A paleo diet is a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.
The Paleo diet essentially allows foods that were available to humankind during the Paleolithic period, which is why the diet is sometimes referred to as the Stone Age diet, hunter-gatherer diet or caveman diet. Generally, anything that could have been hunted down and killed for food or found by foraging in the forest can be eaten. Foods that weren't in existence at the time, such as refined and processed foods, are off limits.
The main premise of the diet is that people during the Paleolithic era, which ended around 10,000 years ago, evolved nutritional needs that were based on foods that were readily available during the time period. The diet's founders believe that humans' nutritional needs are best met eating foods that were only available at the time, and they also believe the human metabolic system has not caught up with the influx of other foods into the modern diet, including legumes, grains and dairy foods, and that those following a Paleo diet plan can enjoy a more active, healthier and longer-lived life.
Meats, fish and eggs form the staple components of the Paleo diet. While opinions vary between experts, some believe dieters should focus on lean meats only. Most people agree that dieters should aim for organic meats, which means the animals that the meat comes from have had access to natural food sources during their lifetime.
Non-starchy vegetables are encouraged, but beans and legumes are not, according to Paleodiet.com. This means eating vegetables like kale and spinach, but not potatoes and carrots. Opinions vary, but some Paleo experts state dieters should avoid green beans. Fruits are also classed as Paleo foods, says Men's Fitness.
Paleo dieters can get fat and protein from sources other than meat and fish. This includes nuts, although they must limit their intake to 4 ounces a day. Oils such as olive oil and coconut oil are allowed.
Foods that are forbidden on the Paleo diet usually feature processed sugars and starches. Grains are not allowed, which means avoiding bread. While the diet encourages meat, it does not allow processed types, such as bacon and sausages. In addition, dieters cannot eat dairy, but they can use substitutes like coconut or almond milk.