Six Tips for Benefiting From a Paleo Diet

Paleo Diet Benefits
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Whether you call it a Paleo diet, a Primal food plan, a caveman weight loss program or the Paleolithic approach, one element about this increasingly popular diet is the same: It can enhance your health and even help you shed pounds if you do it right. And that's the Catch-22: Many dieters aren't sure what to eat (and what to avoid), how much or even why they should try it. Get the skinny on this unique approach here.

Paleo Diet Definition and Benefits
One of the key gurus of this movement is Robb Wolf. In his definition of the Paleo diet, Robb explains: "In simple terms the paleo diet is built from modern foods that (to the best of our ability) emulate the foods available to our pre-agricultural ancestors: Meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers and nuts. On the flip-side we see an omission of grains, legumes and dairy."

What's key to understanding the plan, however, is comprehending the benefits. In that area, Robb points out: "Archeological and anthropological data indicate our pre-agricultural ancestors were largely free from modern afflictions of Westernized cultures including obesity, cancer, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases."

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More specifically, Dr. Lynda Frassetto told CBS News that her studies reveal "“In two weeks, everybody’s blood pressure went down and everybody’s cholesterol and triglyceride levels got better. The average drop was 30 points, which was pretty amazing. It’s the type of drop you get by taking statins for six months,” she added. She emphasizes the benefits from eliminating processed foods. "You can eat anything that would be able to be eaten without being processed,” noted Dr. Frassetto. That means no grains, no bread, and no dairy but does include lots of fruits and vegetables, some nuts and oils and lots of fish, poultry and lean meats.

Paleo Diet Do's and Don'ts
Follow these guidelines from Shape to see if the Paleo approach can help you lose weight and enhance your health:

  • Toss out the food that you can't eat. That means getting rid of all the bread, grains containing gluten and dairy. Bye, bye ice cream, cheese, pasta and processed cereals.
  • Get motivated: "Real foods in the right portions help you feel more satisfied because they help keep blood sugar levels even and your hunger hormones balanced,” says Diane Sanfilippo, a holistic nutritionist and author of Practical Paleo. By "real foods," she refers to whole, unprocessed foods.
  • Stay on track: Follow this plan for 30 days. After that, seek for 85/15 ratios. That way, if you have a special occasion, you can use your 15 percent of non-Paleo foods daily for your treat. However, Diane recommends checking your reaction to such foods. If you allow yourself to have ice cream during that party and feel bloated afterwards, you may have a dairy sensitivty. Sticking to a strict dairy-free Paleo plan will solve that condition.
  • Cook rather than choose processed foods to make it simpler to stay on plan. Because you can't have grains, legumes, dairy or sugar on a Paleo diet, it's difficult to find packaged foods that are allowed. Go for vegetables, fruits, meat and seafood. You can cook with oils and healthy fats, and nibble on seeds and nuts as well as fruits. Another option for a snack: Hard-boiled eggs.
  • It's not always obvious what's Paleo-approved, so beware of these forbidden foods and ingredients: Peanut butter (it’s a legume); nut butters or dried fruit with added sugars; and soy sauce, malt vinegar, lunchmeats, and many marinades and sauces (some contain soy, gluten, preservatives, and sugar).
  • Portions matter, especially if your'e trying to lose weight. Aim for a palm-sized serving of protein, a small amount of healthy fats and lots of vegetables at meals.

Shopping Tips
Fresh vegetables and fruits win. If you choose canned or frozen, make sure they have no other ingredients. And when it comes to meat, make sure it's high quality, says Paleo expert Loren Cordain, Ph.D. Steer clear of processed meats such as hot dogs and bologna.

To find the best fish, check the Seafood Watch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Making dinner for friends or family? Try serving wild salmon with vegetables and enjoy fresh fruit for dessert for a crowd pleaser.

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