Paleolithic diet: a modern attempt at ancient dieting

The Paleolithic diet, which is more commonly referred to as ‘Paleo’, is a recent diet that is gaining some popularity within the exercise and fitness community. Most people who participate in the CrossFit program are encouraged by their peers to adopt this diet and lifestyle, but its popularity doesn’t stretch too far outside of this community. Scientists, anthropologists, and dietitians do not hold the same opinion of Paleo. The Paleo diet’s aim is essentially to replicate the diet of hunter-gatherers by eating fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and local sources of protein. It tries to eliminate processed foods, grain fed meats, and bad fats. According to Paleo enthusiasts, this is what preagricultural societies would eat and our bodies are meant to function better by avoiding foods that weren’t consumed before the agricultural revolution, such as dairy, salt, sugar, and processed oils. While this is not a bad school of thought for some to follow, it is quite extreme and the criticism is based on the validity of the diet actually being what our Paleolithic relatives would have eaten. For example, a Paleo meal consisting of avocados, a nice steak, and baked sweet potato fries would follow the dietary guidelines, but all of these foods come from different places and many of the foods we eat would never have been featured in the same meal during the Paleolithic period. Apart from the criticisms from scientists and anthropologists, some dietitians oppose the diet by suggesting that there is nothing wrong with eating dairy products or eating grains.

While it’s easy to question the validity of the diet or what these people actually ate around 10,000 years ago, there are definitely some pros and cons to the diet. The biggest pro is that it is in fact a healthy diet to have; I think most people would agree that eating fresh, local ingredients that don’t have processed additives is a good goal for anyone to have. It’s also good to eliminate excess salt and alcohol from the diet because they both can lead to some serious health problems.  Another pro is that many people with type 2 diabetes are prescribed this diet and benefit from it. The main cons of the diet lie within the historical and factual validity of what these people could eat. Eating a big juicy steak or other large sources of protein just weren’t available at the time; most sources of game would have been small animals like rabbit or birds. It is a hard diet to follow and most people see no reason to eliminate dairy, grains, beans, and legumes from the diet just because people 10,000 years ago did not know how to access these food sources. As an unemployed college student, one major con for me is that the diet requires frequent visits to the grocery store, the items are more expensive, and they have a very short shelf life. I personally could not follow this diet, but if done correctly, it is a very healthy lifestyle to follow. The first attached link is for anyone interested in the scientific or anthropological facts behind the diet. It is long (22 minutes), but it gives a great insight on the diet. The other link is just explaining it in 5 minutes.

 

http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Debunking-the-Paleo-Diet-Chris

As always, thanks for reading!

Matt

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