Finding it harder and harder to lose weight with each passing year? Then help is here! When scientists at Umea University in Sweden put weight-loss-resistant older women on different diets, they found one popular plan actually turns back the clock on metabolism. The Paleo Diet plan — which uses modern food to mimic the eating habits of cavewomen — allowed postmenopausal test subjects to enjoy unlimited portions, shed 20 pounds with ease, target age-related belly fat and reprogram their bodies to stay lean for years ahead. American scientists aren't surprised.
With reports of folks shedding up to 25 pounds in 30 days, "The number of women following the Paleo Diet is growing rapidly for a very simple reason: It works!" says 120-pounds-slimmer Paleo Principles author Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D., 41. "The results are truly amazing." How much will you lose? We've gathered everything you need to know to find out.
Paleo Diet basics: Your quick-start guide
Human genes were shaped in the Paleolithic Era, and we're still genetically programmed to respond best to types of food that allowed ancient humans to survive and thrive," insists Colorado State University researcher Loren Cordain, Ph.D., author of The Paleo Diet and the world's leading authority on the approach. "There's now extensive evidence that these foods move us toward optimal health, which includes an optimal weight." He adds that while many diets work best for younger folks, Paleo has proven incredibly effective "at any age and every age."
What you eat: Foods similar to those a cavewoman would have hunted or gathered. That means "tons of vegetables plus fruit, nuts, seeds, eggs, seafood and high quality meat," says Ballantyne. Sweet potato and small amounts of honey are on the menu; most other sweet and starchy foods — including sugar, white potatoes, beans and grains — were scarce in the days before farming and aren't part of the plan.
Why Paleo slims Paleo-style meals provide up to nine times more nutrients than a typical diet. "We're talking about vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, essential amino acids and fatty acids," says Ballantyne. These nutrients trigger hormonal shifts that slash hunger by 400 calories a day, eliminate most cravings, accelerate metabolism and help the body rid itself of dangerous belly fat.
How it turns back the clock: The Swedish study found Paleo is far better than a typical diet at reducing a type of inflammation in our bodies that tends to worsen as we age, slowing thyroid function and causing a host of other problems. Paleo's ability to quickly relieve this inflammation is key to jumpstarting thyroid and "reversing age-related weight gain," says Ballantyne.
Why weight stays off: The newest research shows Paleo works far better than a typical diet at neutralizing enzymes linked to fat storage, leading to Paleo's superior "long-term beneficial effects," says University of Umea's Caroline Blomquist, Ph.D. Paleo is also higher in protein than a typical diet, and per breakthrough University of Arkansas research, increasing protein intake is crucial to keeping metabolisms up — and waists trim — in our 40s and beyond.
Your Paleo Diet meal plan
Our nutrition team worked with Paleo experts to create these no-fuss summer menus for you to try. While using this plan, be sure to drink plenty of water. Portions are unlimited; simply eat as much or as little as you need to feel satisfied. Tweak meals to your liking with any Paleo-friendly ingredients, including herbs, spices, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, poultry and meat. Note: As always, get a doctor's okay to try any new plan.
Breakfast (enjoy one daily)
Option 1: Paleo cereal, such as Purely Elizabeth or Kitchfix grain-free granola (both sold on Amazon), with coconut or almond milk
Option 2: Eggs, any style,
Nitrate-free bacon or sausage (optional) Cubed baked sweet potato or any veggie saut?ed in coconut oil
Snacks (enjoy any or all as need to control hunger) Nuts, fruit, hardcooked eggs, grass-fed jerky, veggies with guacamole
Lunch & Dinner (enjoy one option at each sitting; add a side salad with vinaigrette, as desired)
Option 1: Turkey Cobb Salad: Sliced turkey, hardboiled egg, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, chives and walnuts over chopped lettuce with vinaigrette
Option 2: Paleo Shrimp Scampi: Melt 2 Tbs. grass-fed butter in skillet and stir in 2 cloves minced garlic; add 2 lbs. peeled and deveined shrimp and sear 1-2 minutes per side; stir in the juice of two lemons. 1 Tbs. minced parsley, salt and red pepper flakes to taste ; enjoy over steamed spiralized zucchini or spaghetti squash; serves 4
Option 3: Nitrate-free Italian chicken sausage links Saute?d peppers and onions
Option 4: Burger, any variety, with Paleo-friendly toppings such as grilled onion, mushrooms, bacon, avocado, tomato; serve wrapped in a large lettuce leaf Coconut oil sweet potato chips, such as Honest Jackson brand
Option 5: Honey-baked Salmon: Whisk together 2 tsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. honey, 1 crushed clove garlic, salt and pepper. Spread over salmon fillet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until flakey. Steamed or saut?ed sugar snap peas
Option 6: Caribbean Chicken Thighs: In blender, puree 1/2 cup pineapple, 1/2 cup mango, juice of 1 lemon, 2 Tbs. olive oil and pinch of cayenne; pour in zip-top bag with boneless chicken thighs; chill 30-60 minutes; grill until cooked through. Steamed riced cauliflower, grass-fed butter, herbs
If desired, enjoy fruit with coconut cream, a few squares dark chocolate or Paleo Peach Crisp (recipe below) after dinner.
Make your own menus
Whip up Paleo staples — including all nonstarchy vegetables, sweet potatoes, fruit, herbs, spices, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, eggs, seafood, poultry and grass-fed meat — in any combinations you like; enjoy as many meals and/or snacks as you wish. For best results, listen to your body and stop eating as soon as you begin to feel full. Want more inspiration? We love the tips and recipes you'lll find at ThePaleoDiet.com; ThePaleoMom.com and GrassfedGirl.com.
Paleo Peach Crisp
Everybody goes crazy for this scrumptious recipe from ElanasPantry.com, which is as simple as it is delicious.
2 lbs. peaches, sliced 1 1/4 cups blanched almond flour (not almond meal) 1/8 tsp. sea salt 2 Tbs. butter 1 Tbs. maple syrup 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract Place peaches in an 8 x 8 inch baking dish. In a food processor, combine almond flour and salt. Pulse in butter, maple syrup, and vanilla. Sprinkle topping over fruit. Bake at 350? for 35-45 minutes. Cool and enjoy.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.