Paleo Eating – Not just for Cave People
Paleo Eating – Not just for Cave People
The Paleolithic Diet, more commonly known as the Paleo Diet, is a style of eating based on what Paleolithic humans ate more than 10,000 to 2 million years ago. This whole-foods based diet was originally proposed as an idea in the 1960s. But, the Paleo Diet has been gaining in popularity since 2002 when Dr Loren Cordain’s book The Paleo Diet was published. Devotees of this eating approach swear by it, toting better health via weight loss, healthier blood sugars, etc. Critics state we really don’t know what Paleolithic man ate, and we don’t know if they were actually healthier or not. Either way, if you’ve been curious about the Paleo Diet, here’s your chance to dive in!
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo Diet includes eating more like humans before the development of farming. More specifically, it recommends eating lean meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, and fruit. Dairy, legumes (except green beans, snow peas, and sugar snap peas), potatoes, and grains are to be avoided. Refined cooking oils and alcohol are also frowned upon. In general, fruits are allowed in moderation as they are higher in sugar. Added natural sweeteners such as honey, molasses, maple syrup, raw cane sugar, etc., can be used in small amounts. Grass-fed or wild-caught meats, cold-pressed oils, and organic vegetables are preferred, but most authors of Paleo books support buying according to your budget. Processed foods, soda pop, refined sugar, and artificial sweeteners are to be avoided.
On top of that, there are also specific types of Paleo Diet recommendations for people who have chronic diseases including autoimmune diagnoses. These specific protocols can limit nightshades or nuts and seeds for example, as they can potentially cause inflammation. Some modern Paleo authors also state raw dairy, grass-fed butter, and sweet potatoes are fine as long as it is well-tolerated. Generally, a moderate amount of protein and carbohydrates (from vegetables and fruits), and adequate healthy fats are recommended.
Benefits of Eating Paleo
There can be a wide variety of health benefits following a Paleo Diet. Paleo Diets are typically higher in fiber, antioxidants, potassium, and other micronutrients. With a whole foods diet, it also limits the number of processed foods which are generally lower in nutritional value. Processed foods also tend to be higher in sugar, and too much sugar can be inflammatory, increasing the risk of chronic disease in the future.
One study evaluated people with metabolic syndrome which is estimated to affect 30% or more of American adults. It found that in cases when adults followed the Paleo Diet anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months, there was a reduction in waist size, lowering of high blood pressure, and fasting blood sugars when compared to placebos. Another study looked at all causes of death and found that it may reduce the risk of dying for any reason. Additionally, it helps improve total cholesterol, LDL (“bad” cholesterol), and triglycerides.
Some proponents indicate that it is more than just a diet; rather, it is a way of life by regulating sleep, using more natural movement and body weight exercise such as MovNAT, having screen-free days, etc. This can further increase the potential benefits of the Paleo Diet as overall lifestyle choices are improving.
Downsides to Paleo
Some short-term research studies seem to indicate the Paleo Diet provides inadequate levels of iodide and calcium. One argument states that since magnesium is higher, and calcium excretion has been found to be lower, it balances out in the end, but there is limited data on this. This diet hasn’t been well-studied to see if it is maintainable long term either. Are there enough minerals to prevent osteoporosis for instance?
Another limiting factor can be meal planning. With today’s busy lifestyles, it can be difficult to cook meals every day to put on the table. Generally, the allowed foods, especially fresh meats, tend to be more expensive. There can also be concerns with nutrient deficiencies when eliminating entire categories of food. Additionally, some people can interpret Paleo incorrectly, eating a lot of meat while not increasing their vegetable and fruit intake. Eating large amounts of red meat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and early death. Finally, this eating style can be incredibly difficult to maintain long term as it is so far different from the standard American diet. There are also limits on study length to find out if the benefits of eating Paleo last for years.
Wrapping It All Up…
It’s important to find a whole-foods based diet that works best for you and your family’s needs. Eating minimally processed foods, drinking water, getting adequate sleep, etc, are also important lifestyle factors that can have a large impact on health whether you follow the Paleo Diet or not.
As always, you should consult with your physician before making any sweeping lifestyle changes. If you have questions about your diet or the Paleo diet, seek out professional guidance from a holistic doctor or nutritionist in your area.
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