The Paleo Diet, also known as the Caveman diet, has gotten quite a lot of press lately. The idea of a diet that approaches eating like cavemen did for optimal health without cutting calories, fats or flavor is quite an attractive concept to many.
There are some down sides to this diet, though, so it’s essential to consider all the pros and cons before starting this way of life.
The idea of the Paleo diet is to eliminate things that cavemen likely did not eat. It is thought that the human body was not designed to digest certain foods and, as a result, many people experience digestive issues, excess weight and even cardiovascular problems. This diet also bases itself off research that suggests that many hormones and antibiotics that much of today’s mass produced meats contain can create additional health problems, including diabetes and obesity.
The dieter is meant to achieve better health by focusing on foods that are mostly lean, protein and, on highly active days; additional fats can be considered. Extreme paleo diets suggest that when life is lived much in the way that cavemen lived their lives, the body will naturally balance itself and many health problems will simply take care of themselves.
It’s a lifestyle
Much in the sense that choosing a Mediterranean diet is choosing a way of life, choosing the paleo diet is also choosing a way of life. Dieters are often encouraged to embrace functional fitness workout plans, such as Crossfit. Workouts like this focus on intense interval training to build overall strength and endurance.
Many Paleo dieters say that in order to keep things uncomplicated, the idea is that if it can’t rot, it shouldn’t be eaten. Foods that are packaged with seasonings and preservatives should be off limits, and sugar should only come from sources like honey, coconut palm, or from berries and certain other fruits that cavemen might have found in nature.
The Paleo diet encourages a modern form of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. There are many different types of the Paleo diet, so the results a dieter sees will likely depend on what kind of Caveman diet they want to adopt.
There is also controversy over how much nutrition that Paleo supporters are actually getting. For instance, many experts believe that the human body has not just adapted to other foods, including whole grains, legumes and dairy products but that it needs them to perform at it’s peak. So, when these foods are eliminated, the concern is that people are not enjoying proper nutrition.
What it includes
The basic Paleo diet pretty much consists of foods that can be fished for, hunted for or gathered. So, fish – preferably fatty fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids – grass fed beef, wild game, buffalo, and elk are just a few of the choices that people have when it comes to the meats that they can eat. Some hunters enjoy the paleo diet because it goes with what they already consume a lot of, like wild turkey and venison.
Foods such as berries of all kinds that might grow in the wild are okay, and eggs, nuts, vegetables and roots (such as sweet potatoes) are also okay. Many of the Paleo recipes out there discourage people from eating white potatoes, but it depends on the particular source.
Organ meats are commonly used in many different Paleo recipes. They are considered to be a good food choice because they tend to be high in nutrients.
The the Paleo diet does offer many different foods to choose from, and many recipes can be modified from their original high gluten form, into something that even the wildest caveman can tolerate.
What you won’t find
Some of the big things that people on the Paleo diet won’t be enjoying are dairy products. In fact, dairy of any kind is off limits. So, no yogurt, no cheese, no milk and no sour cream will be allowed when living the true Paleo lifestyle. Supporters of the diet claim that it is possible to get enough calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D from other food sources and the need for probiotics will be virtually eliminated when grains are eliminated.
Speaking of grains: there is no gluten allowed in the caveman diet. In other words; no bread, cereal, oatmeal, pasta or even rice if people are genuinely being careful with their diet plans. For those craving carbs, the experts usually recommend a sweet potato, or in a pinch, even a potato will do.
The bottom line
Supporters of the Paleo diet will speak of how it has helped to cure many different conditions; it has helped many people to balance their diabetes, lower their cholesterol and even reduce their blood pressure. Some have chosen the Paleo diet and gone from being obese to fit, but these results are not typical.
While many health professionals always recommend a well balanced, whole food, minimally processed diet, they typically recommend consuming low fat dairy, whole grains and legumes, as well. The fact that the caveman diet does not include these foods is a bit alarming to some.
However, for those that promote the diet and the lifestyle, living Paleo is the best thing they have ever done for themselves. Since lifestyle changes often require a gradual change, it is most often recommended that dieters take an 80/20 approach to this way of life, and decrease foods gradually, so they don’t miss certain foods too much.
As with any diet, it only works as well as the dieter is determined, so for some this will probably be the ideal diet option, but others might think that it is just too rigid for their needs.