Most of us are wary of modern processed foods and believe that a more organic approach to nutrition, such as that of our ancestors, is essential.
When you combine these ideas, you arrive at the reasoning behind the Paleo or “caveman” diet. While there are definitely benefits to some of the approaches in the diet, there are significant problems as well.
The Reasoning Behind Going Paleo
The basic idea behind the diet is that we evolved to eat certain kinds of foods, and we have replaced those today with overly processed, unhealthy alternatives. Therefore, acceptable foods on the Paleo diet include meat (unprocessed and from animals that were allowed to range and eat as they once did, not on commercial farms), fruits, most nuts, fish, and vegetables (as long as they are not starchy).
Definitely off the table are any processed foods, refined sugar, corn, rice, legumes, alcohol, grains, potatoes, dairy, and cereals since those would not be found on a caveman’s plate.
Pros of Going Paleo
Protein-rich diet – like many diets out there, this one is rich in protein. You can get a tremendous amount of lean protein in your diet following this program, as well as added iron if you are eating red meat.
Eating clean – By following this diet, you would avoid trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and other additives that can negatively impact your health.
Cardiovascular health – this diet can contribute to lower blood pressure and reduced cholesterol because of the elimination of processed salty foods and foods that are high in fat.
Weight loss – because the diet is narrow in scope and avoids grease, high-fructose corn syrup, and refined sugar, many people see immediate weight loss because of the restrictive menu.
Cons of the Paleo Diet
Calcium deficient – since most of us get our required calcium from dairy products like milk and yogurt, this diet lacks this essential nutrient and can lead to bone loss.
Lack of fiber – because grains and legumes are off the menu, it is difficult to get the fiber your body needs for gut health.
Expense – eating clean and buying organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed meat can get expensive. Low-cost meals such as beans and rice or pasta dishes are not part of the diet.
Lack of variety in nutrients – because the diet is so limited, it can be difficult for your body to get the amount of vitamins and minerals it needs from what you are eating, especially since grains and legumes are eliminated, and protein can be a problem for vegetarians.
As with most diets, the problems largely lie in what you are cutting out of your diet, and the Paleo diet cuts out food groups we have long believed to be essential. It definitely has the right idea to eat clean and stay away from empty calories.
If you can find it to be sustainable and manage to get all the necessary nutrients your body needs, the diet might be for you, but you have to decide for yourself if the benefits outweigh the risks.