The Paleo diet is based on the notion that if we eat like our “caveman” ancestors did in the Paleolithic era, we'll lose weight and decrease our risk of chronic disease. The diet emphasizes foods that were originally hunted or gathered such as meats, fruit and vegetables and eliminates any added sugar, salt, whole grains, dairy, and legumes such as beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts; blaming these foods in part for the onset of chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
At first glance this diet appears to follow the standard dietary recommendations that a Registered Dietitian would give to their clients such as increasing fresh fruits and vegetables, minimizing refined sugars and added salt. However, the additional eliminations of entire food groups such as grains and dairy not only fall short of completing a well-balanced diet, but may potentially deplete the body of critical nutrients contained in those foods- one of which is fiber (AND, 2013). The fiber contained in whole grains and legumes have been associated in a number of studies with lowering incidence of chronic conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and even certain cancers. Additionally, meals that contain more fiber help you feel full more rapidly; thus making it easier to eat less while you’re trying to lose weight (Slavin, 2002).
The assumption that eating like our ancestors will help us live healthier lives may be selling short the other factors that affect our modern-day wellbeing such as environmental pollution and lack of activity/exercise. Prior to the industrial age, our caveman ancestors were free to roam the earth with minimal environmental pollution and led much more active lives hunting and gathering their food and belongings necessary to sustain life. Unfortunately, today’s modern conveniences have made it easier for us to lead sedentary lives.
Good nutritional plans are ones that can be followed for the rest of your life and are balanced with all major food groups-fruits/vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy. Couple your diet with regular physical activity and you’ll have a winning combination to help you not only lose weight but decrease your risk of chronic health issues.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Should We Eat Like Our Caveman Ancestors?, http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442471551&terms=paleo, April 2013.
Slavin JL. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Volume 102, Issue 7, 993-1000, July 2002.