The Paleo diet is all about going back to our roots; way back to the palaeolithic age and humans were hunter-gatherers. The idea is to eat like early man did, which endowed them with great energy to explore parts unknown.
The paleo diet (also termed as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet) has been on the health radar for many years now. It follows the basic principle of: What would a caveman eat? And if you need a history lesson then you must know that farming was discovered much later (during the neolithic era). So, if you plan on going caveman with your diet then here are a few things you should know:
The reason behind the Paleo diet
The paleo diet consists of the same foods our hunter-gather ancestors supposedly ate: fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, and nuts. “By following these nutritional guidelines, we put our diet more in line with the evolutionary pressures that shaped our current genetics, which in turn positively influences health and well being,” says Loren Cordain, PhD, professor of health and exercise science at Colorado State University and author of The Paleo Diet. He says the diet lessens the body’s glycemic load, has a healthy ratio of saturated-to-unsaturated fatty acids, increases vitamin and nutrient consumption, and contains a steady balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
A thumbs down from the experts
The health benefits of the paleo diet are, however, largely unproven. “Our ancestors ate this way and didn’t have many of the chronic diseases that we do, but it’s not necessarily because of the food they ate. That would be like saying we live three times longer than our Paleolithic ancestors because we eat fast food,” says Christopher Ochner, MD, research associate at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals.
However, there are a few studies that try to emphasize the benefits of the paleo diet. One small study published in the journal Diabetologia found that the diet improved blood sugar levels over a prolonged period of 12 weeks in comparison to a Mediterranean diet which usually comprises of grains, low-fat dairy and oils, but the results are a bit sketchy in comparison to other diets.
What’s on the menu?
The paleo diet is all about consuming foods straight from the Earth just as our ancestors did. So it includes a lot of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and fresh meat. Since our ancestors didn’t learn the technique of domesticating animals or farming, it is advised to go for organic, grass-fed varieties which have had a limited exposure to pesticides and other chemicals. In the palaeolithic era, people usually obtained about 35% of their calories from fats, 35% from carbohydrates, and 30% from protein.
Giving up on packaged food
Anything that comes in a box, jar, or bag is a no-no if you are on the paleo diet. That means no grains, dairy, added salt, or legumes (including peanuts, beans, lentils, and soybeans), according to Robb Wolf, a former research biochemist, paleo expert, and author of The Paleo Solution. While potatoes are generally outlawed shunned by people on a diet, Wolff says they are okay to eat moderately as long as you burn them through exercise and physical exertion. Alcohol and honey are also generally considered unfit for a paleo diet, but red wine tends to be the closest option there is to a “paleo poison”, and honey trumps artificial sweeteners and sugar.
Getting lean like cavemen
The only way a caveman could get food was usually through hunting or through walking trails to gather veggies or fruits. Both these activities probably required 4,000-plus calories a day. Along with that, all this activity was way more strenuous than your regular one-hour at the gym. So if you want to live by your genetic code equation, then you need to eat enough just so you can burn it.
“Every fad diet thinks it has discovered the root of all evil,” says Dr. Ochner. But nutrients in legumes, whole grains, and dairy -all of which are restricted on the paleo diet can actually help you to lower the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, reduce blood pressure, and promote a healthy weight, he says. Cutting dairy, the primary source of calcium and vitamin D in modern diets, is especially tricky for women who want to avoid osteoporosis.