Paleo is trendy! Because the Paleo diet makes you slim, fit and healthy. We’ll tell you what the food trend really is and how you mutate into a caveman.
The Paleo diet is one of the most popular food trends in recent years. But what exactly does this “Paleo” mean exactly? We clarify: The term “Paleo” is derived from Paleolithic, the technical name for the ancient Stone Age. That does not sound very sexy but lets you guess what Paleo is about: the diet of our ancestors in the Stone Age.
Back to the roots: Food as in the Stone Age
Imagine how people lived around 2.5 million years ago: There was no electricity, supermarkets, refrigerators, fast food chains or bakeries on every corner, let alone the delivery service. Our ancestors were not bakers and chemists, but hunters and gatherers. Their menu included meat, fish, berries, nuts, seed, and vegetables, and to get them they often had to walk 15 miles or even fight wild animals. The result: Man was healthy, vital and “trained”. Of course, a lifespan of about 30 years does not sound like a healthy lifestyle, but lack of medical care and hygiene, environmental and natural disasters and natural enemies like wild animals made it almost impossible to get older.
Now think back about 10,000 years: Man discovered agriculture and livestock for themselves, dairy and cereal products were introduced into the daily diet, instead of hunters and gatherers we were bakers and farmers. About 100 years ago, the Industrial Revolution further changed our diet by using processed flours, sugar, pesticides and preserves. And finally, about 20 years ago, began the massive use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock and the use of genetic engineering in food.
Today a meat and food scandal chases the next one. Parallel to this “progress” also changed our health – and to the negative. Civilization diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, arthrosis, rheumatism, allergies, depression, and diabetes are on the increase since we consume heavily processed foods. About two-thirds of these civilization diseases are based on an unhealthy lifestyle and are increasingly manifesting among younger people.
Well, do you notice what? Primal nutrition, lots of exercise and healthy people are more convenient, processed diets, mostly sedentary lifestyle, and ill people. And this is exactly where the basic idea of the Paleo or “Stone Age diet” comes in: Healthy, lean and fit through a species-appropriate diet and a suitable lifestyle.
Very important: To speak of a “Paleo diet” is, strictly speaking, wrong because a diet usually has a start and end point. But Paleo is a long-term diet. And not even “just” that: Behind the basic idea of Paleo is much more than nutrition, namely a whole lifestyle: reduce stress, sleep enough (at least 7.5 hours per night) and move a lot – because we are not created for it Driving everywhere, sitting in the office all day or being constantly reachable through new media and being under pressure.
And: Before you doubt the whole system behind Paleo and argue that Paleos – if they avoid the advances in nutrition – would also have to do without electricity, running water and cars: The Paleo conversion should only serve as orientation and not mean that the entire civilized life and its (technical) achievements are called into question.
The basics of the Paleo diet
But back to the diet. Exactly we can not say what people ate about 2.5 million years ago, our knowledge is based only on assumptions. Likewise, it is impossible to set up the paleo diet: The diet in the Stone Age differed greatly depending on the season, location, existing tools and hunting or collecting skills.
Nevertheless, nuts, fruits and lots of Vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, seeds, and natural fats – that’s on the menu of a Paleo trailer. Cereals, sugar, dairy products, legumes (attention, including soy and peanuts), fast food and anything that has been processed or chemically altered, are taboo. Legumes are deleted by Paleo fans because they contain so-called “anti-nutrients” such as locations or phytic acid, which are difficult to digest.
These are plant-based pesticides that serve as a natural shield against predators, but also have negative effects on us: they can damage the human intestinal wall and prevent the absorption of important minerals such as calcium or iron.
It is similar with cereal products: The contained gluten, also known as gluten, is also considered a plant defense substance. In addition, grain products contain too many carbohydrates in the view of the Paleo trailer with too little nutrients. Also, gluten-free pseudo-cereals such as quinoa, amaranth or buckwheat, do not come to the table, as they could harm the intestine and increase the blood sugar level. In the long term, this could lead to diabetes or obesity.
And what about dairy products? Even those are taboo from today if you want to feed stone age. Background: The contained lactose cannot normally be digested by adults, because originally milk is intended for babies or calves – but not for adults. In addition, Paleo fans argue that dairy products are usually processed industrially (pasteurized, homogenized) and thus contain hardly any nutrients and vitamins. Selected raw milk products are allowed in small quantities.
Sugar, sweeteners and additives, flavor enhancers, soft drinks, refined vegetable oils, industrially processed meat (sausages, salami), alcohol, juices – you guessed it: all this is not on the table at Paleos. The background is less the lack of availability in the Stone Age, but rather negative effects of these foods on the human body.
For example, sweeteners or artificial flavor enhancers affect our reward system in the brain but contain no nutrients. As a result, we overeat ourselves, so the Paleo theory. In addition, industrially modified products often have serious effects on the digestive tract and can lead to abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bloating and constipation or inflammatory reactions in the body, weaken our immune system and in the worst case end in rheumatism or osteoarthritis.
Allowed foods of Paleo diet
Wondering if Paleos ever eat anything? Clear yes! What ends up in really large quantities on the plates, is high-fiber and nutritious as well as low-calorie vegetables and fruits, if possible from regional or organic cultivation. In the case of fruit, fructose-poor varieties such as berries are to be preferred and, if possible, highly bred or widely distributed tropical fruits should be avoided.
In addition, carbohydrates are in contrast to No Carb / Low Carb diets allowed: In addition to the fruit, you can slap (sweet) potatoes and rice. Also, meat is often on the menu: It provides valuable proteins, fats and B vitamins.
The best quality is organic and of animals that have been kept appropriate to the species, that is, from pasture cows and sheep, free-range pigs and chickens (of course also applies to their eggs) or game. So you are not only doing something good for your health by avoiding antibiotics and hormones, but also the environment and the animals. Also, good fats are not too short: Cold pressed oils (e.g. olive or coconut oil), avocados, ghee or nuts (up to a hand daily).
The whole thing is rounded off by plenty of fresh herbs and spices, every now and then maybe sweetened with honey or maple syrup. To drink there is water and tea, coffee only in small quantities and rarely. As a milk substitute, you can grab unsweetened almond milk.
Basically, the following applies to the Stone Age diet: Protein forms the building block for muscles and bones the main nutrient suppliers, as well as enough healthy fats and low carbohydrates. For all foods: quality over quantity, pay attention to organic quality and regional or seasonal products.
Advantages vs. Disadvantages of Paleo diet
Pros: At first glance, the Paleo lifestyle seems pretty strict – but it’s worth it, as Paleo supporters swear. Their diet promises a functioning digestion, better skin, a calmer sleep, healthy blood lipids, and blood sugar levels, a balanced hormone balance, more concentration and performance in sports and everyday life and good mood. By the way, you’re getting a slim, well-formed body that seems to be a nice plus to all these announced benefits rather than the main cause of this diet.
Paleos explain the many positive effects as follows: Because no more processed foods are fed, while at the same time ensuring sufficient sleep, less stress and more exercise, stress hormones and messengers in the body are minimized. Inflammation and calcification can be prevented, the insulin level is no longer (too) high, but constant. Instead of bad fatty acids are the body sufficiently good available, which lead together with plenty of antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients to health, well-being, and beautiful skin.
Disadvantages: Unfortunately, the Paleo diet is very expensive and time-consuming: Almost every dish must be freshly prepared. Especially if you are traveling a lot, you hardly have the chance to get a pretzel at the corner or to stop at the next restaurant, but you should always have prepared snacks with you.
Fresh food, if possible in organic quality, to procure, costs time and patience and is not always and everywhere possible (eg on vacation). Often it simply lacks a suitable provider, for example, wild caught fish or game meat. And even if you’ve found good sources for yourself: almond milk, organic fruits, and vegetables, high-quality meat … As good as it is for the environment, animals, and health, your account will be less enthusiastic.
By the way: For vegetarians, the Paleo diet is only partially suitable. Of course, some Paleo basics are feasible even without meat, but it is much more limited and difficult to cover the high protein content without fish and meat because typical vegetarian protein sources such as soy/tofu, dairy, seitan or legumes fall away.
Criticism of the Paleo diet
Critics often argue that our genetic material has changed over the last 10,000 years – possibly also towards a “newer” diet, so the Stone Age diet makes little sense. In addition, thousands of years ago, people fought for survival and had to eat what was available – they could not afford to be picky. So it is not said that what they have consumed is automatically good for us as well. Often it is also criticized how useful the established “prohibitions” of the Paleo diet are. For example, there is no sound scientific evidence that gluten harms the body in any way (exception: celiac disease patients). The general abandonment of milk is questionable, especially since fermented or acidified milk products are very good for the intestinal flora.
If there is no lactose intolerance, from a health point of view, there is no reason to abstain from milk. Also critical to consider is the meat-heavy side of the Paleo diet. Although it has good quality, high meat consumption has been shown to be linked to the development of cancer, infection, stroke, and diabetes. Sometimes the statement that processed foods are generally unhealthy, too radical, for example, freshly squeezed orange juice or unsweetened applesauce is by no means unhealthy or low in nutrients.
That’s why you should still try the Paleo diet
Despite all the above points, there are many points that speak for Paleo. First of all, it is not an entertaining diet, but a long-term change in diet, which also includes exercise and lifestyle. It is not a one-sided (mono) diet (like the cabbage soup diet, pineapple diet, low fat, etc.) and there are no rules on how many meals you can take.
Also calorie counting and thus starvation does not exist in the Stone Age diet. So you do not have to worry about food cravings, yo-yo effects or malnutrition. Unlike many other low-carbohydrate diets, carbohydrates are not dehumidified on the Paleo diet, but simply reduced and taken from good sources such as sweet potatoes, rice, fruits, vegetables, plantains or pumpkin varieties.
In addition to the abandonment of sweets, flavor enhancers, and co, that many fresh ingredients and healthy fats on the menu are, if possible, from organic farming and the environment come. Thus, you focus on sustainability and quality and protect animals and the environment. By having to prepare more or less each meal yourself, you always know what exactly your food is, according to the motto “You are what you eat”.
By focusing on suitable foods and preparing them, you can also broaden your culinary horizons and learn a lot about healthy eating (yes, it can be done without sugar, fast food, and ready meals!). For lactose intolerant or celiac disease patients, the Paleo diet is sometimes even easier than their previous diet, as lactose and gluten (at least in strict compliance with Paleo principles) do not occur.
If you are worried that Paleo is too strict for you, we advise you to put together your own Paleo diet. For example, during the week, you can eat stone-age, but at weekends, or continue to enjoy your morning coffee or cheese slice over the Vegetable lasagna – you will see, even with small changes, you can celebrate great successes. And if you think you cannot afford Paleo financially, here are some tips for you:
- To buy only those organic foods where you eat the shell (carrots, apples, potatoes), others (such as onions, bananas or avocados) in conventional quality
- To access frozen goods: It contains just as many vitamins as fresh fruit or vegetables but is often cheaper
- Almond or nut milk you can easily make yourself. To buy the nuts in the back department
- If you buy meat from conventional production, use beef instead of poultry or pork
- Seasonal shopping is worth it: Pumpkins, apples, and plums are much cheaper in autumn, as are cabbages in winter or berries in summer