What is Paleo?
The diet encourages the consumption of what our ancestors were believed to have eaten as hunters and gatherers, such as meat, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, etc. The diet discourages the consumption of foods that are considered to be primarily part of the modern day, post-agricultural “westernized diet” or “SAD” diet (Standard American Diet,) such as milk, grains, refined sugars and legumes. Promoters of the Paleo Diet believe that these are the primary foods that have led to an overweight country, which have burdened us with an ever growing health care crisis.
Followers of the Paleo Diet claim that by eating the foods we were evolutionarily developed to consume, we can lower our risks for developing chronic diseases while also improving digestive problems, eliminating acne, increasing energy levels, etc. They further claim that we can lose excessive body weight, thanks to the fact that we’ll be eating the foods our bodies have been programmed to fully digest and absorb.
Diet Do’s and Don’ts…
- Fruits (in moderation)
- Nuts and Seeds (in moderation)
- Wild Meats (grass fed beef, chicken, venison, etc.)
- Coconut, grass-fed butter, avocado, etc.
Do Not Eat…
- Refined, Processed Foods (chips, donuts, soda, cereals, candy bars, snack foods, etc.)
- Refined sugars
- Grains and breads (quinoa, oats, bread, barley, etc.)
- Legumes (beans, lentils, soy, peanuts, etc.)
- Dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.)
Nutritional Basics…where do my calories come from?
- 30-40% Fat
- 20-30% Carbohydrate
- 35-45% Protein
2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
- 20-35% Fat
- 45-65% Carbohydrate
- 10-35% Protein
Behind The Research…
Despite what some will tell you, research surrounding the Paleo Diet is still in its infancy stages. While some research has pointed to low carb, paleo style diets possibly improving blood insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and improved lipid profiles, we do not yet know the long term effects.
However, in the research article Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that refined grains such as white pasta, white breads, etc. have more of a negative effect on our arteries than does saturated fat. Whether or not we should be eating like a caveman, it’s important to realize that refined grains just aren’t good for our overall health.
The Diet’s Health Advantages:
- Excludes sugary and processed foods.
- Reduces sodium intake.
- Encourages produce consumption.
- Encourages weight loss. By avoiding sugary, processed junk, you’ll inevitably shed some excess pounds.
- Focuses on real, whole foods.
The Diet’s Health DIS-advantages:
- May be difficult to maintain for a lifetime. If the thought of giving up cheese forever and ever and ever sounds horrendous to you, this diet plan may be a flop.
- No large studies done to analyze long term effects.
- Contradictory evidence. We’ve known for quite some time, the health benefits of following a Mediterranean Diet, full of fish, fruits, veggies, healthy fats and…YES…whole grains, legumes and some dairy!
- Possible nutrient deficiencies, such as calcium. Paleo promoters claim that we don’t need as much calcium as once thought. However, there is no evidence to back up this claim and it’s important that anyone going on the Paleo Diet be smart in choosing the right foods.
The Bottom Line…
The Paleo Diet does offer some health benefits. However, it also requires some professional guidance in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies. In addition, it is unknown what health effects the diet has over a lifetime and it may be difficult for many to follow for long periods of time.
Research is important in helping us unlock the secrets of health, but it was never meant to be the ultimate decision on how and what we eat. There will always be conflicting reports, and it is important that we not base our diet solely on a trendy diet or on the newest research study. In finding that so-called “perfect” diet, we still need to remember the importance of making changes that will last, while also finding a lifestyle that will feel balanced and satisfying to us as individuals.
QUESTION: What do you think of the Paleo Diet? Have you ever or will you ever try it? Why or why not?