Food science may have advanced the shelf life and cost of groceries, but the paleolithic diet may help people get back to the basics of health.
Modern Food Problems
There are many things that are unnatural about modern, engineered, and processed food, from GMOs (genetically modified) to hydrogenated fats to high fructose corn syrup. Some foods contain toxins, hormones, and antibiotics. High sodium, low fiber, and artificial colors and flavors are also contributing to diabetes, heart disease, behavioral issues, inflammation, migraines, cancer, and other health problems.1 A return to basics can be a return to a healthy lifestyle.
What is the Paleolithic Diet?
The paleo diet, or “caveman diet”, is an ancestral diet more in touch with how people have evolved. Human genetics have not caught up with the highly processed diet of the last couple of generations. The main thrust of the paleolithic diet is to avoid fats and processed foods to “keep the blood glucose and insulin levels balanced”. The hope is that this diet is “anti-inflammatory in nature”. Because of the variety of foods in the paleolithic diet, the risk of allergies is reduced.2 In general, to follow the diet, a person would eat fish, seafood, and grass-produced meats, as well as fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts and seeds. Eggs, and healthful oils, are also recommended on this diet. On the paleo diet, people would avoid dairy, legumes, cereal grains, refined sugar and processed foods, potatoes, salt, and refined vegetable oils.3
Benefits of the Paleo Diet
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 weight loss and muscle building. Grains have carbohydrates thatmay contribute to storing fat. Gluten, found in many grains, can also cause issues in people who are gluten-intolerant (i.e., reflux, dermatitis, digestive problems, joint pain, etc.). Sugar, except that which is found in fresh fruit, can cause an “energy spike” and lead to a “crash” that may turn into fat. Carbohydrates on the paleo diet can come from non-processed sources such as vegetables, fruits, and sweet potatoes. They are “nutrient dense and calorie light”. Avoiding dairy has an added benefit for those who are lactose intolerant. A person on this diet can eat local foods from farmers’ markets, as well.4 In general, this diet favors 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. It may, however, reduce blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.5