Paleolithic Diet - Good or bad
If you’re diet and nutrition savvy and spend time browsing related blogs and forums, you may be familiar with the Paleolithic Diet. It’s also called the Caveman Diet, Warrior Diet, and sometimes the Paleo Diet for short. One thing you can call it with a great amount of certainty, however, is controversial. Let’s explore the controversy, look at both sides of the coin, and separate the fact from the fury in the raging Paleo Diet debate.
What is the Paleo Diet?
With almost a cult like following, the Paleo Way of Life prescribes a diet similar to what is perceived to be the ancient diet of cavemen of the Paleolithic period – a period in history that spanned approximately 2.5 million years ago and ended with the agricultural development began around 10,000 years ago. Based on the premise that cavemen of that era were sustained by a diet of wild animals and plants, the Paleo Diet of today is predominately centered on meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts. As much as 65% of all calories should come from animal sources and the remaining 35% should come from plant-based food. Grains, dairy, refined sugar, legumes, starchy tubers, and processed oils are excluded. That means no bread and potatoes but you can eat all the eggs you want. Fat gets the green light as well.
Many proponents are as staunch as religious zealots when it comes to the health benefits of the Paleo diet. They claim by following its precepts, Americas could cut out obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other chronic ailments. Certainly by following a select few of the principles, it could surely help.
Why all the hate for grains?
Perhaps one of the most decisive elements is the consumption of grains. One of the fundamental pillars of Paleolithic nutrition is the idea that our genetic makeup has changed very little since the dawn of agriculture so we’re obviously best suited to the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors, meaning no grains. However, there is very little technical data to support the total exclusion of grains from a healthy diet. As it turns out, the cavemen didn’t exclude them, either. What’s really interesting is that archaeologists have determined that grains were indeed part of the Paleo Diet.
Julio Mercader, an archeologist from the University of Calgary, found stone tools in a cave in Mozambique dating back from a period over 100,000 years ago. These Stone Age tools contained miniscule amounts of starch from wild sorghum. According to Mercader, "This happened during the Middle Stone Age, a time when the collecting of wild grains has conventionally been perceived as an irrelevant activity and not as important as that of roots, fruits and nuts." Apparently, the caveman diet was a little more sophisticated than wild animals, nuts, and berries.
The so-called diseases of civilization are obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, some cancers, depression, tooth decay and nutrient deficiencies. Nevertheless, people from the Paleolithic era did not live long enough to develop some of these conditions and many diseases were not diagnosed, either. Some consider that there is not enough evidence suggesting that such a diet ensures a longer lifespan. On the other hand, modern humans benefit from many advantages which extend their life, apart from diet.
The Paleolithic diet is a low-carb diet, which puts emphasis on the nutritional value of meats, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and of some oils, and recommends water and tea (without sugar) as beverages. At the first view, it is a diet which excludes carbohydrates, which are known to cause obesity (including those contained by whole grains), processed foods, alcohol and artificial substances.
Obviously, eating more vegetables and fruits as prescribed in the Paleo Diet is a good thing. However, some experts believe the exclusion of an entire food groups such as grains, dairy, and legumes to the point of claiming they’re actually dangerous can lead not only to confusion, but also to serious nutritional deficiencies.
Hope this has helped to shed some light on the paleo diet.
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Melissa O' Shaugnessy founder and owner of Fit Healthy You Fitness. I want to help people understand fitness and nutrition by keeping it simple stop all the confusion.