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- The Paleolithic diet, inspired by our hunter-gatherer ancestors, involves consuming whole vegetables, fruits, meats, and nuts.
- Not only can the paleo diet result in weight loss, but it may also benefit those with blood-sugar issues, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
- Though criticized for restricting foods that keep people satiated, like grains, legumes, and dairy, the paleo diet includes a variety of options that should keep you full until your next snack or meal.
The Paleolithic diet is a popular whole food-based program that mimics the diet we think our caveman ancestors practiced.
Considering the high rates of lifestyle-induced disease we see today in diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, the paleo diet presumes consuming whole vegetables, fruits, meats, and nuts may reduce biological risk factors for these conditions.
A small study published in Cardiovascular Diabetology placed 13 individuals with type 2 diabetes on a paleo diet for three months and tracked weight loss and several cardiovascular risk factors. At the end of the three month period, participants lost 6.6 pounds on average, their blood-sugar levels (HbA1c) dropped by 0.4%, and their HDL (good cholesterol) increased by 3 mg/dL.
“In general, the paleo diet can be a great kick-start for someone to eat a diet rich in whole foods, but it isn’t for everyone,” McKel Hill, registered dietitian and founder of the healthy-living website Nutrition Stripped, told Business Insider over email. “Paleo diets don’t celebrate eating grains or legumes, which some people enjoy and do really well on especially if relying on a plant-based diet.”
While you’re not technically required to limit carbs on the paleo diet, the goal is to limit consumption of processed and refined carbohydrates, since you’re not allowed to eat common carb-heavy foods like bread, pasta, or grains, according to Healthline.
Some carbs you can eat on the diet include sweet potatoes, potatoes, and fruits like apples and bananas. But eating too many carbs or excess sugar can lead to a buildup of glycogen, which your body will convert to fat for the long-term storage of energy.
So if you’re looking to cut carbs in an effort to improve your health or trim down on the paleo diet, you might want to instead turn to some of the following foods that are lower in carbs.
Here are 11 low-carb, yet surprisingly filling, foods that you can eat on the paleo diet.
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If you have a sweet tooth or love fruit, berries could be a great option to keep you satiated on the paleo diet since they’re sweet, but lower in carbs and sugar compared to other fruits like apples and bananas.
“Raspberries are considered a low-glycemic food due to the high fiber and low sugar content, making this a great choice for those who are watching their blood sugar, and the amount of carbohydrates they are consuming,” Hill told Business Insider.
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“Strawberries contain high amounts of fiber and antioxidants, which have been linked to cardiovascular benefits, helping to stabilize blood sugar levels, and has anti-cancer benefits,” Hill said. “These are great in baked goods, topping for salad, and in smoothies for a little bit of sweetness.”
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“Blueberries have been shown to help with cardiovascular health, cognitive benefits, eye health, overall antioxidant support, insulin resistance, and anti-cancer benefits. They contain a great amount of fiber, and they’re lower in sugar than some other fruits,” Hill said. “They have a low glycemic index which means better blood sugar regulation and steady energy.”
While you may have to say goodbye to your avocado toast on the paleo diet, you can still enjoy avocados since they are low in carbs and high in fiber and healthy fat. According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, participants that ate half an avocado with lunch reported notable decreases in fullness and a decreased desire to snack.
“These fruits are truly a beauty and ‘superfood’ due to their vitamin E, fiber, and healthy fat content. The thick and creamy texture is perfect for non-dairy lifestyles. You can use them in ice creams, mousses, desserts, smoothies, topped on salads, or use instead of mayo in sandwiches and salads,” Hill said.
5. Nutritional yeast
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If cheese is one of the foods you miss the most on the paleo diet, then nutritional yeast is a surprising seasoning that can give you that cheesy flavor, with the added benefits of fiber and protein. According to Mayo Clinic, increasing fiber and protein to meals is one way to increase feeling full and satisfied.
Hill recommends adding nutritional yeast to salads, veggies, potatoes, or in a cashew “cheese dip.”
“Nutritional yeast contains heaps of B vitamins, protein, and fiber in a very small volume. It has a strong flavor and the taste is similar to a rich sharp cheddar cheese which makes it the perfect cheesy substitute sans dairy,” Hill said.
“Spinach is a great source of minerals making it well known for bone health. Spinach contains special phytonutrients that have been shown to help decrease inflammation in the body as well to have anti-cancer benefits. It also has a high fiber content which helps keep your digestive system moving properly,” Hill said.
According to Medical News Today, spinach is one of the top protein-rich veggies, with protein making up 30% of its total calories.
“Kale comes from the cruciferous veggie family, which means it has powerful detoxification properties,” Hill said. “Kale has been shown to lower risk for certain types of cancer mainly due to the ITC content (a.k.a. isothiocyanates, made from glucosinolates). These ITCs are also responsible for kale’s support on the detoxification system. Kale is generally an anti-inflammatory food.”
According to Healthline, kale is high in water content but low in calories, which will help you feel full and satisfied.
Celery sticks are a classic snack – although if you’re a celery and peanut butter fan, you’ll have to switch to almond or another kind of nut-butter for the paleo diet since peanuts are technically legumes, not nuts.
“Celery is a great source of vitamin C, which we know helps fight free radicals and protect our cells from damage,” Hill said. “Specifically for those who are going for a lower-carb paleo diet, it contains natural electrolytes and sodium, which tend to be lower in that kind of diet. You can use it as a raw snack, in salads, smoothies, juices, or sauteed in soups, skillet meals, or stews.”
“Almonds have been shown to help reduce weight, body fat, digestive health and regulate blood sugars,” Hill said. “The components in almonds that help us with weight loss are the healthy fats, fiber, protein, and satiety with consuming these nuts. These can be used to make homemade nut butters, on top of salads, or as a plain snack.”
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If you’re not a fan of almonds, cashews are another nut that you can eat for a filling snack on or use in recipes.
“Cashews contain heart-healthy fats, fiber, and plant-based proteins. They to protect your heart and cardiovascular system by aiding in a good ratio of HDL:LDL cholesterol (i.e. ‘good’ to ‘bad’),” Hill said. “Cashews also contain minerals such as zinc, manganese, copper, and selenium, all of which are important for our immune system and overall health. They are great for those who live a non-dairy lifestyle to create creamy desserts, sauces, or dips because of their texture.”