The Paleo Diet is also known as the “cave man” or “hunter-gatherer” diet. It advocates the consumption of foods available prior to the advent of farming. As its alias names “cave man” and “hunter-gatherer” imply, this involves eating foods that we assume cave men ate, which were the kinds of foods that were hunted or gathered, such as animals, fish, fruit, vegetables, and nuts.
That’s the high level description of the paleo diet.
Specifically the paleo diet advocates consumption of:
- Fresh lean meats and fish
- “Healthy oils” like olive and coconut
Further, the paleo diet advocates avoiding…
- Practically anything artificial or highly refined
- All wheat/grain products
And like any contemporary diet, the paleo diet advocates AGAINST calorie counting.
Rationale of the paleo diet
advocates of this diet claim that it helps you lose weight and reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
They reason that humans have evolved over millions of years and that during most of this time our food was the result of hunting and gathering, and was relatively static throughout much of the time. Then relatively recently with the start of the agricultural revolution approximately 12,000 years ago humans rapidly transitioned from this hunter/gatherer diet to a diet consisting of much more wheat and dairy (the result of farming).
They reason that humans had adapted to this hunter/gatherer food source over several million years with very little change. Consequently it is not well-adapted to the new agricultural diet. This, they say, is the source of much of the source of modern human illnesses and other health maladies.
They argue that a return to the diet to which humans have adapted over several million years leads to greater health and less disease in almost every measurable way.
What of these claims?
First the good news. The paleo diet works. If you follow it you probably will lose weight and be healthier.
The bad news – and it’s not really “bad” – is that the REASON for the weight loss and increased health from the this diet has nothing to do with the diet being more “natural” or in sync with our evolution or anything like that.
More likely the weight loss will be the result of restricted caloric intake, and the increased health benefits will be probably be more the result of the weight loss.
The paleo diet claims you don’t have to count calories or limit intake. But when you limit yourself to the paleo diet’s list of acceptable foods almost surely you’ll be cutting calories.
But when you look list of foods prohibited by the paleo diet the picture gets even clearer. This list includes mostly wheat products, sugar, and potatoes. That means: No BREADS, chips, crackers, cereals, pastas, pastries, sugared drinks, or desserts.
Geez, if all you did was follow those restrictions you would almost surely lose weight and improve health! That strict limitation of wheat, sugar, and potatoes is prominent in nearly every successful weight loss diet.
It is certainly prominent in the Zone diet, the Keto diet, and the Atkins diet.
The whole “story” about how the paleo diet fits better with our evolutionary makeup really does more to distract you from the restricted intake. If they just said “eat less” and “avoid wheat, sugar, and potatoes” no one would pay any attention. But when you can wrap a good story around those recommendations it has a little more buzz.
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