What is it?
The paleolithic diet, paleo for short and sometimes referred to as the ‘caveman’ diet, is named so in reference to the eating habits of ancient humans during the Paleolithic Age. The argument for the paleo diet is that because our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate as nature intended, so too should we. That being the case, individuals are expected to eliminate all ‘modern’ foods (anything that could not be hunted or gathered) from his/her diet. The ideal goal here is that by eliminating modern-era foods such as highly processed carbs and dairy, one can control or even avoid ‘diseases of civilization’ (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc.) and hopefully lose weight.
‘Yes’ and ‘No’ Foods
‘Yes’ foods include lean, grass-fed meats, wild fish, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, and certain fruits. It also encourages monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as avocado and olive oil.
‘No’ foods include cereal grains (wheat, rye, oats, rice), dairy, potatoes, legumes (beans and peanuts), refined sugar, processed foods, and refined vegetable oils. Interestingly, although the paleo diet excludes whole grains, there is evidence that suggests the diet of ancient humans from thousands of years ago may have included bread.
Pros and Cons
Unfortunately, although there have been some scientific studies pertaining to paleo, there just isn’t enough conclusive evidence to make definitive claims about potential health benefits. The only substantiated health benefit is that it could lead to weight loss. But, that is all (unsurprisingly) based on what you eat and how well you exercise -- which is heavily intertwined with paleo itself. Why? They may not have thought of it as ‘exercise,’ but hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic Age were always on the move.
As with all diets, the paleo lifestyle does have potential health risks. However, to help alleviate any concern, consult your doctor to make absolute sure that it’s okay for you to go on the diet. If you’re greenlit, be aware that cost and commitment are going to be key issues. Paleo-oriented food is more expensive than average food due to it being all-natural; meanwhile, commitment is vital to all exercise and dieting. Although an individual is more likely to maintain commitment to something that is easy, enjoyable, and gives satisfying results, people realistically have different levels of adaptability and stoicism.
Just because you follow a ‘healthy diet’ that includes healthy food and exercise, it does mean the road ahead is going to be easy. Eating properly and exercising correctly are imperative. If someone follows the diet correctly by cutting out processed foods, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, then swaps them out for more fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, that individual is likely to see some sort of health benefit(s). As far as exercise goes, try to complete at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity activity (such as brisk walking) every week with a couple days of muscle-strengthening activities. Always try to make a habit of diet and exercise by planning in advance. Once it becomes routine, you’re (hopefully) on your way to happier and healthier living.