleo Diet is for you

A mind-boggling array of diets and weight-loss methods make it hard to figure out what to eat. A simple trip to the grocery store can quickly become a diet minefield. But one way of eating makes things fairly simple – eat how our hunter-gatherer ancestors did.
Cavewoman

The Paleolithic diet (often referred to as the "caveman diet") has been steadily gaining popularity and interest from people who want a less complicated, yet highly nutritious, way of eating. We delved further into this diet to find out the basics and the benefits.

To learn more we turned to Laurie Brodsky, board-certified naturopathic doctor, proponent of the Paleo Diet and a member of the Paleo Physicians Network.

Basket of veggiesWhat is the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo Diet reaches into the past for inspiration on how and what to eat – way into the past. "It is an ancestral way of eating that focuses mainly on lean meats, poultry, fish, seafood, seasonal vegetables and fruits," Brodsky explains. The exceptions are dried fruit and starchy tubers (primarily potatoes), which are not included. "Healthy fats are emphasized, while strict avoidance of all wheat products, grains, legumes and dairy is encouraged to reap the full benefits of the Paleo Diet," she says. This includes a limited amount of nuts and seeds (no more than 4 ounces of nuts daily) as snacks, but no sweets are permitted. All of this parallels what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have most likely had access to -- these people were definitely not buying a bag of chips, eating fast food or popping a frozen dinner into the microwave.

What are the main benefits of the Paleo Diet?

Many benefits are associated with eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, lean protein and no sugar, grains, legumes or dairy. "According to leaders in the Paleo industry, Robb Wolf and Loren Cordain, some of the main benefits of following the Paleo Diet include weight loss, boosted energy levels and reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic illness," Brodsky says. She has her own reasons for recommending this way of eating. "I love promoting this diet with my patients because it offers a wide variety of snacking options, the foods to eat are low on the glycemic index and the healthy fats promote glowing skin." She has seen several benefits personally. "My best benefits were noted this summer when I was able to shed an extra 8 to 10 pounds before my wedding, and the clearing up of my skin!"

Myths and misconceptions

With an eating pattern nicknamed the "caveman diet" there are bound to be some misconceptions floating around. Brodsky says some people might ask how it's possible to know what our ancestors ate, or think that just because our ancestors ate that way doesn't mean it's the healthy way. Others aren't sure about the reliance on meat (which is thought by many to be bad for you and cause cancer) and the lack of dairy and grains (which many believe need to be part of a healthy diet). While no single way of eating is for everyone, the benefits appear to be many. "Robb Wolf, a huge proponent of the Paleo Diet, quotes from his book that hunter-gatherers appeared to suffer virtually no cancer until they adopted grains, legumes and dairy," the naturopath explains. That makes a lot of sense, she says. "Since grains and dairy are two of the most allergenic foods in our food chain, it makes it much easier to keep them out of my diet for good."

Getting started

For someone just starting out with the Paleo Diet, Brodsky shares some tips.

  • Start clearing out your kitchen of the foods that may be tempting to fall back on.
  • Keep in mind what to limit: Refined sugars and grains, trans fats, high-glycemic carbohydrates and processed foods.
  • Seek out foods and snack options from a site like www.paleobrands.com, which can help you get started.
  • Visit www.thepaleodiet.com for tips, news more information and recipes.
  • Find a Paleo-friendly physician on the Paleo Physicians Network to guide you and answer any questions you might have.

More healthy living tips

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Daily detox: Foods and herbs that cleanse
Tosca Reno's Eat Clean diet tips for the New Year

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