There are what feels like a hundred different forms of nutrition, currently the Paleo diet is making its mark. The term Paleo diet sounds wild, what does it mean and what positive effects can this diet achieve?
In this article about the Paleo diet, we would like to explain what is meant by the Paleo diet and answer the most important questions about this topic. We take a deeper look into the matter and explain, among other things, who this diet is suitable for, what you can eat and which foods you should stay away from on this type of diet.
the essentials in brief
- The Paleo diet is also known as the Stone Age diet. It helps people lose weight in a healthy way and regenerate their own body.
- Since the main feature here is animal food, the Paleo diet is not recommended for vegetarians and vegans.
- There are some studies that have scientifically proven the effects of the Paleo diet. Weight loss usually occurs in the first six months.
Background: What you should know about the Paleo diet
In this article we would like to address the most important and most frequently asked questions about the Paleo diet and make you more familiar with this subject.
What is the Paleo diet and where does it come from?
The term Paleo diet stands for a diet that can be derived from the Paleolithic period, better known as the Old Stone Age. During this period, people who are on a Paleo diet should eat the same foods as Stone Age people did back then.
The Paleo diet itself is not a normal diet, which means that it is about a change in diet and the focus here is not on losing weight, but on a healthy diet. Everything that hunters and gatherers had at their disposal in the Stone Age is eaten here.
What are Paleoans?
Paleoans are people who believe the Stone Age diet is still best for humans today. The Paleo diet is said to have a positive effect on humans because the genes have remained unchanged to this day. From the perspective of Paleoans, the Paleo diet is about a natural lifestyle.
For whom is the Paleo diet suitable and for whom not?
The Paleo diet is suitable for people who like to eat meat, prefer animal fats and are willing to spend a lot of money for good quality of these foods. If your goal is to lose weight healthily, this diet could be right for you.
A benefit of the Paleo diet is that even people who cannot tolerate milk and gluten products or who have a metabolic disease or diabetes can deny them. In the latter case, however, you should definitely discuss your plans with your responsible doctor beforehand.
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, we advise against the Paleo diet, as you cannot eat many foods and the diet will therefore not have a positive effect on your body.
Which foods are allowed on the Paleo diet and which are not?
As mentioned above, the Paleo diet is derived from the diet of Stone Age people. Therefore, all foods that hunter-gatherers had at their disposal in the Paleolithic period are permitted. It is important that the Paleo diet should avoid unnecessary intake of carbohydrates .
The table below provides a summary of foods to include in your eating plan and foods to avoid at all costs.(1)
|allowed foods||prohibited foods|
|Meat, Fish, Poultry||industrially processed meat and sausage products|
|Fruit/vegetables (e.g. berries, lettuce, wild plants)||Cereals and cereal products (e.g. pasta, cakes, pastries)|
|Fats (e.g. coconut oil , avocado oil, olive oil, palm oil, bacon, lard and sesame oil)||refined vegetable fats and oils|
|nuts and seeds||legumes|
|eggs||Milk and milk products (e.g. yoghurt, cheese or cream)|
|Maple syrup and honey for sweetness||Additives (e.g. sugar, sweets or agave syrup)|
Mistakes can be made especially with grain products, since couscous, bulgar, pasta and white flour also fall under this category. You should also keep in mind that you do not consume any soft drinks, coffee or alcohol during your Paleo diet.
In the further section of the article, we will go into more detail about the foods that frequently raise questions.
Many people who start a Paleo diet are unsure if potatoes are one of the permitted foods. For Paleoans, potatoes fall into the gray area. They are controversial because potatoes cannot be eaten raw due to their hydrocyanic acid.
Some people circumvent this rule by boiling potatoes and, as a result, eliminating the toxic substance. So it is up to you whether you want to include potatoes in your own diet or not.
Since oats are gluten-free and one of the healthiest cereals due to their dietary fiber, it is usually assumed that oatmeal is allowed in the Paleo diet. Not so fast - oats are also forbidden. Alternatively, you can use nuts, seeds, and grated coconut for your muesli. Tastes just as good!
Oatmeal is not allowed on the Paleo diet. (Image source: unsplash / Jocelyn Morales)
Another difficult part of the Paleo diet is not eating legumes. Legumes are part of our diet, but if you eat on the basis of the Paleo diet, legumes are also taboo.
Because the goal of the Paleo diet is to eat healthily, not all guidelines are strictly enforced. As long as you take care to rid the legumes of their harmful substances such as lectins (e.g. by heating them up, letting them germinate or soaking for at least 12 hours), legumes offer the best alternative to meat and fish, especially for vegetarians and vegans.
Since butter is made from dairy products, strictly speaking it is also forbidden in the Paleo diet. However, you can observe how well you can tolerate butter during your diet. Especially for beginners of the Paleo diet, however, it is recommended to avoid butter for at least 30 days. If you use butter anyway, pay attention to the quality.
The following types of butter are healthy:
- clarified butter
- clarified butter
- conventional butter
- willow butter
Straight clarified pasture butter, which can be understood as butter from cows that are pasture-fed, is recommended as a kick-off in bulletproof coffee for the day.
In the Stone Age diet "Paleo" any kind of nuts are allowed. Peanuts are legumes and are therefore prohibited. For a healthy diet, you should eat a handful of different types of nuts every day.
How does the Paleo diet work?
Since there is a strong change in diet, you should proceed step by step. To be on the safe side, do a health check beforehand. People who suffer from a previous illness, such as diabetes, should talk to their doctor about this.
It is recommended to approach the Paleo diet in small steps.
As mentioned above, during the Paleo diet, the diet is converted to that of Stone Age people. That means everything that mankind could plow, gather, fish and hunt is allowed on the Paleo diet. You should stay away from foods like grains, processed meats, coffee, alcohol, and additives. Also be aware that your body has to adjust to eating fewer carbohydrates, which can be very difficult and noticeable at first.
Can you lose weight on the Paleo diet?
The effect of the Paleo diet on body weight was examined in a two-year study of 70 overweight women.
Diet can lead to weight loss over time. (Image source: Siora Photography/unsplash)
After six months, the loss of fat mass and waist circumference was particularly high during the Paleo diet. After 24 months, however, the values were no longer significant. It was also found that the concentration of triglycerides was lower during the diet compared to the control group. (2)
|Fat loss after six months||no further change after 24 months|
|Waist circumference reduced after six months||Concentration of triglycerides lower compared to the control group during the Paleo diet|
However, it is assumed that the strong weight loss during the Paleo diet is due to the low energy intake.(3) The changes in microorganisms can also be a reason for the rapid weight loss during this diet, and the renunciation of carbohydrates will certainly play a role. (4)
Does the Paleo Diet Help With Acne?
In general, it differs from person to person. There are studies that show that the Paleo diet can help fight acne, as acne often stems from metabolic disorders. (5) Another reason is the absence of dairy products during the Paleo diet, which also leads to an improvement in the skin. (6)
What studies are there on the Paleo diet?
Yes, there are some studies on the Paleo diet. As already mentioned, this form of nutrition and its positive effects have been scientifically proven. Among other things, it was tested whether this form of diet works in people with type 2 diabetes. Results show improvement in fat mass and metabolic balance, including insulin sensitivity, glycemic control and leptin.(7)
However, another result of a study also revealed a negative aspect: iodine deficiency . Especially women of postmenopausal obesity are severely affected.(8)
Advantages and disadvantages of the Paleo diet
An advantage of this diet is that you do something good for your body by eating healthy foods for a period of time.
It also offers the opportunity to recognize what your own body tolerates and what not. During the Paleo diet, attention is also paid to high-quality products that may be disadvantaged by a different lifestyle.
The Paleo diet has been scientifically proven by several studies.
The followers of this diet have also noticed some improvements and are convinced that this diet brings the following benefits:
- more energy
- improved sleep pattern
- Improving dental hygiene
- less prone to allergies
- stabilized blood sugar levels
- less inflammation
In medicine, the Paleo diet is also used to treat various autoimmune diseases and metabolic diseases.(9)
What side effects can a Paleo diet have?
Leaving out dairy and grain products results in a change in fat metabolism, which is why many people need time to get used to it. This can then manifest itself in this phase as tiredness, in the form of problems falling asleep , and a lack of drive .
The food combination also plays an important role in the initial phase. Digestive problems can occur here. Eating a lot of vegetables can lead to flatulence due to the fiber metabolism or constipation if too much meat is eaten.(10)
Thus, the daily high consumption of eggs, fish and meat is viewed critically from a health perspective. Likewise, not eating legumes, dairy products, and grain products, which are important sources of protein and have fiber, can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
What are the risks and dangers of the Paleo diet?
Basically, there are few risks and dangers with a Paleo diet. However, you should be careful not to overdo it with your meat consumption. If you eat too much meat, different diseases can occur.
The Paleo diet can also be followed without having to eat meat every day. A salad with eggs and vegetables is also sufficient. (Image source: Brooke Lark/unsplash)
Risks and dangers of eating too much meat(11):
- cardiovascular diseases
- formation of vascular calcifications
- high blood fat levels
- development of gout
- development of gallstones
As long as you keep this in mind, you shouldn't have any concerns. Here it is easy to see that a healthy diet can prevent many health risks.
What are the criticisms of the Paleo diet?
Back in the Stone Age there was no specific diet, people ate what they could find and hunt in the area. Critics therefore emphasize that there was no Stone Age diet, as Paleoans claim. Likewise, as long as the basic need for nutrients is met, humans can adapt to any form of nutrition. (12)
In summary, the Paleo diet is healthy for your body for a short period of time. If you do not want to do without meat, fish or nuts while losing weight, this type of diet is recommended for you. Since you eat healthily with this diet and have to avoid dairy products, this can have positive effects on your skin.
However, you should be aware that with a Paleo diet your body needs an adjustment period. That means it may well be that you will feel weak, tired or even listless at the beginning. In addition, you should be aware before you start that this form of nutrition is not cheap and include this in your budget.
- German Society for Nutrition: Paleo diet, Glyx diet, formula diets - an overview.
- Mellberg C, Sandberg S, Ryberg M, Eriksson M, Brage S, Larsson C, Olsson T, Lindahl B. Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar;68(3):350-7.
- Obert J, Pearlman M, Obert L, Chapin S. Popular Weight Loss Strategies: a Review of Four Weight Loss Techniques. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2017 Nov 9;19(12):61.
- Spreadbury I. Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2012;5:175-89.
- Melnik BC. Diet in acne: further evidence for the role of nutrient signaling in acne pathogenesis. Acta Derm Venereol. 2012 May;92(3):228-31.
- Kwon HH, Yoon JY, Hong JS, Jung JY, Park MS, Suh DH. Clinical and histological effect of a low glycaemic load diet in treatment of acne vulgaris in Korean patients: a randomized, controlled trial. Acta Derm Venereol. 2012 May;92(3):241-6.
- Otten J, Stomby A, Waling M, Isaksson A, Tellström A, Lundin-Olsson L, Brage S, Ryberg M, Svensson M, Olsson T. Benefits of a Paleolithic diet with and without supervised exercise on fat mass, insulin sensitivity, and Glycemic control: a randomized controlled trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2017 Jan;33(1):10.
- Manousou S, Stål M, Larsson C et al.: A Paleolithic-type diet results in iodine deficiency: a 2-year randomized trial in postmenopausal obese women. Eur J Clin Nutr. 72 (2018)
- Ströhle A, Behrendt I, Behrendt P et al.: Alternative forms of nutrition Part 2: Paleo nutrition - natural history meets modern metabolic research. Aktuel Ernahrungsmed 41 (2016) 120-138
- German Society for Nutrition: Paleo diet, Glyx diet, formula diets - an overview.
- Zhong VW, Van Horn L, Greenland P, et al. Associations of Processed Meat, Unprocessed Red Meat, Poultry, or Fish Intake With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality. JAMA Intern Med.2020;180(4):503-512.
- Henry AG: The evolution of human diets. International Nutrition Review 6 (2016)