How could a diet with such a name become popular is not easy to understand, but the fact is that the media is full of stories about its advantages. It helps that various athletes swear by it and would eat nothing else. What on Earth the cavemen ate and why should we do the same, when we have such fantastic choices and diversity of things to eat?
What is the Paleo diet?
The Paleolithic diet, the caveman diet or Stone Age diet, and hunter-gatherer diet consists of foods that are believed to have been eaten by humans before they settled and invented agriculture. The Paleolithic period lasted from the time the first humans started using tools, about 2.5 million years ago, until they started tending crops, about 10,000 years ago. The diet available to them during this period came from hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants: fish, meat, eggs, some wild vegetables and fruits, roots and nuts. Common foods available today did not exist then: grains, legumes, salt, sugar and processed oils.
Proponents of Paleo diet believe that this diet might prevent common modern ailments such as obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Its goal is to convince people to lead a healthier, more active life, without the use of processed foods.
Does it work?
Except a small study (29 people only), which found that three weeks of Paleo diet may improve glucose tolerance in some people, there is no scientific support for the benefits of Paleo diet. In fact, doctors warn that Paleo diet lacks many substances necessary for the healthy nutrition, such as calcium and many other minerals.
The logic behind the call for eating similar to what our ancestors ate 10,000 years ago is understandable. It is clear that the modern diet, which mostly consists of processed food, full of chemical additives and too much sugar, is affecting our health on the large scale. The proponents of Paleo diet claim that this type of nutrition is the one we are most genetically adapted to, and that the modern diet choices affect our hormonal balance.
Of course, any diet which lets you eat a lot of meat will be popular, particularly among young, healthy males such as athletes. Add some healthy fruits and vegetables, and you have the recipe for a good nutrition. And if some minerals are lacking, no problem, just pop some supplements. What, there were no supplements during the Paleolithic Era? It is just a small detail. It is true that humans then probably did not suffer from diabetes, but they did suffer from all sorts of other diseases, such as malnutrition.
Use with care
Paleo diet is similar to other diets that hit the media some time ago, such as Atkins. There is a lot of common sense behind diets that promote simpler nutrition, which includes lean meats, fish and fresh fruits and vegetables. Giving up completely legumes and whole grains, as well as milk and milk products is counter-productive.
There are enough people who found Paleo diet very successful, whether they wanted to lower their insulin level, to increase their energy or lose some weight. But, since there is no research to confirm that their food choice was to thank for their success, we can believe that they should thank for their improved health to simply avoiding processed food, too much sugar and food additives, and eating more lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables, which is what all doctors and nutritionists recommend anyway.
Regardless of how attractive a diet looks when you read about it in the media, consult your doctor before embarking on yet another dietary fad. Any diet which recommends avoiding an entire food group should be seen as potentially damaging. In addition, how long can any of us survive without a piece of nice, crusty bread with a slice of cheese?
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