Modern Food Problems
Food science has allowed the shelf life of food to retain its functionality for longer. It has allowed the cost reduction of many types of products as part of the advancement. However, the methods employed in the paleolithic diet may help people get back to the basics of health. We have lost many of these basics as part of the continuing effects of modern food science.
There are many things that are unnatural about modern, engineered, and processed food. These include the presence of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), hydrogenated fats and high fructose corn syrup which are found in many foods and affect those who eat them. Some foods contain toxins, added hormones, and antibiotics. Meat especially tends to contain these types of additives. Foods which are high in sodium, low in fiber, and contain added artificial colors and flavors are also contributing to a rise in cases of the development of health conditions. These include diabetes, heart disease, behavioral issues, inflammation, migraines, cancer, and other health problems in those who eat these modified foods.¹ A return to the basics of diet can be a return to a healthy lifestyle.
What is the Paleolithic Diet?
The paleo diet, also known as the “caveman diet”, is an ancestral style of diet which is supposed to be more in touch with how people have evolved. Human genetics have not been given enough time to catch up with the highly processed diet of the last couple of generations. Blame it on the speed at which technology advances when compared to the slower rate of human evolution.
The main thrust of the paleolithic diet is to avoid fats and processed foods to focus on keeping the levels of blood glucose and insulin balanced. The hope is that this diet is already anti-inflammatory in its nature. Following the diet reduces the risk of allergies affecting the patient because of the variety of foods which the paleolithic diet allows.² In general, in order to follow the diet, a person would eat fish, seafood, and grass-produced meats, as well as fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts and seeds. The diet also recommends eggs and certain types of oils which are healthier than others. On the paleo diet, people would avoid dairy, legumes, cereal grains, refined sugar and processed foods, potatoes, salt, and refined vegetable oils. Generally, the patient has to completely eliminate these types of foods from their diet.³
Benefits of the Paleo Diet
Weight Loss and Muscle Gain
It is thought that if people follow the paleolithic diet, they may no longer have to worry about counting calories. The paleo diet may help in the areas of both weight loss and muscle building. Grains have carbohydrates that may contribute to storing fat.
Preventing Gluten and Sugar-Related Health Issues
Gluten, found in many grains, can also cause issues in people who are gluten-intolerant. These include those who experience symptoms of reflux, dermatitis, digestive problems, joint pain, etc. following the consumption of gluten, or those who already really need to totally eliminate gluten from their diet, like patients with celiac disease.
Sugar, except for that which is found in fresh fruit, can cause an “energy spike” in the patient. This can lead to a “crash” that may turn into fat. Carbohydrates which are present in the paleo diet can come from non-processed sources such as vegetables, fruits, and sweet potatoes. They are dense in the necessary nutrients and lighter in calories when compared to the carbohydrates found in processed foods.
Beneficial to those who are Lactose Intolerant
Avoiding dairy has an added benefit for those who are also lactose intolerant, as dairy is increasingly irritating to the bodies of those who do not process it properly.
Supports the Local Businesses
A person on this diet can eat local foods from farmers’ markets, as well. This gives the added benefit of supporting local small businesses in addition to giving the patient the knowledge of where their food is really coming from, as opposed to just seeing food as ingredients on a list.4
In general, this diet does favor those who eat meat, avoid gluten, and wish to avoid sodium. It does not allow for grains and dairy, and the diet can be pricey. This is in part due to the lack of added preservatives and cheap ingredients that packaged foods at the store contain. Patients also need to be aware of any recalls on produce. The paleo diet may be able to aid the patient in reducing their blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
There are also other types of diets, other than paleo, which follow similar principles of returning to the basics of food and which teach avoidance of processed foods. Patients should find the diet which works for them and their individual allergies and sensitivities. The paleolithic diet is one of the many options available which could offer a solution.5