Eat like your ancestors did – read our complete guide to get started on a paleo diet meal plan!
The Paleolithic diet, more commonly referred to as the paleo diet or the caveman diet is a contemporary diet plan based on what scientists believe that our ancestral humans ate over tens of thousands of years ago. The leading idea behind this diet is that our genetic makeup is more conducive to what humans ate long ago rather than today, especially with all of the artificial additives and fats in today’s food.
The Caveman Diet, also called the Paleolithic (or Paleo), Stone Age, and Warrior diets, is a plan based on eating plants and wild animals similar to what cavemen are presumed to have eaten around 10,000 years ago.
In the 1970’s, gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin is credited for popularizing this “stone age” diet. In 1975, Voegtlin published “The Stone Age Diet: Based on in-depth Studies of Human Ecology and the Diet of Man” and declared that the Paleolithic diet was a carnivorous diet and humans today are still carnivorous animals. Voegtlin’s conclusions were based on his beliefs that modern day food consumption was a leading factor in intestinal problems like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowl syndrome.
10 years later, S. Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner published a paper in the “New England Journal of Medicine”, fully supporting the Paleolithic nutrition. This paper brought the Paleolithic diet into the medical spotlight. Within the next few years, the duo wrote a few books on the Paleo diet, which ultimately took this diet mainstream.
Over the next two decades, numerous scientist, doctors, nutritionists and other medical professionals have endorsed this diet through books, videos, papers, websites and more. However, there have also been some slight variations over the years as technology has advanced and more research has been done.
HOW DOES THE PALEO DIET MEAL PLAN WORK?
In theory, the paleo diet meal plan simply works by considering what foods a caveman would have eaten over 10,000 years ago. Eliminate all foods that weren’t available back then like processed foods and only include foods like lean meats, veggies, fruits, and healthy fat that come from sources like nuts.
For the strictest forms of the Paleo diet, water is the only acceptable fluid. However, there are less strict forms of the Paleo diet that allow you to consume other beverages like coffee.
PROPONENTS OF THE PALEO DIET MEAL PLAN
Proponents of the Paleo diet meal plan argue that there are many benefits to this diet starting with the elimination of processed foods and the inclusion of all natural foods. Other benefits of the diet include:
- Foods that don’t have highly allergic ingredients like gluten
- Low Carbohydrate diet which could lead to weight loss
- Very satiating diet due the high amount of protein and fat
- High in fiber which has many benefits like reducing risk of diabetes
OPPONENTS OF THE PALEO DIET MEAL PLAN
As with most diets, weight loss is a primary goal. However, there’s insufficient scientific data that proves the Paleo diet meal plan leads to weight loss. Besides weight loss, there are many other points of contention from opponents of this diet:
- It’s impractical for a large population since it’s more expensive to raise and slaughter animals than farming grain and milking cows.
- With the elimination of many foods high in carbs and the inclusion of most meats, this diet is widely considered a high protein diet. High protein diets can lead to various health issues including kidney damage and coronary artery disease.
- Individuals already suffering from liver and kidney problems could see their conditions worsen due to the high amounts of protein.
- Consuming large amounts of meat can make individuals more susceptible to ingesting the toxins from the animals.
- The elimination of dairy products and grains could lead to a deficiency in various vitamins or nutrients.
- High consumption of fat could lead to various heart health conditions
FOODS ALLOWED IN THE PALEO DIET MEAL PLAN
Here’s a breakdown of which foods are allowed in the Paleo diet meal plan:
Click the different examples to see all of the different types of food you can and cannot eat.
Red Meat, Lean Beef, Sirloin Steak, Lean Pork, Pork Loin, Lean Veal, Game Meat, Alligator, Bison, Elk, Kangaroo, Quail, Venison, Wild Boar, Rabbit, Goat, Poultry, Chicken, Game Hen, Turkey
Bass, Halibut, Mackerel, Perch, Salmon, Shark, Tilapia, Trout, Tuna, Shellfish,
Abalone, Clams, Crab, Lobster, Oysters, Scallops, Shrimp, Red Snapper
Apple, Avocado, Banana, Blueberries, Cherries, Grapefruit, Grapes, Peaches, Pears, Strawberries
Artichoke, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Lettuce, Onions, Peppers, Pumpkin, Tomato
Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Pistachios, Walnuts
Grains, Barley, Corn, Oats, Rye, Wheat, Wild Rice, Beans, All Beans, Black-Eyed Peas, Chickpeas, Lentils, Peas, Peanut butter, Peanuts, Soybeans, Tofu
PALEO DIET COMPARED TO DIETARY GUIDELINES
Here’s how the Paleo diet measures up with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines of America:
- FAT – the government recommends up to 35% of the diet come from fat calories. The Paleo Diet comes in at roughly 40%
- PROTEIN – the government also recommends up to 35% of the diet come from protein calories. The Paleo diet comes in at nearly 40%.
- CARBOHYDRATES – the government recommends at least 45% percent of the diet come from carbs. The Paleo diet comes in at nearly 20%.
- SALT – Since salt is avoided in the Paleo diet, individuals will come well below the 2,300 mg maximum recommended intake by the government.
- FIBER – the government recommends at least 22 grams of fiber per day. The Paleo Diet will easily surpass this amount, since fiber is a key component in the diet.
- CALCIUM – the Paleo diet falls well short of the recommended intake of 1,000 to 1,300 mg since dairy products and grains aren’t allowed in the diet.
- POTASSIUM – the recommended government intake was around 4,700 mg per day. The Paleo diet averaged roughly twice the recommended amount due to all of the fruit eaten.
- OTHER VITAMINS – the Paleo diet exceeds the recommended intakes for Vitamin C and B-12. However, it falls dangerously below the recommended intake for Vitamin D.
Humans from the Paleolithic era were generally considered hunters and gatherers. Which means they were physically active throughout the day as they had to hunt for food, gather supplies for living and stay alert to defend themselves. These ancestral humans were considered to be in healthy shape in regards to the ratio of body fat versus lean muscle. It’s believed that modern day humans have a poor ratio of body fat to lean muscle due to their more sedentary lifestyles. Roughly 66% of Americans are considered overweight while 35% are considered obese. That’s over 100 million Americans considered obese.
It’s also believed that these cavemen greatly exceeded the modern day daily recommendations of physical activity because of their active lifestyle. The World Health Organization recommends that adults do at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to intense physical activity.
PALEO DIET MEAL PLAN HEALTH RISKS
- DIABETES – The low intake of carbohydrates is believed by Paleo Diet supporters to help prevent diabetes due to improving the body’s resistance to insulin which is directly related to the sugar from foods.
- CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH – There is no legitimate scientific evidence that links the Paleo Diet to improved cardiovascular health. However, the high amount of fat consumed can lead to heart disease.
- SLOWER METABOLISM – The Paleo Diet is high in fat and can cause your metabolism to slow down.
- CHOLESTEROL – The Paleo Diet consumes high amounts of animal meat which could increase the amount of saturated fats consumed. High levels of saturated fat leads to high levels of cholesterol.
- Voegtlin, Walter L. (1975). The stone age diet: Based on in-depth studies of human ecology and the diet of man. Vantage Press
- Eaton, S. Boyd; Konner, Melvin (1985). “Paleolithic Nutrition — A Consideration of Its Nature and Current Implications”. The New England Journal of Medicine
- Cordain, Loren; “Paleo Diet”; Wiley and Sons; 2002 pages
- Eaton, SB; Eaton, SB; “An evolutionary perspective on human physical activity: Implications for health”; Comparative biochemistry and physiology. Part A, Molecular & integrative physiology; 136; 2003