Does the Paleo diet work

Paleo Diet - How It Works, These Are The Pros And Cons

Up until 10,000 years ago, people in the Stone Age could not score with particular intelligence, but they could with their bodies: slim and muscular, this is how they are often depicted in pictures. It remains to be seen whether people actually all had perfectly defined bodies back then. At least they should have suffered from fewer illnesses due to their healthy diet - say the supporters of the Paleo diet.

The reason for this assumption is simple: The hunters and gatherers of the Paleolithic only ate what they had available at the time, for example meat, vegetables or fruit. Milk, sugar or any other highly processed foods like today did not exist back then. According to Paleo fans, people in the Stone Age got along more than well with the food available and to this day the people's DNA has not changed.

And so a real trend of the diet arose in the USA, which at some point spilled over to Germany and now has many followers. Stone Age nutrition should therefore ensure that the body comes into its optimal condition and thus, for example, increase performance. In addition, the paleo diet promises the best of health and should also help with chronic diseases.

The explanations of the Paleo supporters sound quite plausible, but there are also doubts that omitting certain foods is actually so healthy for the body. What exactly is allowed in the Paleo diet, how does the diet work and what positive and negative properties does it have? The answers can be found here.

What's the Paleo diet?

The Paleo diet is a type of diet that is supposed to match that of people in the Paleolithic. Paleo stands for Palaeolithic, which in turn is the technical term for the Paleolithic. The idea of ​​the Paleo diet is to eat like humans already around 2.5 million years ago or only with the foods that humans had available in the Paleolithic.

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The advocates of the Paleo Diet believe that today's civilization diet of highly processed foods adds many unnecessary substances to the human body that are unhealthy. The diet in the Paleolithic was finally completely sufficient for humans and ultimately made humanity the intelligent species that it is today. The human genome has not changed since then.

The paleo diet therefore mainly includes meat, fruit, vegetables and nuts. Grains, legumes and dairy products are taboo. The paleo diet is ultimately intended to ensure that the body only receives healthy nutrients that it actually needs. This should lead to ideal body weight, optimal health and performance.

Where does the paleo diet trend come from?

Basically, the “trend” naturally comes from the Paleolithic, or rather from what the Paleo followers suspect, what people had available as food back then. The Paleolithic Age began around 2.5 million years ago and lasted until around 10,000 years ago. After the Paleolithic Age, mankind began raising cattle and farming, so that from then on milk and grain were also part of everyday life.

As early as the 20th century, this type of diet was taken up and dealt with in several books, and around the turn of the millennium the trend really took hold in the USA - and from there it naturally spilled over to Europe. At the beginning of the 2010s, the first blogs started in Germany and books came out that made the Paleo diet better known and more popular in this country as well. There are now numerous followers and even entire restaurants in Germany that specialize in the paleo diet.

How does the paleo diet work?

The basic principle of the Paleo diet is actually quite simple: feeding on the same foods as people in the Paleolithic from 2.5 million years ago to around 10,000 years ago. Accordingly, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, meat and fish, eggs and healthy fats are allowed. These unprocessed foods are considered "real" and are supposed to give the body all the important nutrients it needs.

Foods that did not even exist up to 10,000 years ago are prohibited, in other words: cereal products, legumes, dairy products, sugar, artificial additives, vegetable fats and highly processed foods such as ready-made meals or sweets.

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So what doesn't look so difficult at first glance is not so easy to implement nowadays; After all, milk, sugar and cereals dominate our everyday lives. The classic cheese bread, for example, is history in the Stone Age diet, and muesli is no longer allowed for breakfast. Coffee in small quantities is fine - black or with alternatives to sugar (e.g. honey) and cow's milk (e.g. almond milk), of course.

The best-known German Paleo blog "Paleo 360" recommends strictly following the rules for 30 days at the beginning of the Paleo diet in order to feel the changes and, above all, improvements in the body and its well-being in general. For this purpose, he offers the "30-day challenge" called it. Then everyone can then decide for themselves whether and how much they want to continue with the Paleo diet; for example, different foods could be reintroduced depending on the needs and health of each individual.

Basically, Paleo does not see itself as a time-limited diet to lose a few kilos, rather it is about changing the diet permanently and living healthy. This also has its price: The paleo diet mainly uses organic food and particularly good (and lots of) meat. So the Stone Age nutrition is definitely worth it.

What does a typical day with a paleo diet look like?

Breakfast is perhaps the most challenging part of the Paleo diet. A typical German breakfast, for example, cannot do without bread or rolls, as a topping there are often sweet spreads or cheese. In addition, muesli is always welcome. However, these are not permitted foods during the Paleo diet. The good old egg is still permitted and even expressly desired: Scrambled eggs or an omelette are always acceptable as part of the diet. In addition, there are now a lot of recipes for bread that can be baked with foods that correspond to Paleo. In general, breakfast consists mostly of eggs, fruit and vegetables. Chia seeds are also very popular because they are considered a good source of energy.

At lunch or dinner, there is one thing on the menu in addition to vegetables and salad: meat. Meat is the most important source of protein in the paleo diet and is therefore consumed quite a bit. Of course, it also depends on the choice of meat: Many animals are fed with grain, so if you buy a steak, you have to make sure that the beef previously lived in a pasture and has fed naturally. But then there are almost no limits to the consumption of meat, in combination with vegetables there are countless recipes that go well with Stone Age nutrition.

The diet also offers snacks for in between, there are even recipes for chips or nachos for a cozy movie evening on the couch. These are mostly made up of sweet potatoes that are diet-compliant. There are also sweet snacks such as apple pie or cookies that can be made with natural foods.

Important to know: Paleo does not see itself as low carb. Carbohydrates are, for example, in the form of the sweet potatoes mentioned above, but there are no “empty” carbohydrates like those from pasta or bread.

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There are enough recipes and ways to eat healthily and according to the diet. However, the Paleo lifestyle also means a lot of work: Ready-made food is completely taboo, buying something in the supermarket for a moment and then hitting it right in is hardly possible, even going to the bakery and getting breakfast on the go is no longer possible. Eating according to the Paleo diet takes time to prepare, every day has to be freshly cooked, sometimes more and sometimes less time-consuming. You have to take this time - but that actually applies to any healthy diet.

Can you lose weight quickly with the paleo diet?

During the first period, when the paleo nutrition plan is strictly followed, the success of weight loss, especially in overweight people, will set in very quickly and strongly. During the Paleo diet, the reason should of course be that the body is only supplied with substances that it really needs. The fat storage in the body cannot be replenished with it, but instead is used up.

The Paleo diet brings one thing above all: the intake of calories decreases. For example, if you do without sugar and grain products, you also do without a lot of carbohydrates and calories, regardless of the diet. The lower intake of calories than before will quickly ensure that you lose weight, especially in the beginning.

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Losing weight works quite well with the Paleo diet, because almost all "fattening foods" are prohibited. So if you want to reduce weight, you can definitely use this diet and will quickly celebrate success.

The ultimate goal of Paleo is healthy nutrition and not weight loss. Paleo has nothing to do with low carb and should not only be used as a short-term weight loss strategy. Stone Age nutrition is much more about eating more consciously and with natural foods. To do this, you should deal with where the food that is on the plate comes from and make sure that it is of high quality. This has many health benefits and ultimately ensures that you can also use it to lose weight.

Is the Paleo Diet healthier than the "normal" diet?

To this day, science is still not entirely in agreement. Paleo advocates say, of course, very clearly: Yes! Human genetics have not changed in the past 2.5 million years, the Stone Age diet consisting of meat, vegetables and fruit is still exactly what modern humans should eat in order to achieve the best possible health.

A natural diet would be the best way to prevent some of today's diseases, including diabetes, intestinal diseases, high blood pressure and cancer. Today's form of nutrition plays a major role in these so-called diseases of civilization, because it is not optimal for the human body.

There are some studies that support this thesis. Ready meals and highly processed foods are high in sugar, unhealthy fats and unnatural substances such as flavor enhancers. What is missing, on the other hand, is dietary fiber, for example. Even the sausage on the roll at the bakery is heavily processed and is said to stimulate the development of cancer.

Accordingly, the avoidance of sugar, unfavorable fats and fast food are to be rated positively, but that human genetics have actually not changed has not been proven. It is quite possible that the Stone Age diet can lead to a nutrient deficiency by avoiding certain foods.

In addition, the Stone Age diet is suspected of promoting cardiovascular diseases. Apart from that, no one knows for sure whether the people in the Paleolithic were really healthy - after all, they did not have much choice in terms of nutrition and had to eat what they were able to hunt and collect.

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Another key point against the thesis that paleo is healthier than an average diet is the high fat content in paleo recipes. Although this is mainly about animal fats, i.e. good fats, by avoiding many carbohydrates at the same time, overweight people who also do not do sports could even gain weight and thus get further health problems.

A final answer as to whether Paleo is now healthier than today's “normal” form of nutrition cannot be given; in the end it probably makes the mix as usual.

What side effects can the paleo diet have?

As with the previous question, the answer to this is controversial. Assuming a completely healthy person who has no allergies or intolerances, the Stone Age diet should not have any side effects. A balanced diet with the Paleo recipes provides all the important nutrients.

However, completely avoiding certain foods can lead to side effects such as nutrient deficiencies. Grain products, for example, provide fiber and B vitamins, and dairy products provide calcium. Although it is said in Paleo circles that corresponding nutrients can also be absorbed through natural foods, it is questionable whether this is always done in sufficient quantities.

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It is definitely possible to live on a paleo eating plan without experiencing serious side effects. To do this, however, it is essential to deal in detail with which nutrients the body needs and how they can be adequately absorbed as part of the Paleo diet.

What else is part of the Paleo lifestyle?

Paleo encompasses a real lifestyle that encompasses much more than just stone age nutrition. In order to have an all-round healthy body, other factors such as stress, sleep, exercise or the use of devices such as smartphones are decisive.

That sleep is important is nothing new. Sufficient and healthy sleep is therefore, unsurprisingly, an important part of Paleo. In order to be able to achieve this, the use of digital devices is also crucial. Going to watch TV, checking your smartphone or using any other kind of screen directly before going to sleep impair sleep. In general, excessive consumption of digital devices is not helpful; here you can establish a connection to the diet, because after all there were no screens in the past.

Regular exercise is also important for a healthy lifestyle. Sport is important in the paleo lifestyle, it is not infrequently combined with CrossFit, for example. It is also important to reduce stress, be it through work, in private or simply through bad thoughts in the head. Stress makes you sick, so the causes should be found and eliminated if possible.

Conclusion on the paleo diet

The basic idea behind the Paleo diet is certainly not a bad one: The highly processed foods that are common today, which we all probably consume every day, are rightly suspected of being harmful to health and promoting diseases of civilization. Accordingly, it is a good idea to reflect on the principles of a diet made from purely natural substances.

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However, it is questionable whether a paleo nutrition plan alone can really satisfy all of the body's needs and provide all the necessary nutrients. For this reason, it is definitely advisable to consume some foods that may not directly correspond to Paleo, but are considered healthy in themselves and complement the diet. In addition, your own needs must be taken into account: an athlete, for example, may need more carbohydrates than the nutrition plan provides. Supporters of Paleo do not ask for anything else: They recommend interested parties, for example as described, to strictly adhere to the nutrition plan for a few days and then add some other foods again if necessary.

You will certainly lose weight with it (if this is the ultimate goal), but above all you can generally improve your health with the Stone Age diet. However, one must also realize that the food required for Paleo has its price; Those who follow the Stone Age diet completely will spend significantly more on their food in the future than before. Anyone who is ready and perhaps compliments the Paleo recipes a little can try out the lifestyle and benefit from it - caution is still advised.

Are you also interested in other diets? Our guides on the subject of "intermittent fasting" or the "hCG diet" will explain the procedure and the advantages and disadvantages of these methods to you.