Paleo diet for weight loss: how it works and what to eat
Inspired by the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, the Paleo diet has become a popular weight loss diet and more natural way of eating in recent years. Using the Paleo diet for weight loss is effective primarily because of the unprocessed nature of the foods you encourage you to eat, which are often naturally low in sugar, salt, and saturated fat.
The diet avoids most grains, legumes, potatoes and dairy products and relies heavily on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and lean meat and fish. As a result, the Paleo diet is fairly low-carb and has a slightly higher risk of calcium deficiency due to the lack of dairy.
While it might seem like a good idea to “go back to our roots” and eat like early humans did, how practical is the Paleo diet for weight loss in the modern sense? With a greater variety of foods available to us than our ancestors, what benefits could we have by sticking to a diet based on ancient practices? We asked the experts.
What’s the Paleo diet?
The Paleo diet shifts the focus away from starchy foods like grains, legumes, potatoes, and foods made from these ingredients (pasta, bread, potato chips) and encourages you to base your meals on a lean protein source instead.
dr Nurisa Kumaran, Medical Director and Founder of Elementary Health Clinic (opens in new tab), tells us that the Paleo diet places a heavy emphasis on eating “natural” foods. “The Paleo diet, also known as the ‘caveman diet,’ focuses on eating lean meats, fish, grass-fed fruits and vegetables,” she says. “That means you should eliminate processed foods and most dairy products and instead eat a diet high in nuts, seeds, fruit, lean meats — like lamb and chicken — and omega-3-rich fish like salmon and mackerel is.”
The Paleo diet can be helpful for people with obesity or diabetes, due to the reduction in highly processed foods and reliance on lean meats and vegetables. A study from the International Association for the Study of Obesity (opens in new tab) points out that the lifestyle and diet of hunter-gatherers contribute to excellent cardiovascular and metabolic health.
Does a Paleo Diet Help You Lose Weight?
Due to the high-protein nature of the Paleo diet, those who eat Paleo for weight loss may find that they have a higher success rate due to the feeling of satiety associated with eating Protein, According to a study by British Journal of Nutrition (opens in new tab).
In addition to protein, the Paleo diet is packed with high-fiber foods like nuts, seeds, and vegetables, which a study found are also great for helping you feel fuller nutritional assessments (opens in new tab). fiber is a bulking agent that slows stomach emptying, making you feel full longer and taking longer to break down in the digestive system than low-fiber foods. Feeling full is important in motivating people to stick to their eating habits, so the paleo diet could be good for weight loss as it keeps you feeling full and satisfied.
However, a review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (opens in new tab) points out that although there was a downward trend in weight and other positive metabolic markers, without the intensive dietary support of a clinical trial, many participants lapsed and stopped following it. This could indicate that the low-carb nature of the Paleo diet is not as sustainable without proper nutritional support.
dr Kumaran agrees on the benefits of the paleo diet for weight loss. “There is research to date showing that the Paleo diet may provide greater benefits for weight loss and other related metabolic health conditions compared to other diets,” she says. In addition, a study in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (opens in new tab) out that the Paleo diet in helping people with Type 2 diabetes, which increases their insulin sensitivity over time. Because diabetes is a common complication of obesity, research in this area is promising.
Paleo Diet for Weight Loss: What to Eat and Tips for Success
The Paleo diet requires you to eat lots of fresh foods and lean meats, so Paleo eating often requires a little more preparation than a traditional Western diet that relies on convenience foods and processed foods. Many of us are used to basing our meals around starchy foods, as recommended by the USDA government Dietary Guidelines (opens in new tab)therefore, there can be a learning curve to making your meals paleo-friendly.
Paleo-friendly foods include:
- Oily Fish: Salmon, mackerel, sardines – high in brain-supporting fatty acids and lean protein.
- Lean meats: lamb, chicken, turkey – low-fat, high protein content and a good base for many Paleo dishes.
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, radishes – high in fiber and rich in vitamins and minerals.
- Nuts and Seeds: Chia seeds, cashews, pine nuts – high in calcium to help offset paleo’s low dairy content, and good for munching.
Kumaran also advises caution with restrictive diets such as Paleo or keto, despite evidence of positive weight loss trends. “As with all diets that may be restrictive, such as “It’s important to work with a qualified healthcare professional to make sure you don’t risk malnutrition,” she says.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice.