About the Paleo Diet

The diet I’ll be discussing today is known as the Paleo Diet, Paleolithic Diet, Caveman Diet, or Hunter-Gatherer Diet. It was actually first put forward by a stomach doctor in the 1970s and was based on many of his prescribed treatments to cure a variety of digestive issues. Since then the diet has been the topic of many articles and books.

I was introduced to the diet through my Crossfit friends and have subsequently experimented with it for some time and have witnessed many others try it.

But what exactly does the paleo diet entail? The diet is based on what scientists (and others) believe ancient man ate in the Paleolithic era. This era ended approximately 10,000 years ago when humans figured out agriculture. The era lasted for 2.5 million years.

The diet excludes grains, dairy products, refined sugar, legumes/beans, and processed oils. The paleo diet food pyramid is quite different from the traditional food pyramid. At the base you’ll find meats. In the middle you have fruits and vegetables and at the top there are nuts and berries (aren’t berries just fruits again?).

Actually, I’ve seen a few different paleo pyramids. Some have veggies, especially leafy green veggies, on the bottom. There are definitely different paleo philosophies out there and quite a bit of arguing on the specifics.

You can see why this is called the Caveman Diet or Hunter-Gatherer Diet. It really is the foods ancient man presumably had available to him or her.

So the scientific premise of the diet has to do with the assumption that human genes haven’t changed all that much (in the past 10,000 years) compared to how the food we eat has changed. This especially rings true of the past 100 years. Typical western diets are now dominated by refined grains and sugars along with dairy products and unnatural fats.

Paleo enthusiasts argue that our bodies cannot handle the foods on the exclusion list very well. In fact, they argue that these foods are harmful to our bodies and cause all kinds of terrible reactions and side effects.

It does seem to be a fact that our foods today are more calorie dense compared to what our ancient ancestors ate, and our movement habits have gone the opposite way (I believe most people walk only an average of ¼ mile per day!).

The basic premise of this diet caught my interest years ago. I experimented with it in 2007 before moving to Asia. My favorite part of the diet was getting rid of the grains followed by cutting down on dairy.

We Americans eat far too many processed grains and they are almost nutritionally worthless. They also tend to mess with our blood sugars, causing big peaks and valleys, which forces us into a cyclical eating pattern with these refined grains.

Opponents of dairy point out that it can cause excess mucus. After cutting out dairy, I did notice a decrease in mucus. Even though I now have dairy in my diet, I always make sure to cut it out when I have a cold.

When my girlfriend and I moved to Asia in 2008, I stopped strictly following the diet. There was just too much rice and the importance of eating the local foods trumped staying with the diet. I have done a good job of integrating many aspects of the diet into my general diet though, and I believe it has truly helped me lose some body fat and make healthier choices in regard to processed grains and dairy.

I also love the fact that the diet encourages large amounts of vegetables. One cannot overstate the importance of eating a rainbow colored variety of fresh (raw if you can) veggies. When I went paleo, I learned a lot of great paleo recipes from The Paleo Cookbook, and I continue to use them today.

There is a sustainability issue with the large amount of flesh consumed on the diet. It wouldn’t exactly be sustainable for the entire world to follow this diet. For now, I’m enjoying my return to America and eating all of the foods I couldn’t for the past three years. My cheat time is almost up though.

That’s all on the paleo diet for now. I’ll definitely write more on it in another post. Take care.