If you're a foodie and you're not living under a rock, chances are you've heard of the paleo diet, also called the "caveman diet" because it's similar to what our ancestors ate. It's been featured in many books, praised by many celebrities, and is generally gaining popularity in the food world.

What is the paleo diet exactly, though? What do you really eat and what are the benefits? Contrary to what you might imagine, it isn't all meat and protein. There are lot more foods you can eat while cutting out most processed and junk foods. While this might not be for everyone, especially if you have nutrient deficiencies or severe dietary restrictions, living a Paleo lifestyle might have positive effects on your health and well-being. Regardless, there are misconceptions that this is an all protein, no carb, really difficult diet to follow, so I decided to do some research to separate facts from fiction.

What Can You Eat?

pepper, vegetable
Hareena Kaur

According to thepaleodiet.com, the diet is high protein (predictable), low carb, high fiber, healthy fats, and high potassium. Additionally, you must consume vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to balance out your alkaline and acid levels, which basically means that you need fruits and vegetables to balance out the acid in the other foods mentioned above.

What Can't You Eat?

mashed potatoes, dairy, sweet, cream, dairy product, milk
Hareena Kaur

The paleo diet mandates low sodium intake (sodium is an acid producer). Additionally, you cannot eat cereal grains, legumes, dairy, potatoes, processed items, and refined sugar. This means no morning bagel or buttered toast, no midmorning donut, no chocolate chip cookie with lunch, no microwave dinner or frozen pizzas (most are loaded with processed ingredients). This seems daunting because those foods might be a part of your daily diet as a college student, but there are plenty of foods you can eat, detailed in the next section, and this will eliminate almost everything that your body doesn't need or want.

What Foods Are Considered Paleo?

peanut, almond, meat, walnut, nut
Hareena Kaur

The paleo diet limits you to mostly really natural and whole foods, such as eggs, fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, and healthy oils (like coconut oil). As you can probably tell, these are natural and wholesome foods, but you might not know what actual meals you can make with this. Luckily, Spoon has some yummy ideas for Paleo recipes, breakfast ideas, and fast food options that are Paleo.

Why Are People Paleo?

rosemary, pepper, garlic, chicken
Hareena Kaur

According to paleoplan.com, this diet helps weight loss, maintains healthy bones, and reduces inflammation. It also points to the diet being a way to solve the problems of increasing cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, and other illnesses that have been linked to our "unhealthy" current diets.

According to my mom, who followed this diet for a period of time, she noticed an increase in energy, less lethargy, less bloating, and a normal, healthy amount of weight loss. These benefits are echoed by most people who eat this way, including Jessica Biel and even Kobe Bryant, who credits the Paleo diet as helping him heal faster from injuries.

Is it Right for You?

vegetable, milk, juice, sweet, banana
Hareena Kaur

Overall, if you suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, or general poor health and frequent sickness, this way of eating may be right for you. Whether you follow this exactly or adapt it to your current lifestyle, there are definitely benefits to eating healthy and clean foods, whether those foods are Paleo or not.

Even if you have no health problems, following a Paleo lifestyle can improve your health.  You can cut processed foods ingredients, lower your sodium intake, eliminate preservatives, chemicals, and artificial ingredients from your body, and reduce any inflammation, leaving you less bloated and more energetic.

As with any diet, though, different people can notice different effects with the same foods. If you have certain nutrient deficiencies, need extra sodium in your diet, or have extreme dietary restrictions, being Paleo might not be right for you. To find out more, check out this article about the pros and cons of Paleo. Remember that the most important thing is to pay attention to your body!  If you decide this lifestyle isn't for you, you can still adapt some of the more universal guidelines of the Paleo diet, such as eating less processed foods and chemical ingredients.