The Paleo Diet: A Complete Beginner’s Guide

November 8, 2019
The Paleo diet is an eating plan that's supposedly based on foods that are similar to those that our primitive ancestors ate during the Paleolithic period, approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. 

Have you heard about the Paleo diet?

If your answer is yes, then you’ll learn more about the possible benefits attributed to it. And if you haven’t heard of it, you’ll learn something new today, as well! In any case, here is a condensed complete guide if you’re interested in learning more.

The paleo diet is a very interesting eating model. It focuses mainly on the use of organic foods that aren’t industrially processed. The goal is to try to imitate the diet of our primitive ancestors who, assumingly, only ate what they gathered and killed themselves.

Why Follow the Paleo Diet?

A Paleo diet is an eating plan based on foods similar to those eaten in the Paleolithic period, approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. The claim is that our ancestors back then were genetically identical to contemporary humans. They survived by eating the foods we assume existed back then and didn’t have problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease which are so prevalent in today’s society. (At least that’s what cave doctors wrote in stone somewhere. Archeologists are still looking for it! We’re kidding, of course!)

Certain studies suggest that this diet may lead to significant weight loss and there’s no need to count those bothersome calories. There are other health benefits as well.

  • A paleo diet may help you recover your optimal figure.
  • The paleo diet is an eating model that promotes the consumption of 100% organic foods. As you can guess, there’s no room for food that goes through an industrial process here.

However, recommendations vary between commercial Paleo diets, and certain dietary plans have stricter guidelines than others. In general, however, all Paleo diets follow similar guidelines.

Allowed Food

A plate of salmon, broccoli and brussel sprouts.

  • Red meats: Lamb, pork, veal, etc.
  • Poultry: Chicken, turkey, etc.
  • Fish: Salmon, trout, sardine, etc.
  • Eggs: These must be organic or from a local farm where you can meet and say hi to the chicken.
  • Fresh vegetables: Lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, onion, etc.
  • Fruit: Apples, bananas, pears, oranges, avocados, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc.
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
  • Oils: Coconut and olive oil only.
  • Tubers: Potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, and radishes.
  • Condiments: Garlic, turmeric, rosemary, and parsley.

Foods to Avoid

  • Grains: Wheat, oats, barley, etc.
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, peanuts, peas, etc.
  • All dairy products and refined sugars.
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oils: Corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and others.
  • Trans fats: This is present in margarine and other processed foods.

You may want to read: The Benefits of Eating Mushrooms

Controversial Food in the Paleo Diet

As you may have already guessed, our ancestors certainly didn’t consume food as we know it. However, there’s no harm in eating what this diet recommends once in a while.

  • Tea is very healthy and has a lot of antioxidants such as catechins and many other beneficial compounds.
  • Coffee is also high in antioxidants, and many studies show its many benefits.
  • Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa, is highly nutritious and considered a superfood.
  • Wine has tannins, which are another type of antioxidant.

A Sample Paleo Menu for a Week

A table setting with a meal of egg and potatoes.
There are many ways to combine natural foods when preparing a paleo diet menu. However, stick to the cooking method so as not to make mistakes.
  • Monday
    Breakfast: A couple of pieces of orange, nuts, and salmon with fine herbs.
    Lunch: A chicken salad with a little olive oil.
    Finally, for dinner: Veal scallops, grilled vegetables, and a little melon.
  • Tuesday
    Breakfast: Eggs, and bacon with a piece of fruit.
    Then, for lunch: Hamburger patties with steamed potatoes.
    To finish up at dinner: Salmon or Tuna with vegetables.
  • Wednesday
    Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, prosciutto, and orange juice.
    Then, there’s lunch: Vegetables of your choice and pork loin.
    Dinner: White rice, shrimp, and nuts.
  • Thursday
    Breakfast: Eggs and a piece of fruit.
    Lunch: Hake or a similar fish with a handful of almonds.
    Finally, for dinner: Turkey breast with vegetables.
  • Friday
    Breakfast: Fried eggs, salad, and green tea.
    Then, for lunch: Swordfish with baked potatoes.
    Dinner: Steamed salmon or tuna with avocados.
  • Saturday
    Breakfast: Eggs and a piece of fruit.
    Lunch: Beefsteak with cucumber and tomato slices.
    Dinner: Lemon chicken and a banana.
  • Sunday
    Breakfast: Steak and fresh juice.
    Then, for lunch: Tuna, a handful of almonds, and a peach.
    Finally, for dinner: A salad with baked potatoes and pineapple.

Read also: Interview with Carlos Ríos: Do You Eat Real Food?

Results of the assessment of this diet

Several randomized clinical trials compared the paleo diet with other eating plans, such as the Mediterranean diet or the diabetes diet. In general, these trials suggest that a Paleo diet may provide some benefits when compared to other diets based on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy products.

Some of these benefits are:

  • Firstly, it maximizes weight loss.
  • Also, you develop a higher glucose tolerance.
  • Also, your blood pressure gets under control.
  • Also, there’s a reduction in your triglycerides.
  • Finally, you manage your appetite better.

However, studies should be conducted with longer trials and larger groups of people randomly designated to receive different diets before we can understand the general long-term health benefits and possible risks of Paleo diets. Therefore, more research is needed. 

  • Lindeberg S, Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjöström K, Ahrén B. A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia. 2007 Sep;50(9):1795-1807. doi: 10.1007/s00125-007-0716-y. Epub 2007 Jun 22. PubMed PMID: 17583796.
  • Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, Branell UC, Pålsson G, Hansson A, Söderström  M, Lindeberg S. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009 Jul 16;8:35. doi: 10.1186/1475-2840-8-35. PubMed PMID: 19604407; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2724493.
  • Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC Jr, Sebastian A. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Aug;63(8):947-55. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2009.4. Epub 2009 Feb 11. Erratum in: Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015
    Dec;69(12):1376. PubMed PMID: 19209185.