When it comes to diet and nutrition it looks like what was old (actually really REALLY old) is new again. If you’ve read the magazine racks at your local grocery store checkout line, you’re most likely familiar with the newest weight loss solution, the “Paleo Diet”. It may be the newest health craze, but its roots date back to prehistoric times.
Also known as the “Caveman Diet,” the Paleo way of eating is based on the belief that modern humans can achieve optimal health by eating the way our ancestors did before the advent of agriculture.
The theory is based on the idea that modern human digestive systems weren’t designed to handle the refined sugars, starchy carbs, grains, legumes, and dairy products that have made their way into our diets over the past 10,000 years. The result has been the steady expansion of our waistlines and an increase in the rates of chronic disease.
As Mark Sisson, creator of “The Primal Blueprint”, explains in Mark’s Daily Apple blog,
“Our ancestors evolved over millions of years under certain environmental conditions. While the world has changed in innumerable ways in the last 10,000 years, the human genome has changed very little and thus only thrives under similar conditions. Simply put, if you want a good future you better listen to your past.”
He and other prominent advocates of the Paleo Diet (Dr. Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet; Chris Kresser, Integrative Medicine Practitioner and creator of The Personal Paleo Code; and Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution) suggest that optimal health depends on going back to time before we learned how to farm, homogenize, sweeten, refine, fry and do all the other things to food that make them convenient, tasty and bacteria-free. Since our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t seem to suffer from modern diet-related diseases like heart disease and diabetes, the theory is that we, too, might avoid these conditions if we stick to a pre-agricultural meal plan.
Foods in the Paleo Diet
Paleolithic times include the prehistoric period of human history known for the development of primitive stone tools. The foods in the Paleo Diet include the following items that our ancestors were able to hunt and gather during these times:
- Grass-fed meats
- Fruits and vegetables (except for starchy varieties)
- Nuts and seeds (in moderation)
- Healthy fats (i.e. olive oil, fish oil, and avocado)
- Herbs and spices
Note: People who participate in intense cardiovascular activity lasting more than 60 minutes per day, or who have very active jobs, can consume root vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and pumpkin. These foods help to increase glycogen stores in the body as part of athletic training.
Foods Not Allowed in the Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet generally discourages the consumption of the following:
- Grains (even whole grains)
- Legumes (including beans, lentils, and peanuts)
- All processed foods, sugars, and sugar substitutes
In general, this regimen is fairly low in carbs and high in protein and fat. Enthusiasts of the Paleo Diet argue that eating this way, combined with regular daily exercise and effective stress management, stabilizes blood sugar and reduces inflammation throughout the body. This, in turn, leads to healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels, the release of excess body fat, and a lower risk for degenerative disease.
A Typical Day on the Paleo Diet
Paleo Dieters need to be a bit more creative than most because of the limited grocery list to choose from. Below are sample items you would see on a Paleo Diet menu:
Paleo Diet – Breakfast
- Scrambled eggs with sliced avocado and salsa
- Steak and eggs
- Western omelet
- Fruit salad with cinnamon
Paleo Diet – Lunch
Paleo Diet – Dinner
- Lamb with sweet red peppers
- Grilled flank steak with pineapple salsa
- Salmon with coconut cream sauce
- Baked portobello and tuna
Paleo Diet – Dessert
Paleo Diet – Snacks
For more recipe ideas for the Paleo Diet, click here.
Coming Up Next …
Part two of the “Understanding the Paleo Diet” series will dive into the science behind the Paleo Diet. Learn about the pros and cons of the Paleo Diet plan, nutritional value of Paleo foods, the long term effects from following the diet plan, and much more!