The Paleo (short for Paleolithic) diet is a modern diet based on what is thought to have been eaten during the Paleolithic era. This diet focuses on eating foods such as meat, vegetables, and fruits while avoiding processed foods that became widespread after the Neolithic Revolution (this is when sedentary agriculture emerged- for those of you non-history-buffs). Many people turn to the Paleo diet for its potential health benefits: lower risk of Type II Diabetes and other chronic diseases as well as a boost in energy levels. Instead of pumping your body full of synthetic energy (e.g., caffeine and sugar) your body slowly burns the natural energy sources that are found in Paleo friendly foods. Weight loss can also be an outcome of this dietary pattern because people consume less "empty calories" found in soda, refined sugars, and alike.

Who came up with this diet?

The idea of the modern Paleo diet is associated with  gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin who pioneered the basis for the diet in his book The Stone Age Diet. Voegtlin has since been disavowed by many food leaders due to his white supremacist ways. Loren Cordain is more widely accredited with popularizing the diet in his 2002 book The Paleo Diet.

What can I eat on the paleo diet?

Now we're getting down to the important stuff: what can you eat on the paleo diet? The idea is that you eat foods that people who lived in the Paleolithic era would have had access to so fruits, vegetables, lean means, nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, herbs, spices, and plant-derived oils. This means you want to avoid processed foods: dairy, grains, soft drinks, and refined sugar. 

There's so many "diets" out there that it might be hard to distinguish them from one another. For example, The Whole 30 is a diet that eliminates soy, dairy, legumes, alcohol, and added sugar for 30 days. The Keto diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate  diet. Unlike the paleo diet, the keto diet doesn't have any restrictions, but rather emphasizes a shift in the body from using carbohydrates for energy to producing ketones (which metabolize fats). Many foods often considered to be keto and whole-30 friendly are also compatible with the paleo diet. 

Personally if I were to try this diet I think picking the right snacks would be a game changer. Kalahari makes a great Paleo-friendly meat snack called Biltong. Three friends started Kalahari Biltong so they could share this amazing snack with Americans. Biltong isn't your average, run-of-the mill jerky; it's a tasty South African, air-dried, thinly-sliced beef snack. Kalahari's Biltong comes in four delicious flavors, original, garlic, lime chili, and spicy peri peri. It's the perfect boost of protein to keep your energy up when you're studying late in the library. Biltong is also the perfect snack to have on hand if you are trying the Whole 30 or Keto diet. 

Another great brand that makes Paleo-friendly snacks is Caveman Foods. Their mission is to get in touch with our ancestors through clean eating. Caveman Foods produces a wide range of snacks from grain-free granola to protein bars. My favorite bars are their nutrition bars; they taste like candy and come in a variety of nutty, delicious flavors! An added bonus is that these bars are also gluten, dairy, and soy-free.

Are there any health risks to eating this way?

Some of the main health risks associated with the Paleo diet are deficiencies in calcium and Vitamin D. To avoid a potential bone deficiency, you may consider taking a United States Pharmacopeia (USP) certified supplement. The USP seal on supplements ensures that the vitamins and minerals that the bottles claims are in a supplement are actually in the supplement. Paleo dieters also tend to consume more saturated fat than the average person (since their diet is devoid of highly refined foods like breads, pastas, and sugar). This leads to potential risk of kidney and heart disease. As with any diet, you should consult your doctor before beginning to discuss potential health risks. 

Personally, I love dairy too much to do this diet; coincidentally that is also what keeps me from going vegan. I would also need to see how long it takes the benefits of eating the paleo diet to emerge before committing to the diet.