Ah yes, The Paleo Diet. Another in the seemingly unending stream of diets that purports to have the answer to all your weight loss woes, but does it really work? What is it all about? And most importantly, is it for you?
What Is The Paleo Diet?
As you can probably guess, the main idea of the Paleolithic Diet is that we would all be much better off by following the eating habits of your ancestors from the Stone Ages.
Hence, The Paleo Diet (a.k.a The Stone Age Diet, The Caveman Diet or The Hunter-Gatherer Diet) involves consuming only wild animals and plants from our pre-agricultural roots. Basically, the plan has been designed to promote a healthier lifestyle by taking our diets back to their primitive origins.
The idea of Paleo diet and nutrition was first discussed in the 1970s by Walter Voegtlin. The concept was further researched by S. Boyd Eaton, Marjorie Shostak and Melvin Konner and popularized by their paper in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Basic Rules of the Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet allows a pretty good variety of foods…
- Fish and Seafood
- Other Meats from pasture fed animals
- Unlimited amounts of Fruits and Vegetables
Not allowed by the plan are foods like…
- Dairy products
- Refined sugar
- Processed oils
Drinks other than water are not allowed in the Paleolithic diet plans. Raw honey and coconut palm sugar are allowed as sweeteners but also in limited quantities.
There are numerous variations of the plan. Some are more flexible and make concessions for things like olive oil or grains that are gluten free. Others are stricter and encourage intermittent fasting and some allow nothing more than raw foods.
The possible positive effects on your health are quite impressive. So many ailments that we suffer from these days are due to the highly processed and artificial food we eat, so it would only make sense that switching back to our natural diets should help alleviate them.
Of course you can lose weight with it, but there are plenty of other claimed health benefits.
One of which is that by changing your source of carbohydrates your body will become less acidic and more alkaline which will improve symptoms of anything from hypertension to asthma to osteoporosis.
Another benefit of getting those carbs from fruits and veggies is a low glycemic index. Low GI means slower blood sugar releases and lower insulin levels. This is one of the biggest factors that can help with the obesity epidemic and our rampant cholesterol problems.
There are countless other benefits that are claimed and backed up by testimonials. Too many to list here, but do a search and you’ll find plenty.
There are a couple drawbacks, but they can be easily compensated for. The most common complaints are that you will lack in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is easy enough to consume since there are plenty of allowed green vegetables with calcium.
Vitamin D is a bit tougher. Mushrooms contain a little bit, but you’ll either have to break away from the cave and supplement or spend plenty of time in the sun to make sure you get your 15 micrograms.
The only other real concern is making sure you chose lean meat cuts. Eating a bunch of fatty meat would undo all the other good you’re doing.
So Is It a Good Idea or Not?
IMHO, yes very much so…but with a couple precautions, most of which you just need to be smart about and determine what works for you.
First and foremost, make sure you get your Calcium and Vitamin D and watch your fat intake. Most of the plans put your calories from fat close to 40% which is too high according to almost all official standards. Get a few more calories from your veggies and you’ll be fine though.
The elimination of salt, refined sugars and processed oils should be more than enough to get you losing weight and more importantly get you feeling better and healthier. However, with a system that uses words like “unlimited” even when referring to fruits and veggies, be sensible. It’s entirely possible to get too many calories by sitting around eating fruit all day.
Exercise… They suggest you get a couple hours per day of low impact exercise like brisk walking which is fine. However, a lot of people don’t have that kind of time and there is a lot of research coming out that high intensity short interval training is better. You decide which works for you, just don’t forget about exercising!
Cost… We live in a world where a liter of Pepsi costs less than a liter of water and a bag of chips is less than a bag of broccoli. This kind of diet could get expensive so be prepared.
Finally, by all means follow along with the principles of the Paleo Diet, but don’t go overboard. This is the kind of diet that will attract zealots, and you’ll see their websites all over the Internet. Don’t get sucked in though, those guidelines are fine for the extremists.
Stick to a more moderate variation that allows certain grains and certain oils and you’ll not only find yourself in better health, but find it much easier to actually stick with.
So if the Paleo Diet sounds like your brand of Vodka (it does allow for moderate alcohol!), then by all means give it shot! It might not be perfect, but it’s light years ahead of what most of us eat on a daily basis.
If you’re interested in finding out more about The Paleo Diet I linked to a couple of good resources on the right. There is lots of free information on the web, but these books bundle it up nicely.
Can’t resist the obvious sign off…
Randy “Captain Caaaave Maaayayaan!” Lee