The Paleo Diet is also known as the Paleolithic diet, caveman diet, Stone Age diet, as well as the hunter-gatherer diet. Now, you might wonder why does this diet sound so “periodic”? Well, that’s because its dietary plan is largely based on foods that might have been eaten around the Paleolithic era. Dating back to roughly 2.5 million years to 10,000 B.C., this era had food that mainly came from hunting and gathering. It excludes all the products that come from crop farming and dairy farming that have revolutionized in much recent years. Isn’t the entire concept of this diet very interesting? Let’s find out all that we need to know about this fascinating diet that urges you to step back in time through your eating habits.
What is the Paleo Diet?
As said earlier, the paleo diet focuses on following the eating habits of our ancestral past. Following this diet, your plate should have foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors might have eaten thousands of years ago. Although there is no hard evidence, it is believed that the diet of the people from the Paleolithic era primarily consisted of whole foods. By following an active life and eating a whole-food diet, our ancestors presumably lead a healthier lifestyle that had a lower risk of diseases like obesity, blood pressure, and diabetes.
The paleo diet insists on switching back to the old dietary style because it argues that our genetics haven’t yet adapted to the evolutionary changes of our eating habits. The long years of human evolution have witnessed many dietary shifts, and yes, our bodies definitely adapt to the changes, but the genetic mutation has not been able to match the pace of this development. For this very reason, we stick to the foods that we have evolved around and those that can be easily found at our farmers’ market while following the paleo diet.
What foods are included in the Paleo Diet?
Vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs, lean meats, some nuts and seeds form the basis of the paleo diet. While these food items are found in many other diets, it is important to note that they are to be included in the paleo diet in their unprocessed form. Now, even though lean meats are a part of the diet, you definitely cannot include processed, smoked, and cured meats in your paleo diet. In addition to these food items, you can use some healthy oils such as Avocado oil, Macadamia oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil and coconut oil. Garlic, turmeric, sea salt and rosemary are a few salt and spices that you can use to add taste.
What foods are to be avoided when following the Paleo Diet?
One of the best ways of following the paleo diet is by knowing what to avoid eating. As 70 percent of our modern diet was not a part of our Paleolithic ancestors’ diet, it becomes easy to eliminate such foods from our plates. These food items include cereal grains, legumes, starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn, refined sugars, refined vegetable oils, dairy products and alcohol. Any processed food that contains these ingredients along with artificial flavors, added chemicals and packaged items should not make it to your plate while following the paleo diet.
Pros and Cons of following the Paleo Diet
It is ironic how the paleo diet gets its pros and cons at once due to the elimination of certain food items. Let us take a look at a few benefits and drawbacks of following this diet.
- Following the paleo diet might help you in losing those extra pounds. According to a study published by Nutrition Journal, the paleo diet may assist in controlling weight and has a significant effect on the Body Mass Index and waist circumference.
- Processed foods and added sugar are known to increase cardiovascular health risks. As the paleo diet restricts the consumption of these foods, we can say that it may lower the CVD risk factors. Although there is a study that shows some evidence of the diet’s beneficial effects on cardiovascular risks, it states that more well-designed trials are required to be conclusive.
- With the inclusion of vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs, lean meats, nuts and seeds in the paleo diet, you tend to eat nutrient-rich foods. Following this diet, you are presented with healthier options that fill you up. Furthermore, the antioxidants and phytochemicals from fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds also offer anti-inflammatory benefits.
- The paleo diet eliminates entire food groups like cereal grains and dairy products. This might keep you from meeting your nutritional needs. Without the intake of dairy, you might face calcium deficiency. Although there are other sources to replace these food groups, it would be a challenge to match their nourishment in today’s time.
- The elimination of dairy products from the diet also cuts off your large source of iodine which may cause iodine deficiency. The paleo diet also recommends avoiding table salt as it is a processed ingredient. But being iodized, this table salt helps us in keeping the iodine deficiency disorders at bay. This is a vital point to consider before switching to the hunter-gatherer diet.
- There is also a possibility of consuming excessive red meat while following the paleo diet. And with this increased intake, you stand a higher chance of suffering from the risk of coronary heart disease as you eat more saturated fats.
- It is not possible to completely adopt the paleo diet in today’s era as plants and animals have also evolved with time. It is difficult to say whether you would receive the same amount of nutrients from them as our ancestors received in the Paleolithic era.
That is all that the paleo diet has to it. While it certainly looks promising, it does have quite a few challenges that followers might face if they stick to it. If you do not find suitable replacements for the eliminated food groups, your body might have to bear a nutrient imbalance. While the paleo diet might be great for those on a weight-loss journey, you must keep a check on the intake of red meat and saturated fats as that can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disorders. Many from the paleo diet community have also come up with a modern-day paleo diet which is modified to include the foods that science suggests to be healthy. Taking all the benefits and drawbacks into consideration, it is recommended to make a choice that is best for your health.
About the Author : Ketki H is a wandering soul who loves travelling solo, and firmly believes in enjoying the journey rather than hurrying to the destination. Although a graduate in Mechanical Engineering, she took to writing for reaching the masses.
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