The paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, is a diet designed around the idea that we should be eating foods in the same way our ancestors did in the paleolithic era, 10,000 to 2.5 million years ago. The diet, while based in a healthy way of eating, does have it’s criticisms.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The paleo diet was developed by Loren Cordain, a researcher at Colorado State University in the 1970s, who designed this diet to be the way humans are genetically “supposed to” eat.
Those who follow the paleo diet focus on eating foods like:
- Seeds and nuts
- Fruits and vegetables
- Wild game
And avoid foods like:
- Anything heavily farmed (chicken, potatoes, wheat, beef)
- Dairy products (milk and cheese)
- Beans and grains
- Processed foods
- Alcohol and coffee
Essentially, if a caveman could not have conceivably “stumbled” upon it, you can’t eat it on the paleo diet.
Pros and Cons of a Paleo Diet
As you can see from the foods listed in the “avoid” category above, there are some we would normally consider being ideal for a healthy diet. Let’s look at the pros and cons of eating like our ancestors.
- It eliminates healthy beans and grains from your diet. Michael Greger, M.D, author of How Not to Die [link: www.nutritionalfacts.org/book/] cites numerous sources about how beneficial legumes and whole grains are to overall health and combatting cardiovascular disease.
- You are supposed to avoid potato products – something that proves extremely difficult for most of us with a western diet.
- You eliminate dairy. While many people who are intolerant to daily products eliminate it from their diet successfully, it needs to be done consciously with an increase of green vegetables in the diet to compensate for a lack of nutrients like calcium.
- We aren’t our ancestors – we have evolved and live in a way very different than our ancestors, and so eating like them makes little sense in the modern world.
- The paleo diet is rich in potassium, thanks to the high intake of fruits and vegetables, which helps lower blood pressure and maintain healthy organ function.
- The fats you can eat on this diet are all from healthy sources since you cannot eat dairy products.
- While this diet focuses on fruit and vegetable intake, you can still eat a lot of protein through eating game, which is good for body composition and for those who enjoy eating meat or going hunting.
- You eliminate processed foods and sugars from your diet – simply cutting out these foods will help you lose weight and become a healthier person.
The paleo diet will help you lose weight, especially if you struggle to stay away from highly processed, fatty foods. However, that is not the focus of the diet, and moving onto a paleo diet should be viewed as a lifestyle change, rather than a diet.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what diet is best for you, so focus on giving your body a balanced, nutritionally-dense diet and you’ll have far more flexibility in your diet to try new foods and treat yourself occasionally while focusing on your overall health.