Paleo diet: What is it and why is it so popular?
January 22, 2021 | Blog: The Range

Paleo diet: What is it and why is it so popular?

Do you steer clear of sugar and gluten but eat tons of grass fed meat and veggies? You’re already well on your way to eating like a caveman. And no, we’re not throwing shade at your table manners. Caveman-style eating — aka the paleo diet — is one diet that looks like it's here to stay and for good reason. Curious? Lucky for you, we’re about to give you a crash course in paleo 101!

Paleo diet basics

The paleo diet tries to mimic what your paleolithic ancestors would have eaten. At  the simplest level, that means anything you could have hunted or gathered wayyyy back in the day is fair game. So, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and fish, and meats? Absolutely. Grains, dairy, and cookie dough? Nope.

Why? The idea is that our bodies have evolved to eat a diet of meat and (most) plants. Once humans figured out farming, we said “boy, bye” to our hunter-gatherer ways and started eating things like grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, and eventually the highly-processed foods that are common in today’s diets. And honestly… who could blame us? These foods are delicious and def easier than tracking a herd of bison.

The problem is we haven’t evolved to eat these foods, and the primal crowd believes making them a part of our regular diet can lead to inflammation, weight gain, elevated blood sugar levels, overeating, and other health issues. So, at its heart, paleo is a back-to-basics approach. If what you’re eating could be hunted or gathered, it’s probably a paleo-approved food. If we didn’t start eating it until after the advent of farming (roughly 10,000 years ago), it’s probably outside of paleo guidelines.

But … aren’t paleo brownies a thing?

Okay. So things get a little more complicated when you start combining paleo-approved ingredients into things that don’t sound very paleo. Like … our hunter-gatherer ancestors were probably not eating chicken nuggets made with almond flour or brownies made with sweet potatoes and honey. (Their loss.)

But, as long as you’re not overdoing it on the paleo sweets, these types of swaps are usually 100% okay on the paleo diet. In fact, they’re part of why the paleo diet is so popular. Because you can make healthier versions of foods you love, paleo is easy to stick to long-term. 

Health benefits of paleo

There aren’t a ton of studies on the paleo diet itself, but the ones that do exist show promising results like improved heart health and anti-inflammatory effects.  There is a lot more science to support some of the principles behind paleo. Cutting out sugar and processed foods has obvious benefits for your weight and blood sugar levels. High protein diets like paleo are associated with improved muscle and bone mass, reduced cravings, and lower weight. 

Is it paleo? A basic paleo food list

Convinced that paleo sounds pretty great but not sure how to get started? Here’s our tl;dr list of what is and isn’t accepted on the paleo diet, plus common paleo swaps so you can keep nomming on your favorites. 

Foods allowed on the paleo diet:

  • Meat, grass-fed preferred

  • Eggs

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Most fruits and vegetables

  • Healthy oils like olive, coconut, and avocado oil

  • Small amounts of natural sweeteners like honey

Foods to avoid on the paleo diet:

  • Meats processed with nitrates/ nitrites

  • All grains (wheat, rye, oats, etc.)

  • Refined sugar

  • Legumes (including peanuts, soy, and all peanut/soy byproducts)

  • White potatoes 

  • Processed oils (canola, soybean, cottonseed, and vegetable oils)

  • Artificial preservatives, colors, and sweeteners

  • Processed foods

Common paleo swaps:

  • Milk → Almond milk, coconut milk, and other nut milks

  • Cheese → Homemade cashew “cheese”

  • Butter → Coconut oil

  • Whipped cream → Coconut cream

  • Processed meats → Grass fed meat and nitrate/nitrite free meat sticks 

  • Sugar → Honey, coconut sugar, fruit, and real maple syrup (All in moderation)

  • Flour → Almond, coconut, and cassava flour

  • Peanuts (it’s a legume!) → Almonds and other nuts

  • White potatoes → Sweet potatoes or mashed cauliflower

Ready to go paleo? Stocking up on approved snacks makes it easier to stay on track, and in our totally unbiased opinion, Country Archer meat sticks are one of the best paleo snacks around. They’re easy, protein-packed, and paleo-certified. 

Need a little more info before you go full caveman? Check out our Keto vs. Paleo comparison to see which diet fits your lifestyle and goals!

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