What is Paleo Diet: Foods, Benefits and Side Effects

What is Paleo Diet: Foods, Benefits and Side Effects HealthifyMe Blog HealthifyMe Blog – The definitive guide to weight loss, fitness and living a healthier life.

Although it was popularised in the 21st century, the Paleo Diet was first introduced in the 1970s. Their popularity stemmed from their contribution to weight loss. Let’s look at what a paleo diet actually is and how beneficial they can truly be.

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What is Paleo Diet?

The Paleo Diet is one that is designed to resemble what the hunter-gatherer ancestors of human beings consumed in the paleolithic age. These hunter-gatherer ancestors had much lower rates of lifestyle disorders like obesity, diabetes and heart diseases. This can be attributed largely to their whole food-based diet and physically active lives.

Several studies have also shown that this paleo diet is also capable of delivering results in the form of weight loss. However, it must be noted that HealthifyMe does not recommend that one follow the Paleo Diet in its purest form. If you’re looking to follow the paleo diet, the necessary changes must be made to suit your requirements. If you’re looking to achieve weight loss, we have the best Indian Diet Plan for it here.

Paleo Diet Benefits

Not unlike any other diet plans, the paleo diet too has its own set of benefits. You can derive the following benefits from the Paleo Diet:

1. Weight Loss

One of the main features of a paleo diet is the consumption of unprocessed food. A paleo diet, therefore, tends to be very low in carbohydrates since it excludes foods such as grains which need to be processed.

Processed, high-carb foods tend to adversely affect one’s blood sugar levels. By removing these foods from one’s diet, the paleo diet can help lower blood sugar levels, and also reduce body fat. Thus, the diet helps you achieve weight loss.

A 2016 study found that healthy women who followed a paleo diet achieved greater weight loss compared to those that followed a typical low-fat diet.Paleo Diet helps you lose weight

2. Increased Insulin Sensitivity

Since most paleo foods are relatively low-carb, there is less demand on the pancreas to produce insulin. Research has shown that paleo diet decreases insulin, and therefore, increases its effectiveness.

This, in turn, reduces insulin resistance, the driving force of type 2 diabetes, allowing some people to reduce the amount of medication that they need.

3. Higher Energy Levels

As part of the paleo diet, you tend to eat foods that have low glycemic index levels. This will help you avoid the drop in energy levels that occurs shortly after consuming high GI and sugary foods.

4. Reduced Inflammation

Higher levels of inflammation in the body increases the risk of several health problems, including type 2 diabetes. Eating low-carb, low GI foods can prevent excess inflammation. This is especially true in the case of omega-3 fatty acids.

Paleo Diet Side Effects

Apart from their benefits, the paleo diet does with its own set of problems. A few of the side effects that you are likely to witness with a paleo diet are listed below:

1. Low Blood Sugar Levels

Precautions must be taken before adopting the paleo diet if you use insulin. Following the diet while on insulin can lead to one suffering from hypoglycemia.

While on a low-carb diet, you require less medication. Therefore, your dosages may have to be changed in order to prevent low blood sugar. Ideally, make sure you consult your doctor before you start a paleo diet.Blood sugar levels go down

2. Low-Carb Flu

Eliminating starch, legumes, and grains from one’s diet could lead to an individual experiencing lethargy, irritability, and fatigue. Although you get sufficient carbs from plants on the paleo diet, the change in overall carb consumption can prove to be quite dramatic if you diet was heavy on bread, beans, and pasta.

This condition is called low-carb flu.These symptoms may last from 3 to 4 weeks. In this time, your body starts to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs. Reduce the effects of this flu by lowering your carbohydrate consumption gradually.

3. Hypothyroidism

People on long-term low-carb diets have seen hypothyroid symptoms, such as fatigue, sluggishness and sensitivity to cold. Following low-carb diets can suppress your appetite, and this may eventually result in the body starving.

If you begin to lose too much weight, your body starts to down-regulate the thyroid functions to save energy. One can eat larger amounts of paleo-permitted vegetables to keep the carbohydrate levels up.

4. Excessive Protein

The paleo diet includes a large amount of animal protein. This includes meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Apart from fish, these foods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Excess animal protein consumption can lower blood levels of HDL cholesterol while increasing the LDL levels, and your risk of heart disease. Due to its high-protein content of the paleo diet, your kidneys would have to work harder to remove any additional waste products.

5. Cravings

A common side effect of the diet is to experience cravings for sugar and other non-paleo options like French Fries or potato chips. This is generally seen in the first few weeks of the transition into a paleo diet.

After this transition, these cravings are known to reduce, with people on the diet no longer desperately desiring sweets or non-paleo food items.The diet can lead to more cravings

Foods to Eat

The Paleo Diet includes foods that were consumed by our hunter-gatherer ancestors in the paleolithic age. That said, it is important to note that the diet needs to be modified to suit every individual’s requirements. Here are some of the foods that must be consumed as part of the diet:

1. Meat and Seafood

Most types of meat and seafood will fit right into a paleo diet. As a good source of lean protein, eating meat helps you stay full for longer. They also help build and strengthen cells and tissues in the body.

Common meat choices like chicken and turkey, and some common choices of seafood such as salmon and tuna can be consumed as part of the diet. Meat from grass-fed animals is recommended over meat from grain-fed animals since it is leaner and has more omega-3 fatty acids. This helps reduce inflammation in the body and protects your heart.

Choosing seafood that’s been caught in the wild will be a healthier option than their farmed counterparts too since they may help boost your omega-3 intake.Meat and seafood must be consumed

2. Fruits and Vegetables

The health benefits of fruits and vegetables are well documented. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. The only drawback when it comes to a paleo diet is that some vegetables, like potatoes, are starchy and some fruits, like bananas, are high in sugar. These foods must be eaten in moderation while looking to lose weight.

The key to following a paleo diet is to consume whole, unprocessed foods. Thus, fruits and vegetables account for a major part of the diet. As part of the diet, one can consume vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and spinach. You need to also include fruits like apples, berries, grapes, peaches and plums.

3. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are known to be rich in healthy fats, fiber and protein. They were also known to be foraged in prehistoric times. It must be noted that peanuts must not be considered since they are technically legumes.

A few of the paleo nuts that one can consider a part of the diet are almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts. You can also have chia, sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds as a part of the paleo diet.Nuts and seeds are an important part of the paleo diet

4. Healthy Oils

Oils can be a little trickier than the other foods in the paleo diet. Some of them, like olive, walnut, flaxseed, avocado and coconut oils are allowed since they are gathered directly from the plant.

While flaxseed oil may not have been consumed in paleolithic times, it is permitted due to its high alpha linolenic acid (ALA) content. ALA is a type of heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid.

5. Eggs

Eggs are rich in protein, B vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, thus making them a crucial part of the paleo diet. Organic eggs can provide one with higher omega-3 content than eggs from chicken raised in cages, making them a better option.

Paleo Diet Meal Plan

We’ve put together a 1-day Paleo Diet Meal Plan to help you understand it better. However, remember that it is important to follow a balanced diet with the nutrients that your body needs.

Time Meal
8:30 AM 1 spinach egg omelette made in ghee
1 Apple
11:00 AM 1 cup green tea
1:30 PM Shredded chicken and vegetable salad with olive oil dressing
5:30 PM 1 cup green tea
A handful of mixed nuts
8:30 PM Baked salmon with vegetables and an avocado

Do consult a nutritionist before you any changes to your current diet, and adopting something new.

Foods to Avoid

Most processed foods are to be avoided completely in case of the paleo diet. Here’s a list of foods that are a no-no when it comes to the paleo diet:

1. Grains

Grains, as a whole, are forbidden on a paleo diet. They are a product of modern agriculture and did not exist in the paleolithic period. In addition to that, they are rich in carbohydrates, and therefore, can cause spikes in your sugar levels.

While whole grains do not cause blood sugar spikes quite like refined grains do, they do contain compounds like gluten, lectin and phytates. These compounds can cause inflammation in the
body and prevent other nutrients from being absorbed.

2. Legumes

Members of a large family of plants that have a seed or a pod, legumes includes all lentils, peas, beans, tofu, peanuts, and soy foods. They are not allowed in paleo thanks to their high lectin and phytic acid content.

However, research does support the consumption of legumes since they are low in fat, and high in protein, iron, and fiber.Avoid eating legumes

3. Processed Foods

Processed foods like refined sugars, salt, and refined vegetable oils, are to be avoided completely. It is widely known that refined sugars and excess salt contributes to high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease.

While there is some argument for vegetable oils and certain artificial sweeteners to be included, paleo plans do not allow them because of the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. The way these oils are processed also contribute to their exclusion.


A Paleolithic diet may have their own advantages but they do come with side effects that cannot be ignored. Despite its benefits, HealthifyMe suggests you follow a healthy, balanced diet that will ensure you maintain your body weight, and remain healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Q. What do you eat on the Paleo diet?

A: Paleo is a nature-friendly diet. Processed foods are to be avoided on it. Natural foods that were available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors in the paleolithic age are to be consumed. Foods like meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, unrefined oils, fruits and vegetables can be consumed as per the requirement. Grains, legumes, and dairy are to be avoided.

Q. Does the Paleo diet work?

A: Yes, it works since it is a high protein ,low carb diet. The diet boosts metabolism and keeps one’s hunger pangs in check. It also stabilises blood sugar levels and aids in fat loss.

Q. Is keto or paleo better for weight loss?

A: Both the keto and paleo diets can help one lose weight effectively. However, they do come with their own pros and cons. It is ideal to consult a certified nutritionist before choosing to follow either diet.

Q. Is Paleo Diet harmful?

A: Paleo diets do have their own side effects, as discussed above. Studies have found that the paleo diet can have negative effects on one’s heart and gut health.

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