Eating a Paleolithic diet is a challenging adjustment for most people to make, but it’s easy to see why so many health-conscious individuals have made the switch when you understand how this kind of food can impact your body in a multitude of ways. When you think about it, it’s obvious how eating the foods of our ancestors can improve your health – today, the average human is overweight, unhappy, stressed-out, and struggling with various ailments. But the average homo-sapien, in Paleolithic times, was muscular, athletic, versatile, and agile.
As such, people who follow a Paleolithic diet have reported improvements to their overall health and wellness through a variety of important benefits.
1. The paleo diet improves lipid profiles.
A lipid profile is used to evaluate cholesterol and triglycerides, which can help give medical professionals an idea of an individual’s possible risk factor for certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease and forms of pancreatitis. Studies have revealed that individuals who eat a Paleolithic-type of diet, without restricting calories, showed significant improvements to the lipid profile associated with insulin sensitivity.
A short-term “intervention” of this type of eating was enough to improve these profiles in otherwise healthy test subjects, even without weight loss. In many of the participants, research also showed a 72 per cent reduction in the levels of a blood clotting agent which is thought to lead to heart attacks and strokes. According to experts, the effect of a Paleo diet on an individual’s cholesterol profile is similar to six months of a traditional pharmaceutical treatment.
2. The paleo diet promotes brain health.
Eating a Paleolithic diet helps reduce inflammation in the body – which also means reduced inflammation in the brain. Moving away from a traditional Western diet, full of seed oils, sugars, and empty calories can provide important protection for your brain, helping fight diseases like Alzheimer’s and other debilitating neurological disorders. The foods that make up a basic Paleolithic diet enhance neuronal signaling, keeping your brain functioning efficiently and effectively. With all their vitamins and minerals, vegetables in particular can provide your brain with tools to prevent neurological breakdown.
Neurological disease has been associated with diabetes, as rates of both conditions seem to be increasing among populations around the world. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, higher average blood sugar can lead to a higher risk of dementia – potentially attributable to the damaging amounts of free radicals our diets leave in our bodies.
3. The paleo diet helps build muscle.
Thanks to the healthy, efficient way your body functions when fueled with Paleolithic-type foods, it’s far easier to spend energy doing important things like building muscle and burning fat. When it isn’t forced to waste time struggling with bad foods and an overload of toxins, your body will really benefit from every last workout and meal.
While the paleo diet does promote weight loss, the proteins and fats consumed when eating this kind of diet are ideal to help your body rebuild damaged tissue and strengthen muscles. This actually helps with the weight loss – we all know muscle revs your metabolism and helps burn fat. Paleolithic eating also gives your body more of the nutrients it needs to work properly, so any of the conditions and issues that might be contributing to a lack of ability to gain weight or build muscle can potentially be resolved with a cleaner, healthier diet.
4. The paleo diet keeps your gut healthy.
Your gut is where most of the exchanges between your body and the outside world take place – your body processes nutrients from whatever you consume, and filters out the waste. Obviously, this is the area where most pathogens and toxins come into the body, and the gut is where most diseases actually begin. The bacteria in your gut make up about 70 per cent of your immune system, so having a healthy gut is hugely important to your overall health.
The strict requirements of a Paleolithic diet are great for anyone who suffers from ailments related to gut bacteria, and the elimination of dairy, nuts and seeds, and sugar can make a huge difference for people with autoimmune disorders. Conditions associated with gut problems include gastroesophageal reflux disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and celiac disease. People diagnosed with schizophrenia or autism spectrum disorders could also benefit from building healthier gut bacteria.
5. The paleo diet increases your intake of vitamins and minerals.
Since the main food group involved with a Paleolithic diet is vegetables, it’s no wonder that eating this way can increase the amount of vitamins and minerals you put into your body. Consuming more of these important nutrients can make a big impact on your overall wellness, and has tons of benefits – physically, mentally, and even aesthetically. You’ll notice clearer skin, healthier hair and nails, and a brighter outlook on life. You’ll have stronger, healthier bones, and you’ll be able to correct nutrient deficiencies you maybe didn’t even know you had.
However, you do need to keep track of what you’re eating to make sure you are getting enough of all of these important nutrients. When you’re following a strict diet, knowing what you’re putting in your body is very important, so make sure you’ve got a solid understanding of what you need to eat and where you’re getting it from.
6. The paleo diet limits your fructose consumption.
Sugar can cause a multitude of problems in your body, but can be confusing since you do consume fructose from many natural and healthy sources. Fructose must be processed by the liver, which can easily get overwhelmed by too much sugar and ends up transforming it to fat – sending it into our fat cells for storage. This can cause damage, lead to an insulin resistance or fatty liver disease, and be just as bad for your liver as alcohol.
Following a Paleolithic diet, though, cuts out most of those other sources of fructose, ensuring that the limited sugars in your body are natural and easier for your body to process. About half of the sugar you get from fruit is actually glucose, which your body uses for energy, and you’d have to eat more than 100 grams of sugar from fruits each day to start seeing issues with your body.
7. The paleo diet promotes healthy digestion.
Conditions that cause digestive issues, including lupus, interstitial cystitis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and Celiac disease, can be incredibly debilitating for sufferers. Eating a Paleolithic diet, though, has shown to help treat and even cure a number of these issues – since they are primarily “new” conditions for human beings. Returning to the eating habits of our ancestors can encourage the body to fight off some of these more recently developed digestive problems.
The most easily digested foods include meats, fats, and cooked vegetables, which make up the primary food groups of the paleo diet. If you struggle with digestive issues, it’s even more important that when you decide to make the switch to Paleolithic eating, you don’t slip up and let in the occasional “treat.” One small intrusion could send you right back to the beginning, facing similar digestive issues that you thought you had eliminated.
8. The paleo diet reduces allergy symptoms.
Seasonal allergy sufferers are familiar with the runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing, irritated throat, and rashes that can pop up when your immune system starts overreacting to environmental stressors. A switch to a Paleolithic diet can help keep these symptoms from becoming a nuisance, and can even help prevent them altogether.
This style of eating promotes a healthy intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows has been correlated with fewer incidences of the symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. In a study that examined the effect of fish oil on asthma sufferers, results indicated a connection between the supplement and respiratory health – which indicates that an increase of omega-3s could be beneficial for allergy sufferers, as well. The diet is also rich in other foods and nutrients that have shown to help with allergy symptoms, including fruits and vegetables and vitamin E.
9. The paleo diet reduces inflammation.
This might be one of the biggest benefits of following a Paleolithic diet. Chronic inflammation is one of the leading causes of many serious diseases, including cancer and heart disease, but also contributes to more minor conditions like acne. Even the brain can be activated during the body’s inflammatory response, which can cause issues with how your brain communicates with other important functions and systems.
The best way to avoid inflammation is through diet – and specifically, a paleo diet, as many other elimination diets aren’t enough to completely remove the immune triggers that lead to this inflammatory response. Avoiding gluten and focusing on nutrient-dense foods that are high in protein and antioxidants gives your body the tools it needs to prevent inflammatory reactions, making you feel better and reducing your chances of developing some significant health problems down the road.
10. The paleo diet promotes healthy weight loss.
According to some research, the obesity epidemic currently facing society can be explained by our bodies’ struggle to adapt to our changing food environment. We’re built for food scarcity, with fat storage that helps us stock up when food is available and live on reserves during times when it’s not. However, we’re dealing with an overabundance of easy-to-find processed foods that contain very little nutritional value. All these empty calories mean that we’re constantly gaining weight – even though we’re technically malnourished.
The Paleolithic diet can help by changing the food environment to fit the way our bodies have evolved. It still requires work – after all, to successfully lose weight, you still need to burn more calories than you consume – but this type of food can help by making you feel fuller and providing you with the nutrients you need to keep your energy up as you work on making healthy choices.
11. The paleo diet boosts energy levels.
Elimination diets can cause low energy and leave you feeling drained and exhausted – but fueling your body with the nutrient-rich foods included in the Paleolithic diet can fight off hunger pangs and keep you feeling energetic and upbeat. Major triggers of mid-morning tiredness or afternoon slumps are refined, processed foods that most of us end up eating as snacks to try and get through the day, but these actually wind up causing more issues than they fix.
Instead, reach for some paleo-friendly carbohydrates to give you a bit of a boost and keep your energy up. If you still find yourself struggling with sluggishness, keep track of the foods you’re eating and ensure you’re getting enough nutrients. Adjusting to a paleo diet can cause a dip in energy levels, but this diet will ultimately help you avoid fatigue on a long-term basis.
12. The paleo diet strengthens the immune system.
A diet heavy in processed foods can lead to the buildup of toxins within the body, and the high-sugar modern diet can cause damage to the intestinal lining. These concerns can contribute to a weakened immune system, forcing the body to deal with an unnecessary strain and creating a dysfunction that can be difficult to correct. By cutting out these harmful contaminants, you’re allowing your body’s immune system to return to the job it does best – protecting you from invading bacteria and viruses that could lead to more serious conditions.
Not only does a Paleolithic diet eliminate many foods that irritate the gut and the immune system, it increases your consumption of gut-healing foods that help build your healthy intestinal bacteria – as discussed earlier. By creating a healthy balance and allowing your body to respond effectively and efficiently to any foreign invaders, a paleo diet plays an important role in keeping your immune system strong.
13. The paleo diet shrinks fat cells.
We discussed earlier how eating a Paleolithic diet can help individuals achieve healthy, sustainable weight loss goals, but it can also provide your body with the tools to address your “stubborn fat” – deposits of fat cells that are difficult to get rid of through regular diet and exercise regimens. These cells can form a number of different ways: hormonal changes, sedentary lifestyle, insulin resistance, yo-yo dieting, age, and gender.
Eating a paleo diet can help your body start shrinking these fat cells and reduce this “stubborn fat.” This fat is broken down at a much slower rate than normal fat cells, and require a healthy enzymatic balance to stimulate this metabolizing. Eating anti-estrogenic foods, as included in the Paleolithic diet, is a huge part of encouraging this process – things like cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels spouts, and broccoli.
14. The paleo diet reduces gas and bloat.
Your body’s negative reactions to processed foods, including dairy, grains, sugars ,and salt, leads to retention of both water and stool – fermenting in your gut and causing both bloating and excess gas. When you’re first making a switch to a Paleolithic diet, you may notice an increase in gas, generally attributed to the dramatic increase in your vegetable consumption. However, once your body adapts to the diet, you’ll notice significantly less bloating and gas.
If you still struggle with this, you may have an intolerance to certain types of carbohydrates that are notoriously difficult for certain people to digest. FODMAPs, which stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, are found in many paleo foods – including fruits, vegetables, and certain dairy products. Try eliminating these foods from your diet one at a time to determine which ones are causing you grief, and start enjoying the reduced gas and bloat from your Paleolithic diet.
15. The paleo diet controls hunger.
Learning what real hunger feels like, and how to deal with emotional and psychological “hunger” pangs, is one of the greatest benefits of embarking on a Paleolithic diet. Understanding the real feeling of hunger can help promote a calmer, healthier relationship with food. Small amounts of discomfort in between meals can help your rewire your brain to appropriately determine what real hunger feels like, and can actually make your food taste better.
Real, physical hunger is driven by your body’s physiological need for additional calories, unlike what most people describe as “hunger,” which is primarily just cravings that are coming from your brain, not your body. Regardless of whether or not your body actually needs that energy, your brain is telling you that you want to eat something specific – generally because you’re stressed, bored, sad, or lonely. When you’re truly hungry, you’ll be happy to eat almost anything.