We have witnessed a huge raise of first paleo and then ketogenic diets in recent years and people try to adopt heathy eating programmes. The main reason is that they both actually work – they let you eat enough filling foods so you’re not hungry and don’t have cravings bothering you all the time, while getting good results.
We are going to focus on differences and similarities between both, then help you decide which one is the right one for you (if any). But before we dig deeper into the topic, let me just say, that following any diet without regular exercise isn’t a good idea, and that you should always ask your GP for advice.
Paleo is short for Palaeolithic as you probably know already. Proponents of this so-called caveman diet cut modern processed food out of their diets and return to what our ancient ancestors ate.
Actually, it doesn’t feel right to call paleo a diet as it wasn’t originally suggested for weight loss, but rather for wellbeing and longevity (although claimed to help with obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more). It is more of a lifestyle of making better choices when possible, it just makes you leaner as a biproduct.
This plan focuses on eliminating refined sugars, lowering our complex carbohydrates intake (starches) and getting rid of processed foods. Whole groups of food are restricted which causes lower calorie intake and calories are consumed in form of clean protein, vegetables, fruits and nuts.
As with many other eating plans and diets, experiments trying to prove positive effects of paleo leave us with mixed results. Some suggest that it works, others show results which are not statistically significant. Another problem with proving benefits of paleo is that people who follow it generally live longer because they exercise and lead healthier lifestyles.
If you want to give paleo a try, your new menu should consist of natural, wholesome foods and good fats such as:
- good quality, lean meat (preferably grass fed and organic)
- fish and shellfish
- fruit, mostly berries (in moderation)
- non-starchy vegetables (the greener the better)
- tree nuts and seeds
- good oils such as avocado, olive, walnut, coconut (in moderation)
Foods to avoid are those which were not available to our prehistoric ancestors:
- grains (wheat, rice, rye, barley, corn)
- legumes (peanuts, beans, peas)
- starchy vegetables (potatoes, parsnips etc.)
- sugar, sweeteners
- fruit juices, soft drinks
- processed meat such as bacon or hot-dogs
Paleo followers don’t consume dairy because it contains lactose, casein and whey protein. Astonishing 65% of the World’s population is lactose intolerant (and up to 90% in East Asia). Casein intolerance is much harder to detect than lactose intolerance. Symptoms often include sinus and digestive issues and joint pain. Whey intolerance is very rare, but whey protein spikes your blood sugar unless it’s consumed with fats.
Legumes are being left out for their high amounts of phytic acid, lectins and aflatoxin. Phytic acid causes mineral deficiencies, lectin protein has been connected to bloating and could possibly damage our gut lining, and finally aflatoxins, toxins produced by certain fungi in humid regions of the world, are being linked with cancer.
Pros/cons of paleo for Healthy Eating
Paleo is not a cure for everything, and it is certainly not for everyone.
the paleo plan is very easy to follow as you don’t have to count macros at all and you’ll get loads of vitamins and minerals from the huge amount of veg and fruit consumed. It naturally cuts out most of the processed and pre-packaged meals, soft drinks and sweets. Getting rid of these as well as eating loads of anti-inflammatory foods will definitely be beneficial for your health.
On the other hand, paleo meals can be quite bland and boring, and costs of organic/grass fed meat and vegetables are very high. Also, as mentioned above, most of the evidence of positive effects is anecdotal.
BUT, it can’t really be bad for you if it makes you throw away processed foods in favour of a wholesome, natural alternative, right?
Paleo One-pot Chicken Curry
This easy Indian-inspired recipe is a paleo take on Chicken Biryani, made with cauliflower rice and coconut yoghurt.
Ingredients – Serves 4:
- 4 Chicken Breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2tsp salt
- 1tsp grated ginger
- 1tsp finely chopped garlic
- 1tsp garam masala
- 1tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2tsp chili powder
- 1/2 lemon, juice and zest
- 2tsp coconut oil
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 red chili, sliced
- 6 cups of cauliflower rice
- Handful of chopped coriander
- lemon wedges to serve
- coconut yoghurt to serve
- Use 1 teaspoon salt, ginger, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon garam masala, chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric and lemon juice to season the chicken.
- Heat 1 teaspoon of coconut oil in a large skillet. Add half of the chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Repeat with the remaining oil and chicken. Set aside.
- Add 2 teaspoons of coconut oil to the frying pan, reduce heat to medium-high and add the onion, cook until golden about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add fresh chili, cauliflower rice, remaining salt, garam masala and turmeric.
- Cook until tender, about 7 minutes.
- Mix in chicken and garnish with coriander.
- Serve with lemon wedges and coconut yoghurt
Jan Cron – Kitchen Maverick
Has spent a lifetime learning the best cooking techniques and perfecting flavours, if 70% of being healthy is what you eat and 30% exercise then we need to concentrate on getting the best balance of tasty food into our bodies. He’s gone back to school to learn about nutrition, to research relevant, irrelevant and utterly absurd diets, so you don’t have to.