Paleo Diet for Weight Loss

Paleo Diet for Weight Loss

paleo diet written in chalkboard with fruits, vegetables, meats, and nuts around it


The paleo diet, inspired by the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, has gained popularity in recent years as a natural and effective way to lose weight. According to one study, by the State University of New York (SUNY) somewhere between 1 and 3 million people in the US follow the paleo diet at any given time. 


By focusing on unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods, the paleo diet can help individuals shed stubborn pounds and improve their overall health. This comprehensive guide is aimed at beginner paleo enthusiasts and people interested in losing weight through an effective diet plan. 


We’ll delve deep into the principles of the paleo diet, explore its impact on weight loss, examine the science behind its effectiveness, and provide meal-planning strategies to help you on your journey to better health.

What Is the Paleo Diet?


The paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet in some circles, is an eating plan that emphasizes consuming lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, similar to the diet of our ancestors. Before the advent of agriculture around 10,000 years ago, grains of any type were very rarely consumed by our hunter-gatherer ancestors, though some groups may have had significant carbohydrate consumption from honey and other high-carbohydrate foods that were locally available.


The paleo diet, then, is not an inherently “anti-carb” diet. Rather, the idea is to mimic the way humans ate before the advent of agriculture, and especially before highly processed foods, nutrient-empty foods became the foundation of our globalized, industrial food system. These recent additions to our diet have been associated with many modern health issues, including obesity, diabetes, chronic heart disease, and other similar metabolic conditions. 


Origins of the Paleo Diet


The paleo diet’s origins stem from the belief that many modern diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, are linked to the Western diet and its focus on nutritionally empty, highly processed carbohydrates. Advocates of the paleo diet argue that by returning to a more ancestral way of eating, we can improve our health and avoid these chronic conditions. The concept was popularized by Dr. Loren Cordain in his book “The Paleo Diet,” published in 2002, and has since gained a large following. It is also worth mentioning that several anthropological studies have determined that during the first years of our cultural transition to sedentary communities and grain agriculture, people suffered numerous health problems, were smaller in stature, less muscular, and more prone to disease. 


General Guidelines of the Paleo Diet


The paleo diet focuses on whole, unprocessed foods and encourages the consumption of lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It also seeks to drastically reduce the consumption of processed foods, sugar, artificial additives, grains, legumes, and dairy products, as these are believed to contribute to modern health issues. The paleo diet also emphasizes the importance of physical activity, adequate sleep, and stress management, as these factors play a crucial role in overall health and well-being.


Food List for the Paleo Diet


Unlike many popular diets on the market today, the paleo diet is not intrinsically restrictive. With its focus on “real” foods, it allows individuals to enjoy an enormous variety and diversity of foods. As with any diet, however, it is essential to understand which foods are allowed and which should be avoided or greatly restricted. Here’s a general overview of the types of foods to include in your meals:


  • Protein sources: Lean meats (grass-fed beef, poultry, pork), fish (especially fatty fish like salmon and mackerel), and eggs.
  • Fruits: Apples, berries, citrus fruits, melons, and more.
  • Vegetables: Leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, root vegetables (excluding potatoes), and more.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and more (but in moderation, as they can be high in calories).
  • Healthy fats: Olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and ghee.
  • Beverages: Water, herbal tea, black coffee (without added sugar or creamer), and unsweetened almond or coconut milk. And to prove that the paleo diet is not excessively restrictive, check out this blog post on the best alcoholic beverages allowed on the paleo diet. 


How Does the Paleo Diet Help With Weight Loss?


According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), “nearly one-half (49.1%) of adults tried to lose weight within the last 12 months.” One of the most attractive aspects of the paleo diet is its promise to help people lose weight in a quick and sustained manner. The paleo diet’s focus on unprocessed foods helps eliminate empty calories and added sugars, which are perhaps the main factor pushing the obesity crisis around the world today. 


Processed foods often contain unhealthy amounts of sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and empty carbs, which can contribute to weight gain and poor health. By focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods, the paleo diet encourages a healthier eating pattern that can promote weight loss and improved overall health.


Paleo Diet and Satiety


One of the critical factors in successful weight loss is feeling full and satisfied after meals. Many diets are unsustainable over the long term because people simply get tired of feeling hungry all the time. 


With the paleo diet, however, the high protein and fiber content in the diet contributes to increased satiety, helping control hunger and prevent overeating. Instead of restricting the amount of food one eats, the paleo diet unashamedly encourages people to simply eat the same amount of healthier, wholesome, real foods. 


Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, which can help you feel fuller for longer periods. Fiber, found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, also plays a significant role in promoting fullness, as it slows down digestion and contributes to a feeling of satisfaction after eating.


Reduction of Empty Calories


For many people in North America and other parts of the “developed world,” their daily meals might look like something like this: 


  • Breakfast: processed cereal and white toast 
  • Lunch: processed sandwich meat on white bread
  • Snack: processed potato chips and soda
  • Dinner: spaghetti made from processed pasta


Processed foods almost always contain high levels of empty calories, which provide little to no nutritional value. These empty calories can lead to weight gain and poor health. The paleo diet, by eliminating processed foods and focusing on nutrient-dense whole foods, reduces the intake of empty calories, leading to a healthier, more balanced diet.


Improved Digestion and Gut Health


Consuming a diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods can improve digestion and gut health. Many processed foods can cause gastrointestinal issues, such as bloating, gas, and constipation, which can affect overall well-being. By focusing on whole foods and eliminating processed options, the paleo diet can help alleviate these issues, leading to better digestion and improved overall health. Furthermore, whole and minimally processed foods have healthy amounts of dietary fiber which is also sorely lacking in many people´s diets and may be a major contributor to poor gut health. 


Increased Nutrient Intake


When following the paleo diet, people generally consume a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods, such as lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. This increased nutrient intake supports overall health and well-being, making weight loss more achievable. A diverse diet of healthy, real foods is the best strategy for achieving an adequate nutrient intake, which is essential for maintaining energy levels, supporting immune function, and promoting overall wellness.


The Science Behind Paleo Diet and Weight Loss


Numerous studies have shown that diets high in protein can increase satiety, reduce hunger, and promote weight loss. The paleo diet’s focus on lean meats, fish, and other protein sources contributes to its effectiveness in weight loss by helping individuals feel fuller for longer periods, preventing overeating and snacking.


High-Fiber Foods and Their Role in Maintaining Fullness


High-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, play a crucial role in the paleo diet. Fiber promotes feelings of fullness and helps regulate digestion, making it an essential component of a weight-loss plan. Additionally, fiber has been shown to support heart health and help control blood sugar levels.


The Potential Benefits for Individuals With Obesity or Diabetes


Around 37.3 million people, or 11.3% of the U.S. population, have diabetes. Furthermore, the US obesity prevalence was 41.9% in 2017 and has actually increased in recent years. Given this alarming statistic, it is hopeful that the paleo diet may be particularly beneficial for individuals with obesity or diabetes. 


By eliminating processed foods and focusing on whole, nutrient-dense options, the paleo diet can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote weight loss. Studies have shown that people with type 2 diabetes who followed a paleo diet experienced improved blood sugar control and reduced body weight compared to those who followed a traditional diabetes diet.


Furthermore, a 2007 randomized control trial of twenty-nine patients with ischaemic heart disease plus either glucose intolerance or type 2 diabetes found that a Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. The study determined that “over 12 weeks, there was a 26% decrease of AUC Glucose(0-120) (p = 0.0001) in the Palaeolithic group and a 7% decrease (p = 0.08) in the Consensus group.”


Research on the Diet’s Impact on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health


Several studies have explored the impact of the paleo diet on cardiovascular and metabolic health. While results have been mixed, some research suggests that following a paleo diet may lead to improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin sensitivity, which can contribute to better heart health and metabolic function.


For example, one 2013 study looked at how adherence to the paleo diet might affect the links between ectopic fat accumulation in liver and skeletal muscle and abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease for post-menopausal women. The results of the study, published in The Journal of Internal Medicine, found that: 


Mean energy intake decreased by 25% with a weight loss of 4.5 kg. BMI, waist and hip circumference, waist/hip ratio, and abdominal sagittal diameter also decreased significantly, as did diastolic blood pressure (mean -7 mmHg), levels of fasting serum glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL/HDL cholesterol, apolipoprotein B (ApoB) and apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1), urinary C-peptide and HOMA indices. Whole-body insulin sensitivity did not change. Liver triglyceride levels decreased by 49%, whereas IMCL levels in skeletal muscle were not significantly altered.


Benefits of the Paleo Diet for Weight Loss


Sustainable Weight Loss


Though some studies have questioned the “sustainability” of the weight loss benefits supposedly offered by the paleo diet, it is important to mention that people generally do struggle to sustain their weight loss goals over the long term no matter what type of diet they follow. However, there is some evidence that weight loss targets are sustained for longer periods for people on the paleo diet, especially when compared to other types of diets. You can read more about the sustainability of the paleo diet on this blog


By focusing on whole, unprocessed foods and eliminating empty calories, the paleo diet promotes a sustainable weight loss approach. This way of eating encourages the development of healthy habits that can be maintained long-term, leading to lasting weight loss results. A 2008 study that sought to assess the effects of a paleolithic diet on healthy volunteers for 3 weeks showed the sustainable effects of weight loss of this diet. The study´s results determined that


Mean weight decreased by 2.3 kg (P<0.001), body mass index by 0.8 (P<0.001), waist circumference by 0.5 cm (P=0.001), systolic blood pressure by 3 mm Hg (P=0.03) and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 by 72% (P=0.020). Regarding nutrient intake, intake of energy decreased by 36%, and other effects were also observed, both favorable (fat composition, antioxidants, potassium-sodium rate) and unfavorable (calcium).


Improved Energy Levels


The consumption of nutrient-dense foods, such as lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, provides the body with essential nutrients and energy to fuel daily activities. This increased energy can make it easier to engage in regular physical activity, which is an essential component of weight loss and overall health. This is espeically important given the fact that many people on other diets eventually give up on their weight loss plans due toa lack of energy. 


Better Blood Sugar Control


The paleo diet’s focus on whole foods and elimination of processed foods and added sugars can lead to better blood sugar control. Stable blood sugar levels are crucial for weight management, as they help to prevent energy crashes and cravings that can lead to overeating. 


A 2009 study that looked at the beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes found that: 


Compared to the diabetes diet, the Paleolithic diet resulted in lower mean values of HbA1c (-0.4% units, p = 0.01), triacylglycerol (-0.4 mmol/L, p = 0.003), diastolic blood pressure (-4 mmHg, p = 0.03), weight (-3 kg, p = 0.01), BMI (-1 kg/m2, p = 0.04) and waist circumference (-4 cm, p = 0.02), and higher mean values of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (+0.08 mmol/L, p = 0.03).


The study concluded that “over a 3-month study period, a Paleolithic diet improved glycemic control and several cardiovascular risk factors compared to a Diabetes diet in patients with type 2 diabetes.”


Enhanced Mental Clarity


The paleo diet’s emphasis on nutrient-rich foods can also contribute to improved cognitive function and mental clarity. A diet high in healthy fats, such as those found in fish, nuts, and seeds, supports brain health and cognitive function. Though not directly connected to weight loss, this is yet another example of the diverse benefits that the paleo diet offers. 


Reduced Inflammation


Chronic inflammation is associated with various health issues, including obesity and heart disease. Many studies have determined that there is a direct connection between the consumption of highly processed foods loaded with empty carbohydrates and chronic inflammation. The paleo diet, by focusing on whole foods and eliminating processed food options, can help reduce inflammation in the body, leading to improved overall health.


Stronger Immune System


A nutrient-dense diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and fish also supports a healthy immune system. The paleo diet’s emphasis on whole foods provides the body with essential nutrients to help fight off infections and maintain overall health.


Tips for Success: What to Eat and How to Plan


Paleo-Friendly Foods to Include in Your Meals


As we mentioned above, the paleo diet allows people to enjoy a huge variety of healthy, wholesome, real foods. Compared to the relatively monotonous repetition of highly processed food ítems, exploring new foods on the paleo diet can be an exciting way to redevelop your connection with food that sustains. 


Incorporating a variety of paleo-friendly foods in your meal plans to ensure you get all the necessary nutrient is easy, once you begin the process of learning to cook and prepare meals with real food ítems. Include lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats in your meals to create satisfying and nutritious dishes. 


At the same time, there are also several different types of foods that should be avoided on the paleo diet, with a specific embargo on highly refined, ultra-processed carbohydrates that are essentially empty in nutritional value. Check out a complete list of the different types of foods to avoid on the paleo diet here


Adapting to a New Way of Meal Planning


Transitioning to the paleo diet can be challenging, as it requires a change in your eating habits and meal planning strategies. Start by familiarizing yourself with the allowed foods, and gradually replace processed foods with whole food options. Experiment with new recipes and ingredients to keep your meals interesting and enjoyable.


Balancing Nutrients and Ensuring Adequate Calcium Intake


While the paleo diet is generally well-balanced, it’s essential to ensure you’re getting enough calcium, as dairy products are excluded. Include calcium-rich foods such as leafy greens, fish, and almonds in your diet to support bone health. Also, make sure to include plenty of high-fiber foods that will contribute to your overall gut health as you make the transition to a healthier diet.


Creating Satisfying and Delicious Paleo-Friendly Meals


There are countless delicious paleo recipes available, making it easy to create satisfying and enjoyable meals. Explore new recipes, flavors, and cooking techniques to keep your meals exciting and prevent boredom with your new way of eating. Here at The Paleo Foundation, we have a handy paleo diet food list that can give you a bit of inspiration for creating healthy, nourishing, and delicious meals. 


Answering Key Questions


Q: How Many Carbs on the Paleo Diet for Weight Loss?


A: There is no specific carbohydrate limit on the paleo diet, as it focuses on whole, unprocessed foods. However, it’s essential to focus on nutrient-dense carbohydrate sources such as fruits and vegetables and limit high-calorie options like nuts and seeds. Also, you should make it a priority to eliminate highly processed, refined grains that are unfortunately common in most people´s diets today. 


Q: How Much Weight Loss to Expect on the Paleo Diet?


A: Individual weight loss results can vary greatly, as they depend on factors such as starting weight, age, gender, and activity level. However, many people have successfully lost weight following the paleo diet due to its focus on whole foods and the elimination of empty calories.


On a more technical level, following a Paleo diet can also positively affect several different health indicators related to body weight and metabolic balance. A two-year randomized trial in obese postmenopausal women found that the group following the paleo diet: 


  • significantly decreased total fat mass at 6 months (-6.5 kg) and 24 months (-4.6 kg),
  • decreased their waist circumference and sagittal diameter at 6 months (-11.1 cm)m
  • and also lowered their triglyceride levels at 6 and 24 months. 


Q: Does the Paleo Diet Work for Weight Loss?


A: The paleo diet can be an effective weight loss strategy for many individuals, as it emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods, leading to reduced calorie intake and improved overall health. As with any diet, the actual results will depend on your level of motivation, and other healthy lifestyle factors such as exercise, low stress levels, etc. Given the ability to include a huge variety of healthy foods and the growing community of paleo enthusiasts, most people will likely find that the paleo diet offers a more direct approach to fast and sustained weight loss. 




The paleo diet offers numerous benefits for weight loss and overall health. By focusing on nutrient-dense, whole foods, you can achieve sustainable weight loss and improved well-being.


If you’re ready to give the paleo diet a try, be sure to check out the following resources for further information and guidance:

  1. Paleo Diet Food List
  2. Foods to Avoid on the Paleo Diet
  3. Is the Paleo Diet Sustainable?
  4. Is the Paleo Diet Too Restrictive?
  5. Certified Paleo Standards 2023

The key to long-term weight loss success is finding a plan that works for you and your lifestyle. The paleo diet may just be the solution you’ve been searching for to achieve your weight loss goals and improve your overall health. Give it a try and see the difference it can make in your life.