The Paleo diet: eat yourself into the stone age

by TMP Editor on September 15, 2011

In the multi-billion dollar diet and weight loss industry, fad diets come and go. One of the latest, hottest fad diets to emerge is the Paleo Diet.  The Paleo Diet is supposedly based on what our caveman ancestors ate–a menu considered healthier than what most modern humans eat. However, most nutritionists are skeptical about the Paleo Diet because it eliminates entire food groups essential to good health.

paleo diet

Eat like a caveman?

The Paleo in the Paleo diet is short for “Paleolithic.”  Paleolithic is Greek for “old stone age.”  The Paleolithic era began about 2.5 million years ago when early human prototypes such as Australopithicines banded together to hunt, gather and scavenge for food. It doesn’t sound very glamorous, but today’s diet industry marketing machine has turned the survival instincts of cavemen into the latest weight loss gimmick.

Advocates of the Paleo diet say that meals consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of wild meat, fish and seafood will help you quickly lose weight, lower blood pressure and decrease your risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Paleo diet pros and cons

There are positive aspects to the Paleo diet. Its high-protein, low fat meals essentially eliminate processed foods–the bane of the American diet. Sugar and refined grains are also out–major culprits in our country s obesity epidemic. The variety of fruits and vegetables included on the Paleo diet menu are also important for a healthy, balanced diet.

The Paleo diet goes wrong, however, for its exclusion of whole grains, nonfat dairy foods and foods such as beans, peanuts and sweet potatoes–cheap sources of essential nutrients. People who include dairy in their diet have better bone density and are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. Whole grains are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

A comparison of weight loss plans

Blogger Layne Pennel conducted a personal Paleo diet experiment. He started a Paleo diet at the same time his wife began a vegetarian diet. Over a six-week period, Pennell’s wife underwent the more intensive cardio training of the two. Both performed identical weight training programs. Both lost five inches of body mass.  On the vegan diet, Pennell’s wife lost four more pounds, but Pennell gained more muscle mass due to his high protein intake.

The Paleo diet is high in animal protein–the most inefficient source of protein in the modern world. Plus, an emphasis on organic meats and eggs would cost a fortune. And sacrificing fiber for weight loss is a big mistake. To stay healthy, people need to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. A normal American diet only delivers about 14 grams of daily fiber. The Paleo diet reduces that inadequate amount of fiber even more.

Instead of the Paleo Diet for weight loss, a better alternative may be meal plans based on the Mediterranean diet.  The Mediterranean diet includes grains, along with fruits, vegetables, fish, lean dairy and limited amounts of meat. The Mediterranean diet is a proven way to decrease the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and other chronic diseases. It’s a more sound long term solution to healthy eating.

Sources: CNN HealthChicago TribuneBlogcritics.org

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