Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes: These are just a few of the health conditions that proponents of the Paleolithic diet, or caveman diet, blame on our sedentary lifestyles and modern diets, which are loaded with sugar, fat, and processed foods. Their proposed solution? Cut modern foods from our diet and return to the way our early hunter-gatherer ancestors ate.
But now it’s your turn! What’s your favorite part for waking up to a warm breakfast bowl? Do you have fond memories of propping your chin against your hands while tapping your feet against the wood floor in tune with the music coming from the stereo that your kid version self is huddled close to as you dip your bowl in and out of your hot cereal?😜
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Experts estimate that our ancestors consumed a one-to-one ratio of calories from meats to produce. Since you have to eat a lot of salad to consume the same amount of calories in a steak, the paleo diet should ideally include mostly fruits and vegetables, Katz says. However, many people don't realize that and eat too much meat. Consuming excess protein and not enough carbs can cause kidney damage and also increase your risk of osteoporosis, Dr. Ochner says. Plus, since most of today's meats are higher in saturated fat than those of yesteryear, it can increase the risk of heart disease, Dr. Katz says.
Advocates of the diet argue that the increase in diseases of affluence after the dawn of agriculture was caused by changes in diet, but others have countered that it may be that pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers did not suffer from the diseases of affluence because they did not live long enough to develop them. Based on the data from hunter-gatherer populations still in existence, it is estimated that at age 15, life expectancy was an additional 39 years, for a total age of 54. At age 45, it is estimated that average life expectancy was an additional 19 years, for a total age of 64 years. That is to say, in such societies, most deaths occurred in childhood or young adulthood; thus, the population of elderly – and the prevalence of diseases of affluence – was much reduced. Excessive food energy intake relative to energy expended, rather than the consumption of specific foods, is more likely to underlie the diseases of affluence. "The health concerns of the industrial world, where calorie-packed foods are readily available, stem not from deviations from a specific diet but from an imbalance between the energy humans consume and the energy humans spend."
And again, there’s no concrete scientific proof that the paleo diet wards off disease, Sandon says. Any evidence of its benefits is anecdotal. Although some studies seem to support the benefits of the paleo diet, many scientists still believe we don’t yet have enough evidence to know whether the eating approach is totally healthy and without risk. “Nobody knows the long-term effects of this diet because no one has researched it to any degree,” Sandon says. It’s not really a new concept; instead it’s one that’s been recycled through the years, she adds.
“I think there are a lot of positives about it,” Holley says. “It cuts out a lot of processed foods just naturally, like processed grains or added sugar through soft drinks or juice.” And because the diet promotes eating anti-inflammatory foods — like fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated fats in nuts and certain oils — your health could benefit, Holley explains. Cutting out processed foods and sugar will also help lower your risk of certain diseases, like type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, she says. (6)
Grains and legumes (or pulses) are other groups that are frowned upon in the diet. "The right grains in the right amount can actually curtail inflammation," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, creator of the blog Better Than Dieting and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label To Table. In addition, fiber-rich legumes, including beans, lentils, and peas, have been consistently linked with reduced risk of obesity and chronic disease. "Fiber-rich carbs can supply energy, fiber, a host of vitamins and minerals, and a soothing satisfaction that could keep us from eating less nutritionally dense choices," Taub-Dix says. With the rise in popularity of ancient grains such as amaranth, millet, oats, and teff, and pulses, such as chickpeas and lentils, there's much opportunity to access versatile, naturally delicious whole grains and legumes that our ancestors ate. "Carbohydrates have a bad reputation, justified by the company they often keep, such as rich sauces and butter, and the forms in which they may be served (eg, donuts and pastries)," Taub-Dix says, "but the right carbs can save us from degenerative diseases."
Throw last night's pot roast into the skillet for this hearty breakfast hash. According to recipe creator Tasty Ever After, this classic dish gets its "red flannel" name from the vibrant beets in the mix. They add not only color, but also a superfood-level dose of antioxidants. Toss in whatever other veggies you have on hand to round out the recipe.
We strongly advise that you seek the professional advice of a health practitioner before you make any changes to your current diet and lifestyle and we do not suggest that you discontinue taking any medication you might have been advised to take. There are many long-standing myths and misconceptions surrounding cholesterol that we cover over the course of this program. That said, there are numerous peer reviewed papers showing a beneficial impact on all health-related markers, including cardiovascular and lipid profiles through the adoption of a dietary similar to what we advocate in The Paleo Way program.
Like other fad diets, the Paleo diet is promoted as a way of improving health. There is some evidence that following this diet may lead to improvements in terms of body composition and metabolic effects compared with the typical Western diet or compared with diets recommended by national nutritional guidelines. There is no good evidence, however, that the diet helps with weight loss, other than through the normal mechanisms of calorie restriction. Following the Paleo diet can lead to an inadequate calcium intake, and side effects can include weakness, diarrhea, and headaches.
In fact, the health benefits of the paleo diet are unproven. "Our ancestors ate this way and didn't have many of the chronic diseases we do, but that doesn't mean the food they ate is the reason why; drawing that conclusion would be like saying we live three times longer than our Paleolithic ancestors because we eat fast food," says Christopher Ochner, MD, research associate at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at St. Luke's and Roosevelt Hospitals. Still, a handful of small studies have tried to determine if a paleo diet is a healthier diet. One small study published in the journal Diabetologia found that the diet improved blood sugar over 12 weeks compared to a Mediterranean one that allowed grains, low-fat dairy, and oils, but it's hard to say whether researchers would come to the same results in a larger study.
Paleo critics point out that not all grains are created equal—whole grains do not spike your blood sugar as much as refined grains. Even so, paleo dieters still steer clear of grains because they contain different compounds and proteins like gluten, lectins and phytates, which they claim cause inflammation in the body and block other nutrients from being absorbed. Paleo critics say these compounds are not a problem unless you have an allergy or sensitivity.
If you were to eat an unlimited amount of red meat (which the paleo diet technically allows), you may see your heart health suffer. While experts applaud the omission of packaged and processed foods like cake, cookies, chips, and candy — which are well known to be bad for your ticker — they’re not crazy about the fact that paleo doesn’t allow you to eat whole grains, legumes, and most dairy. Whole grains in particular have been linked with better cholesterol levels, as well as a reduced risk of stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. (13) These are all comorbidities of heart disease. (14)