Paleo Diet – Healthy or Bluff

The Paleo Diet may have grown in popularity since the 1970s, but it’s been around for a lot longer than that. Sometimes called the caveman or hunter-gatherer diet, this nutritional plan is based on the concept of returning to our Stone Age roots by eating foods that complement our genetics. The diet suggests that if our ancestor’s diet kept them around long enough for us to be here, then returning to that diet should be the best choice for our bodies.

It seems like a reasonable proposition, but it raises a few questions. So what are the answers? Is the Paleolithic Diet all it is cracked up to be, or is it all a bluff?

Why the Paleo Diet?

The first thing to do is understand why the Paleolithic Diet is proposed at all. It was only within the last few thousand years that our species discovered farming and kicked off a series of agriculture revolutions. The first was called the Neolithic Revolution, and it was in this “New Stone Age” that we humans transitioned from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one of agriculture and civilization—settling down and trading our caves for societies and fresh food for more processed goods. Because 10,000 years is only a droplet when compared with the millions of years it took for humans to evolve, proponents of the Caveman Diet say that this change in nutritional intake was very sudden in contrast to our development as a species. The change was so quick that it didn’t give our bodies the chance to completely evolve or adapt. Therefore, despite our new dietary habits and living arrangements, we are still genetically similar to our hunter-gatherer relatives of the past.

What is the Paleo Diet?

Not concerned with counting calories, scheduling meals, exercising, or inspecting your bathroom scale every night, the Caveman Diet is definitely unique when measured against other modern diets. This simple plan is centered solely on what you should and should not eat, or more specifically: what the cavemen would and would not eat.

To put it simply, the Paleolithic Diet recommends its users to consume contemporary foods that best resemble what was available to our ancestors over 10,000 years ago; primarily foods like: eggs, fish, fowl, fruit, fungi, grass-fed meats, natural oils, nuts, roots, tubers, and vegetables. Likewise, the diet prohibits certain food groups that, for millions of years, hominins did not eat. These spurned foods are full of trans fats and sugars, and come from alcohol, cereals, dairy products, grains, potatoes, processed oils, and refined salt and sugar. More than 70% of the daily food intake in the United States comes from these products , and advocates of the diet assert they create little to no energy, are bad for the brain, and are the origin of serious illnesses like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure , osteoporosis, and obesity.

But what do you wash it all down with? Water is the obvious frontrunner for the average dieter. However, there are a few other options—among which you will find herbal teas, certain alcoholic beverages, and real fruit juice. But, as mentioned, water is the king, and proponents of the diet are correct in their assertion that it is the most refreshing and rewarding thing one can drink (after a few days of acclimation, of course).

Positives and Negatives to the Paleo Diet

Whether it’s inconvenient, disgusting or drains all your energy, every diet has its positives and negatives, and the Paleo Diet is no different.

The positives come with the facts of the diet itself. It is not a raw food plan, so you can cook your meats and vegetables however you like. And with a diet running on less carbohydrates, you can eat as much as you like and not gain weight (since your body burns more stored fat for energy). The diet’s lean meats and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables not only satisfy nutritional needs, but they also give energy, prevent overeating, and assist with weight loss.

So what’s the bad news? Some of the Paleolithic Diet’s negative aspects include expensiveness, an unavailability to vegetarians, taking calcium supplements, finding the right food, avoiding the wrong food, and quitting coffee. These are the kinds of setbacks that any dietary veteran is familiar with.

First, the expensiveness of the Caveman Diet comes with buying the required grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, fresh fish, and organic fruits and vegetables. It takes a bit of research and hard work to avoid breaking the bank with this diet, but it can be done.

Second, there is not much room for vegetarians on the Paleo Diet train . Our cavemen ancestors were way too fond of meat—plus their bodies really needed it.

Third, since dairy products are forbidden, advocates of the diet say that calcium supplements have to be taken when the dieter has had a limited intake of green leafy vegetables.

Fourthly, while the Paleo Diet is very simple, some meal situations will prove to be difficult. Along with restaurants, Paleolithic Dieters often find breakfast to be an obstacle to overcome, since we have all been taught to consume high amounts dairy, breads, and grains in the morning.

Finally (and while we are on the subject of mornings), those who are considering a pure Paleolithic Diet have to call it quits with coffee. The horror! The good news is that many dieters find that their new “caveman diet” actually gives them so much more energy that their thirst for coffee becomes a thing of the past.

Questioning the Paleo Diet

So is the Hunter Gathered Diet really as healthy as they say? There are several reasonable arguments against it, and many of them are worth addressing for readers who aren’t sure if this is the diet for them.

One argument is the fact that hunter-gatherers were significantly more active than humans are today. Unlike us, they spent the majority of their lives tracking and hunting down prey, climbing trees to reach fruit, trekking across the land in search for nuts and berries, and fighting for their lives against predators and their fellow men. Like any nutritional plan, however, the Stone Age Diet is often recommended along with an exercise routine. Every animal is designed to stay active and get at least a little bit of exercise every day. And while your 30 minutes on the treadmill might not be as blood-pumping as sprinting from a saber-toothed cat, you have to work with what you have.

Speaking of working with what you have, another argument against the Paleo Diet is that there are some old foods that we simply do not have access to. Paleo-dieters are aware that they don’t have the exact same foods of their ancestors; nevertheless, there is still plenty of foodstuff that are close enough to maintain the philosophy. Besides, avoiding food is more than half the battle of the Paleo-dieter.

Critics of the diet have also pointed out that humans have evolved since the Paleolithic Era, and that basing a diet on what was available so long ago is an extraneous solution. It is on this note that many Paleo-dieters and skeptics disagree. Advocates of the diet are aware that the human body is constantly evolving, and while it is accurate to say that we are not exactly the same (those pesky wisdom teeth proves that much), it is also true that we are still very similar to our Paleolithic ancestors. The way in which the human body reacts to grain-based and dairy products proves that our modern diet is still fairly new to our genetics, and thinking critically about what we eat will always be to our advantage.

We are very far from finding the perfect foods to eat, but the fact that our species has had very little time to adapt to agricultural and high-calorie foods still holds up. Hundreds of people claim that this “Stone Age” nutritional plan works wonders for their health. So if it you are looking for a way to stay lean, strong and active like our ancestors, the Paleo Diet is a great way to start.

Your Guide to Paleo

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