Also known as the Paleolithic Diet, the Caveman Diet or the Hunter/Gatherer Diet, the Paleo diet seems to be the new dietary fad trending across the globe. Promoters of this diet, along with die-hard advocates, promise dramatic results and their enthusiastic testimonies can be found scattered throughout magazine articles, cookbooks and all across the blogosphere. However, among all the benefits diets as such seem to promise, there’s often an abundance of dietary information that needs to be sorted out.
An Introduction to the Paleo Diet
The main philosophy of the Paleo diet is avoiding as many processed foods as possible. Loren Cordain, founder of the Paleo diet, believes that food has evolved so quickly that the human body wasn’t given enough to time to adapt, resulting in catastrophic consequences such as a strong predisposition to serious chronic diseases. It’s therefore believed that all the negative effects associated with modern Western diets can be mitigated by eating the same God-made foods that were available during the Paleolithic era.
Dieters on a Paleo diet will have to wave goodbye to foods that made their appearance during the agricultural revolution such as refined sugar, grains, legumes and dairy. Instead, fish, seafood, grass-fed meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, berries and non-starchy vegetables are favored by followers of this diet. By eating these foods dieters would receive their healthy doses of fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and low-glycemic carbohydrates. The beneficial effects derived from eating such foods would include weight loss, disease prevention and an overall healthier, more energetic lifestyle.
There are Always Two Sides of the Story
Eating like a caveman may seem appealing from a nutritional standpoint, but is the Paleo diet really beneficial as portrayed? Truth is, there are always two sides of every story. Before deciding to embrace a new diet and reap its benefits, it’s important to conduct as much research as possible to avoid unpleasant drawbacks and misinterpretations.
The Meat Isn’t The Same
For instance, the Paleo diet relies for a good part on the consumption of meat, but today’s meat is a far cry from the meat our ancestors used to eat. Nowadays, the average cut of meat comes from conventionally-raised animals given high dosages of growth hormones, antibiotics and arsenic-laced foods. The ultimate solution would be to only purchase meats derived from naturally raised animals such as grass-fed beef and pastured poultry. Often such meats though come with a hefty price-tag which brings us to the next point.
The Diet can be Pricey
Many people get sticker shock once they realize how expensive grass-fed meat and the organic produce section can be. This has such of an impact on perspective dieters who cannot afford such foods, that they soon give up as they realize how this diet may ultimately fit only the upper-class.
Cavemen Had Poor Life Spans
A look back into history may reveal a gloomy view of the past. Our ancestors may have been perhaps healthier, other than the occasional parasite or infectious disease, but it’s a sad fact that the average lifespan was considerably lower than what it is today. There’s belief that it’s thanks to fortified foods and dietary supplements that today humans enjoy a much longer lifespan.
There are always risks associated with adhering to certain diets and there are always chances for nutritional unbalances. In the Paleo diet, grains, a source of health and energy, are forbidden and dairy products, known for supplying bone-healthy calcium, are not allowed. This means we may be missing out on some healthy foods and our bodies risk lacking essential nutrients.
The Paleo diet also banishes legumes because they’re thought to contain anti-nutrients like lecithin or phytates. According to research though, it appears that cooking eliminates most anti-nutrients and a healthy dose of lecithin is actually beneficial. When it comes to grains, they’re mostly a problem for a small portion of people who are celiac, but for the majority of people, whole grains improve health. John Berardi author, nutrition coach and professor, claims that it’s likely a bad idea to completely eliminate such foods.
We No Longer are Cavemen
Last but not least, perspective followers of the Paleo diet should consider that modern humans are no longer cavemen. Marlene Zuk, evolutionary biologist and author of the book “Paleofantasy,” claims that humans are constantly evolving and can’t be identical to people living in the Pleistocene epoch.
The Bottom Line
There are various considerations to keep in mind when it comes to embracing the Paleo diet. This doesn’t mean that the diet is necessarily bad. To the contrary, many healthy, nutritious foods are present and definitively our modern diet full of processed foods is far from being healthy. The best piece of advice for those considering embracing this diet? Seeking the advice of their physician or registered dietitian so they can be guided and pointed in the right direction.