A paleo diet takes its inspiration from the foods that were consumed by our prehistoric ancestors. Ready to explore the health benefits of eating a paleo diet? This eating plan may help lower triglycerides and reduce your risk of heart disease.
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Can a diet based on the eating habits of prehistoric humans provide health benefits for modern men and women?
The eating plan being referenced here is the Paleolithic diet – paleo diet for short. As its name indicates, this diet is based around foods that were likely consumed during the Paleolithic era. Evidence shows that the benefits of eating a paleo diet include weight loss and improved blood pressure control.
In this article, we’ll give some background on the paleo diet and explain how it works. We’ll also list the ways in which this eating plan can improve your health.
What is a paleo diet?
Our ancestors were cavemen who were hunter-gatherers, and they walked the earth during the Paleolithic era. This era began roughly 2.5 million years ago and continued until 10,000 B.C.
The Paleolithic era is also known as the Old Stone Age. The early humans who lived during this time resided in caves, huts and tepees. They crafted tools made of stone and bone, and they used them to hunt wild animals and birds.
They used fire to cook their prey. The menu included meats from mammoth, deer and bison, as well as fish.
These humans weren’t exclusively carnivorous. They also gathered nuts, fruits and berries, and they included these plant-based foods in their diet.
The Paleolithic era predates farming. Farming introduced new diet staples such as legumes, dairy and grains.
Those who advocate for the paleo diet say that our bodies haven’t yet adapted to the new foods that came with the introduction of farming. They blame these foods for modern ailments such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
A paleo diet includes lots lean meats, especially those that come from grass-fed animals or wild game. Fish are included, with preference given to choices that are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon. This eating plan also includes nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Finally, the paleo diet contains oils from fruits and nuts; these oils are heralded for their healthy fats.
Which foods should you avoid on a paleo diet? Most versions of this diet exclude legumes, grains, dairy products and refined sugar. This diet also excludes all foods that highly processed.
Next, we’ll take a look four health benefits of eating a paleo diet.
Paleo health benefit #1: Supports weight loss and a trimmer waistline
Obesity is a modern epidemic. However, all signs seem to indicate that things were very different thousands of years ago. The evidence suggests that cavemen didn’t struggle with their weight the way we do.
With this in mind, it’s not surprising that research shows a paleo diet may be able to help you lose weight. One study looked at 29 men with heart disease and type 2 diabetes or high blood sugar. Over the course of three months, roughly half of the participants followed a paleo eating plan, while the other half consumed foods that are typically part of the Mediterranean diet. Calories weren’t restricted in this study.
All of the participants lost a notable amount of weight. The paleo group dropped 11 pounds, while those on the Mediterranean diet lost 8 pounds. More notably, those on the paleo eating plan experienced a 2.2-inch reduction in waist circumference. This is exactly twice as much as the 1.1-inch reduction experienced by those who consumed the Mediterranean diet.
Paleo health benefit #2: May help reduce blood pressure
Arteries move blood from your heart to other parts of your body. A certain amount of pressure is normal as this blood pushes against artery walls.
This pressure can vary throughout the day. However, if the pressure rises and stays that way for an extended period of time, it can lead to heart damage and other health problems. Blood pressure that’s higher than normal is known as high blood pressure, or hypertension.
High blood pressure puts you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood pressure was a causative factor in nearly half a million deaths in the United States in 2017.
In a 2008 study involving 14 healthy medical students, the paleo diet was shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by 3 mm Hg.
Paleo health benefit #3: May help boost insulin sensitivity
Insulin sensitivity is a term used to describe how the body responds to insulin. This response is linked to blood sugar levels; if the body has low insulin sensitivity, the cells will do a poor job of absorbing glucose, and blood sugar levels will likely be high. High blood sugar can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
Research such as a 2009 study published by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that a paleo diet may help improve insulin sensitivity.
Paleo health benefit #4: May help lower triglycerides
Triglycerides are a type of fat your body makes from calories that aren’t immediately used. This fat is typically stored in the blood.
If your triglycerides are high, it could cause your artery walls to harden and thicken. This could eventually lead to heart disease, a heart attack or a stroke.
Research shows that a paleo diet can help reduce triglycerides. In a 2009 study, triglyceride levels fell by 35 percent on a paleo diet.
To follow a paleo diet for reduced body fat and improved health, restrict foods such as beans and dairy, and up your intake of high-quality protein and fat. Include foods such as grass-fed beef and salmon in your diet, as well as nuts such as almonds.
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