The Paleo Diet is a diet that is based on foods that our Paleolithic ancestors would eat (the period that spans from 2.5 million years to 10,000 BC), hence its name.
Among them, we find lean meat, fish, eggs, seafood, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, with some variants depending on whether a more or less strict diet is followed, but they are foods obtained from hunting and gathering at the time.
On the contrary, those foods that began to be cultivated or obtained with the new agricultural and livestock techniques from 10,000 BC are avoided like cereals, legumes, dairy, and products from our current society such as processed ones.
What is it based on?
The Paleolithic diet is based on the belief that we are better adapted to the foods consumed in the Paleolithic since evolutionary genetic changes are slow, unlike the dietary changes that have occurred in recent centuries. Modern humans are physiologically more adapted to the diet of their ancestors, since it has been consumed during 99% of human evolution, than to the modern diet that only represents 1%.
This type of diet based on cereals, legumes, and dairy products of the last 10,000 years is attributed to the increase and prevalence of obesity, diabetes, heart, digestive diseases, etc. It should be noted that the paleo diet is always linked to the practice of exercise since Palaeolithic men were hunter-gatherers, so they were very physically active.
What benefits are attributed to it?
More effective weight loss. Loss of abdominal perimeter. Better glucose control. Lipid profile improvement. Lowers blood pressure. Improves cardiovascular risk of people with metabolic syndrome. Lower risk of colorectal adenomas. Offers a greater feeling of satiety.
What risk/cons are attributed to it?
Possible calcium deficit. The long-term results of following the diet (more than two years) have not been analyzed. The longest study of the paleo diet (two years) does not give better results than a traditional weight loss diet, such as the Mediterranean or the diabetes diet. It may have low adherence since those who are used to consuming carbohydrates may not be able to consume cereals or legumes. More expensive diet than others of similar nutritional value. Children should not do it, pregnant women or people with kidney problems, due to the possible consequences it could cause on growth, the fetus, or kidney function.
What does science say?
Several randomized clinical trials compared the paleo diet with the Mediterranean diet or the diabetes diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy products), and a paleo diet can be seen can offer the benefits mentioned above.
Despite this, the number of controlled clinical trials comparing the Paleolithic diet with accepted diets, such as diabetics or the Mediterranean diet, is limited. Long-term studies are needed, with large groups of people chosen at random to assess the long-term benefits and the possible risks that may arise.
Some researchers also argue that the paleo diet’s hypothesis is too simplistic since evolution is much more complex; the dietary variations that may have occurred depending on geography, climate, or food availability may also have conditioned the change in diet.
Other archaeological research also claims that whole grains could have been consumed more than 30,000 years ago, long before the start of agriculture. In addition, great evolutionary change, such as the increase in the brain or the ability to break down starch, occurred after the Neolithic period.
False legends about the paleo diet
We would get our hands on our heads if a health professional accepted this diet model based on the false claims that are made about it, such as:
It is a diet rich in meat It should be eaten as it was done in the Paleolithic Food is eaten raw It is a diet to lose weight It is a diet with many restrictions It is rich in protein It is low in carbohydrates (low carb)
While it is true that a poorly designed dietary pattern can have these characteristics, this can occur with any diet, and yet the paleo diet does not have to meet these requirements.
Sport is also a premise in this eating pattern, which is a way of life.
Generally, athletes who practice a paleo lifestyle tend to exercise outdoors, using material from nature for their exercises instead of gym instruments.
Athletes and the Paleolithic diet are compatible since this diet can be rich in nutrients and provide the necessary calories for physical exercise.
The Paleolithic Diet is a term that is growing rapidly in the media and popularity; it is also known as Ancestral, Primitive, or simply Paleo Diet, and the concept that it encompasses goes far beyond eating like the Palaeolithic man or of the caverns, or eating “meat and broccoli” for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner.
The Paleo / Primitive Diet concept, from my own experience, is much more than just a diet. The Paleolithic Diet is more of a lifestyle, which seeks to educate its followers to make better choices when it comes to eating and, above all, to understand what effect food can have on the human body. That, at least, is what I am trying to convey on this blog and in my Living Paleo e-book.
The Paleo Diet intends to help personalize the general concept according to the needs of each person since it understands that each body is different and with specific needs.
The Paleo Diet intends to guide its followers to achieve two fundamental aspects:
- Good digestive function: The ability to fight chronic diseases begins in the digestive system, in the intestines. Eighty percent of the immune system is found in the intestines. By constantly consuming foods that the body does not tolerate, irritation is created in the digestive system, which causes a chain of inflammatory and auto-immune problems.
- Regulation of blood sugar: If you feel hungry and find yourself eating every two or three hours and feeling weak, shaky; you are most likely not consuming a good balance of meals. Understanding how much protein, fat, and good carbohydrates you should consume according to your body’s needs will help you maintain a blood sugar balance that will allow you to eat every four to six hours.
The basic principles of this lifestyle are:
- Eat nutritious, traditional, and anti-inflammatory foods: Free-range and pastured meats, organs, and bone broths.
Traditionally fermented foods and beverages.
Vegetables and fruits without pesticides. (To see the list, click here)
Healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, walnuts and almonds (in moderation), and fermented cod liver oil.