Diets 101: Paleo

What is it?

The Paleo Diet is predicated on the belief that a diet of modern, processed foods is the cause of many modern ailments. The solution to this problem, Paleo advocates claim, is reverting to the diet of our ancestors. Paleo can be summed up quite briefly: Eat like a caveman.

So, like raw meat and vegetables? Not exactly, but close.

What can I eat?

Practically, this means you can eat anything cavemen would have had access to, like meats (cooked), vegetables, fruits, and seeds.

What can I not eat?

Generally speaking, grains, dairy, and all processed food products are off-limits. Alcohol, tubers, and nuts tend to fall into a gray area (because there is no official authority on Paleo the rules can vary a bit).

Pros

  • Diets composed of whole foods yield improved overall nutrient quality over diets of processed food products.
  • The reduction of refined foods likely helps reduce chronic inflammation.
  • Plenty of fiber from vegetables, resulting in stabilized blood sugar.

Cons

  • Grains, the most accessible, digestible sources of carbohydrates are excluded as a food group.
  • Dairy, another food group that contributes valuable nutrients like calcium, is excluded.
  • The assumption that early human ancestors represent the pinnacle of dietary health is  misguided.

Summary

Is the Paleo Diet a silver dietary bullet? No. Ignoring the current scientific understanding of carbohydrates as a key source of digestible energy seems misguided.

Paleo is a move in the right direction for many people, but the exclusion of ALL grains, legumes, and dairy products may be a step too far. With that said, a majority of Americans could certainly benefit from eating more whole foods and less processed foods filled with preservatives and added sugars.

Resources:

Scientific American: How to Really Eat Like a Hunter-Gatherer

Robb Wolf: What is the Paleo Diet?

One Reply to “Diets 101: Paleo”

  1. I agree, and said something similar in a blog post myself (http://itsaboutnutrition.com/paleo-diet/). For me, the biggest “con” (as opposite to pro) with this diet is it’s so difficult to keep up! You have to have a sackful of motivation to follow it – but it does have its avid disciples. I applaud the “proper food” message, but any diet that excludes whole food groups rankles a bit with me. I’m unsure about the indigestible fibre in this diet too, we do need it to keep things “flowing”….

    Like

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