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Otherwise known as the caveman diet, the paleo diet is no stranger to those interested in improving their health. This “caveman” diet is a paleolithic era idea that takes a swing back through time to take at what humans were thought to have eaten 2 million years ago.1
The paleo diet has been shown to have greater weight loss, improved body composition, lowered lipid level, decreased blood pressure and improved insulin resistance status.1
The foods are simple and fundamental, but can paleo make itself at home in the present day?
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What’s In Your Stone Soup?
The main premise of the diet is that it avoids food that would not have been eaten the cavemen days of long ago. This means no whole grains or refined grains or cereals, sugars, dairy, or legumes as the main forbidden foods.1 White potatoes, most processed foods and refined oils are on the outs as well.1
You would eat just what the caveman would have had available and edible in their surroundings including meats, fresh fruit and berries, vegetables, some honey, and root vegetables in moderation1 just as they would have only been available seasonally.
While there has been some confusion linking the Keto and Paleo diets to the same club, they really are two different beasts. Paleo has no carb restriction and it does not allow dairy.1 It is important to note that the paleo diet does NOT lead to ketosis.1
Who Will Benefit
You don’t have to be a caveman to follow this diet; studies have shown multiple groups that could benefit.
- This includes a study done with women in menopause, and found to reduce risk of cancers overall, particularly colon cancer and reduce oxidative stress, similar to the results of a Mediterranean diet.2
- Another study was in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, thought to be useful as a therapeutic addition to manage the disease.2
- A 2019 meta analysis showed a positive correlation between paleo diet and cardiovascular disease, though they did mention to take it with a grain of salt; that more studies were still needed.4
- A paleolithic diet was used in a randomized controlled trial on individuals with MS and concluded that a paleo diet can reduce fatigue and inflammation as well as increase mental capacity and quality of life.4
Who Should Leave This Diet in The Past?
Because it cuts out whole food groups, again, you’re going to want to make sure your practitioners know what you’re doing and can assist with any necessary supplementation.
As paleo avoids dairy, those with osteoporosis will want to discuss with their doctor and nutritionist before joining in as effort will need to be made to ensure calcium is coming from other sources.3
Cons and Challenges of the Diet
While there are certainly benefits to joining the paleo club, the diet can be hard to adhere to in the long-term.1 It can be challenging to eat out and enjoy meals unless you’re with other Flintstones or Rubbles that eat the way you do and you find restaurants that are accommodating. That being said, eating out is not the best option if you’re looking for health, so if you are an on the go kind of person, you might want to consider that before you jump on the stone wagon.
Cultures that avoid meat can still do a vegan/vegetarian version of paleo, but supplementation might want to be considered.
It can also be a challenge that there are multiple versions of the paleo diet presented to the public, so what individuals might be using may not be the clean and pure versions of the true paleo.2 There are other diets, like the mediterranean, that can serve the same benefits and maybe even more so, that might be a bit more flexible to today’s options.1
Here’s What You Can Do To Keep It Simple and Effective
- Use reputable sources for information to minimize exaggerated hype put out by wellness bloggers and social media stars.5
- Keep it real - with real foods that is. Any diet will be most effective if food sources contain quality nutrients, and paleo is no different.
- Shop the outskirts of your grocery store, perusing the butchered meats and produce sections, avoiding the condiments, boxed and canned packaged processed foods that are a no-go on this diet.
When done effectively and consciously, the paleo diet can be a great addition to improving wellbeing, and might be worth a second look.
1 Ross, Kim. "Paleo Diet." Lecture, Dietary Patterns-Health Promotions, SCNM, Arizona, n.d.
2 Challa, H. & Uppaluri, K. StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing; Treasure Island (FL): Feb 18, 2020. Paleolithic Diet. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482457/
3 Ghaedi E, Mohammadi M, Mohammadi H, et al. Effects of a Paleolithic Diet on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials [published correction appears in Adv Nutr. 2020 Jul 1;11(4):1054]. Adv Nutr. 2019;10(4):634-646. doi:10.1093/advances/nmz007
4 Irish AK, Erickson CM, Wahls TL, Snetselaar LG, Darling WG. Randomized control trial evaluation of a modified Paleolithic dietary intervention in the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: a pilot study. Degener Neurol Neuromuscul Dis. 2017;7:1-18. Published 2017 Jan 4. doi:10.2147/DNND.S116949
5 Pitt CE. Cutting through the Paleo hype: The evidence for the Palaeolithic diet. Aust Fam Physician. 2016;45(1):35-38.