Paleo Diet: Everything You Need to Know Before Going Full Caveman

To paleo or not to paleo? - Shakespeare the Caveman

Photo courtesy of theconversation.com.
Photo courtesy of theconversation.com.

The Paleo Diet has been all the rage amongst body builders, athletes, people trying to drop a few pounds, and people simply trying to work on their overall health.  Some people have been calling it a fad diet, but if you think about it, it’s been around for 2.5 million years before modern eating patterns were created.  The premise of the Paleolithic Diet (Paleo) is that if our paleolithic ancestors didn’t eat it, then neither should we! Based on the idea that our bodies were eating like hunter-gatherers for millions of years before the agricultural revolution, which occurred a mere 10,000 years ago.  Our bodies evolved to properly digest the hunter-gatherer diet, and have not been able to evolve quickly enough to adapt to our modern, processed diet.

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia that explains the theory behind the Paleo diet quite eloquently:

The rationale is that:

  1. Human physiology has barely changed since the time our ancestors were hunter-gathers. Modern humans are adapted to the diet or diets of the Paleolithic period.
  2. The dawn of agriculture and industrialization has led to the availability of foods for which we are not evolutionarily adapted.
  3. It is possible to understand the ancient diet and reproduce it in modern times, and to learn from contemporary hunter-gatherers.
  4. Diet at least in part to blame for diseases of affluence and lifestyle diseases, and that eaters of forager-style diets do not suffer from them.

Advocates of the diet argue the ancient diet was characterized as follows:

  • No dairy food.
  • Very little cereal grains.
  • Food was not salted.
  • Lean meat was eaten.

Critics of the paleo diet argue that the people likely have been able to adapt to our modern way of eating because the rate of evolution has increased greatly in the past 40,000 years. The lifespans of paleolithic people were greatly reduced compared to our modern lifespans due to the physical nature of their lifestyles, and lack of health care.

There is no way of knowing if the paleolithic people were subject to the same diseases and ailments that we are currently experiencing.  There is also no way to know if their apparent lack of disease was because of their lifestyle and diet, or because they simply didn’t live to be as old as we do.  With no way of knowing the details of why their lifespans were shorter or if they suffered from the same chronic illnesses we do today, it’s impossible to say if they really were healthier than we are.

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There is also no way of knowing the specific composition of the true paleo diet.  Paleolithic people were located all over the world, which means they had a very wide variety of foods and animals available to them.  Some may have eaten mostly fish, some may have been almost fully vegetarian, and some may have eaten a diet comprised mostly of whale blubber.  There is simply no way to know, and the nutritional quality of these diets were likely very diverse.

Most people do initially have success on this diet.  This is likely because they have cut out dairy and processed foods completely, limited sodium, and greatly cut down on carbohydrates. It is logical that they would start feeling better because these foods are unhealthy in any diet.

In my opinion, it is important to strike a balance.  The bulk of your diet should be made up of whole, unprocessed foods.  However, there is no reason to cut out healthy portions of whole wheat bread and healthy dairy options.  In moderation, they can offer many healthy vitamins and minerals that our bodies need.

If you do decide to give the paleo diet a try, Multiply Delicious is an amazing site with weekly paleo meal plans that will make your transition to this new lifestyle easy!

So tell us:

What do you think of the Paleo Diet? Have you tried it?

 

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