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The Paleo Diet

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What is the Paleo diet?

It consists of anything that can be hunted, fished or gathered. This also means exclusion of the following : grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, salt. It is based on the premise that if we eat the way our ancestors eat, we will avoid the chronic diseases of our current generation such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc, and will overall be healthier.

Generally, when a diet requires you to omit entire food groups, it is a huge red flag. There are plenty of proven health benefits to be found in both dairy AND whole grains. Low fat dairy has been suggested to aid weight loss benefits in addition to providing Vitamin D and Calcium. Whole grains have been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and provide a great source of fiber. Exclusion of entire food groups (ones that have proven to provide more benefits than they do harm, for that matter!) also tends to make the meal plan hard to stick with.

Dairy and grains are not the source of our diseases – Americans tend to eat these, especially grains, in excess. Anything in excess will cause problems. Completely eliminating these food groups as a response to this is not the answer.

Another thought to consider…just because our ancestors ate a particular way does not mean that it’s good for us. Nutrition is a constantly evolving science and we are making new discoveries every day. What we know about the recommended dietary guidelines for Americans tells us that an average day for the Paleo diet is lacking in carbohydrates and exceeds the recommendations for protein and fat.

Elaborating on my previous point, how exactly did this author of the Paleo diet determine just what our “ancestors” ate?
Considering the following information, the premise of the book is a bit off:
Depending on the climate, the diet varied widely. Archeological scientist Christina Warinner goes into more detail in her TEDTalk, “Debunking the Paleo Diet.” The diet “has no basis in archeological reality.” Artic dwellers ate more meat; those in Mexico ate legumes, fruits, nuts, and beans and flowers. Their wild game consumption mostly included rabbits. Warmer climates had a higher plant consumption. My point being, that the diet of paleolithic times cannot be limited to what the author of the Paleo diet has specified. There were so many variations based on the climate that there is no “one diet” of this time period.

Am I completely against the Paleo diet?

No.

I think it has a lot of wonderful components. It encourages the consumption of fruits and veggies, which the majority of Americans are lacking. It encourages the follower to avoid added sugars (recommendations are 10% or less of total calories) and excess salt.

Will you lose weight? Probably, but only if you work a calorie deficit into your plan.

If anything, I’d recommend taking the good aspects of the Paleo diet (avoiding added sugars, avoiding processed white flour, and loading up on fruits & veggies) and tweak the aspects of it that science really doesn’t support (dairy & grains are not bad, people.) What you end up with won’t really be the “Paleo” diet, but it’ll be a diet supported by science – more good for the long haul and less jumping on the fad diet bandwagon.

Resources used in the development of this article:

Ted Talks

EatRight