What Is Paleo Diet?
To make it clear – Paleo diet has been very popular nowadays, it forbids dairy, legumes, grains, and processed junk foods in favor of nuts and meat – lots of meat. It is said to be inspired by our ancient ancestors, but is this diet really based on Paleolithic lifestyle and is it truly beneficial for our health?
Where Did it Come From?
Let’s look at our Paleolithic ancestors, just as everything else, we have evolved along with our digestion system. What might have been beneficial to humans a few millions years ago, might not be as beneficial nowadays. The paleo diet does not consider this and assumes that we have the same gut health as our short-lived ancestors, which we (obviously) don’t.
Another difference between now and then lies in the distinct quality of meat and vegetables. The wild animals people ate back then provided an around 6 to 16% of calories from fat compared to about 40-60% in today’s domestic animals (even those grass-fed ones). They were also free of hormones, antibiotics, and environmental contaminants. Not to mention ALL animal organs were consumed, and insects provided significant amounts of protein.
Are There Any Benefits?
YES there are! You are more likely to eat a clean diet without additives, preservatives, or chemicals. There are anti-inflammatory benefits from the plant nutrients in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. You may see improved satiety — a feeling of fullness between meals, due to the higher intake of protein and fats. Many people lose weight primarily due to the limited food choices.
What About Nutritional Values?
Preagricultural diets actually consisted of wild plants, wild animals, and wild fish. This varied depending on location, season, hunting skills, tools, and so on. There was no consumption of oil, sugar, or salt, nothing from a box or bag. Today’s paleo diet claims to copy this diet. However by eating meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds and cutting out processed foods, grains, legumes, and dairy products. Okay, so the elimination of sugars and processed foods makes sense!
BUT….wait! What’s wrong with whole grains and beans? The truth is that these foods are safe and healthy. They have a long and impressive record as a valuable source of calories and protein. They are also full of vitamins and minerals beneficial for the health. A great example are the people of the Blue Zones (the longest lived, healthiest populations in the world) all of whom consume legumes and grains as part of their traditional diet.
Nutritional anthropologists have been estimating the nutrient intakes of cavemen for several decades. As it turns out, vegan diets may actually come closer to matching the Paleolithic diets than actual paleo diet.
The bottom line is:
If following a Paleo diet helps you eat more of the good stuff while cutting out excess sugar and processed foods from your diet. Go for it! Remember the best diet for one person is not the best diet for everyone.
A Paleo dieter consumes about 700mg of calcium daily while the recommended intake is 1,000mg, and is low vitamin D. Cavemen didn’t take supplements nor did they drink diet soda (which by the Paleo diet standards is allowed in limited amounts). A good point to remember is that most of the cave men didn’t live past 30.
If you chose Paleo diet try to incorporate the diet’s best principles focusing on whole foods, lean proteins, and make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need. Paleo diet ignores the known health risks associated with eating excessed amount of meat.
People who want to move closer to a true Paleolithic diet should explore plant-based diets. Such diets come as close to true paleo diets as modern day people can hope to achieve.
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