What is the Paleo diet? Paleo stands for Paleolithic, the era of time before man farmed, when hunter/gatherers were the prominent members of the human race. You may also hear it called the caveman diet. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding it. Anthropologists disagree with many of the basic conclusions of the diet and nutritionists debate whether it’s the best for weight loss or long term health. It does not include many foods that are considered healthy options for daily consumption.
The premise of the diet is that your body is equipped to digest what caveman ate.
Not only do anthropologists question whether the diet reflects what the caveman ate, nutritionists question the entire premise, that man was not created to digest legumes, grains, dairy, processed foods or foods with added sugar, salt or vegetable oil. Almost everyone agrees that highly processed food and foods with added sugar or salt will definitely be healthier, but disagree that giving up dairy, grain and legumes is healthy.
One reason the caveman diet may work so well is the absence of processed food and sugar.
Studies show that over the short term, the Paleo diet does help lose weight quickly. However, over the longer term, it’s no better than many other diets, like the Mediterranean diet. The Paleolithic diet puts an emphasis on meat, which anthropologists say is wrong. In fact, many scientists believe that only about 3% of the diet of those living during Paleolithic times came from animal based foods. However, based on several studies, the Paleo diet did help reduce obesity, which in turn helped reduce the risk of many serious chronic conditions.
Is it healthy or unhealthy?
There’s a split decision on this one and long term studies reflect that. On the one hand, it eliminates dairy, legumes and grains, which could result in fiber, magnesium, selenium, calcium and iron deficiencies. Another negative is the potential for higher bad cholesterol levels, since it contains higher levels of red meat. While some studies show it’s good for cardiovascular health, others show it could lead to heart disease. As you can tell, research comes up with few answers, but most research agrees, a Mediterranean diet is just as healthy, without being as restrictive or cutting out healthy foods, like beans.
- The Paleo diet is hard to stick with over the long term, which means it’s even harder to assess long term health issues or benefits it causes.
- One study compared people on a calorie restricted diet with those on a Paleo diet. While both groups lost the same amount of weight, the people on the Paleo diet lost more body fat.
- There are studies that indicate giving up dairy can help those who have lactose intolerance and giving up grain is beneficial for gluten intolerance. Another benefit of the Paleo diet is its emphasis on eating fruits and vegetables with a mix of colors.
- By taking great care to balance a Paleo diet, it is possible to get all the necessary nutrients, despite cutting some foods out of the diet. However, it is far more challenging and many people don’t do it.
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