The Paleo Diet - Is it a Step in the Right Direction?

By Joy Musselman

The Paleo Diet, also referred to as the Caveman Diet, has grabbed some attention lately. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, but let’s take a closer look at the Paleo Diet. Is it really a step in the right direction?

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The basic premise of this diet is that we should eat like our hunger-gatherer ancestors who lived 10,000 years ago. Paleo Diet supporters reason that our bodies are designed to eat this diet and doing so will optimize our health.

What can you eat on the Paleo Diet?

Basically, if the food wasn’t around during the caveman times, it’s not allowed in your diet. Processed foods, grains, dairy, legumes, processed oils, sugar, and salt are banned. Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are encouraged. If you’re thirsty, choices include water, coconut water, and organic green tea. If you crave something sweet, enjoy foods made with raw honey or coconut palm sugar-in moderate amounts. Exercise is also encouraged. After all, our hunter-gatherer ancestors were continually on the move!

Paleo Advantages

Health experts certainly agree that Americans eat too many processed foods and consume too much sugar and salt, which the Caveman Diet definitely minimizes. The Caveman plan also has the advantage of being high in fruits and vegetables, and it also provides adequate potassium for blood pressure and bone health. There is also plenty of protein.

Paleo Disadvantages

Despite the advantages of the Paleo Diet, nutrition experts have many concerns. Foremost is the lack of nutrient rich foods such as whole grains, dairy, and legumes, which are vital fiber and lean protein sources. Excluding dairy products is likely to contribute to calcium and vitamin D deficiencies.

Eating like our ancestors may also be unrealistically expensive. Most of Paleo-prohibited meat sold in markets comes from domesticated sources, and much of our produce is cultivated. Grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, and organic fruits and vegetables could overwhelm the average household’s grocery budget.

Eating like a caveman does not guarantee a decreased risk of disease. The high fat content of the Paleo Diet may actually contribute to heart disease. The only way the Paleo Diet will lead to weight loss is if one also limits their calorie intake on the diet. Simply following the Paleo plan is not enough.

The Final Word

While the Paleo Diet offers some health advantages, it may not be the best option. A Registered Dietitian can help you incorporate some of the beneficial principles of Paleo eating without having to eliminate nutrient-rich whole grains, dairy, and legumes.