The Paleo diet is often called the “Caveman Diet”, or primal diet, and for good reason. People following this diet restrict their foods to those that were available in hunter-gatherer times. That means no refined sugars, no processed dairy items, grains or legumes. The basic rule for allowable foods in the Paleo diet is that if your ancestors didn’t eat it, neither should you.
As a nutrition counselor, my first impression of the program is that if you followed the guidelines, you’d be eating much healthier than 90% of Americans. Refined sugars, flour, chemical additives, preservatives, artificial flavorings, artificial colors, and basically any packaged foods where you cannot pronounce the ingredients are a big part of why our country is unhealthy and overweight. With that said, you’d be hard pressed to write a true Paleo Diet review without pointing out some of the fundamental holes in the eating plan.
Generally speaking, the Paleolithic diet has the right idea when it comes to these qualities:
• Eradication of processed foods that have superfluous sugars and sodium content.
• High vegetable and fruit intake with lean meat and nuts as a protein and fat source.
• The plan is excellent in the way that it is comprised of “clean”, raw foods that are free of the literally dangerous manmade, manufactured foods that many people consume on a daily (if not hourly) basis.
The program's downfalls
• Check out the list below; diet soda made the consume “in moderation” list! Am I confused or was calorie-free soda not around during the caveman era? This stuff is the antithesis of natural food, as there is not even a single ingredient that is not manmade.
• There are many foods to avoid on the Paleo that offer tremendous health benefits; beans, for example. Beans are high in fiber, protein, and vitamins.
• Whole grains also have their place in terms of nutritional value; they help lower cholesterol, contain vitamin and mineral content, and carbohydrates.
• In relation to the above point, the program is rather low in carbohydrates, and carbohydrates are what give our bodies energy. While they should be eaten in moderation (like everything else), they should definitely not be avoided, especially when in their natural, unprocessed form.
• The plan includes high meat content. Even when meat is “lean”, the fat content is still significant. A diet high in meat products is also hard on digestion and has high cholesterol levels.
Here’s a very general rundown of the Paleolithic foods:
Foods allowed in the Paleo plan
• Lean meats
• Lean poultry
• Game meats
• Seeds, nuts, and roots
• All fruits
• Most Vegetables
Foods to avoid in the Paleo program
• All dairy
• Meats that are high in fat content
• Vegetables that are high in starches (ex: potatoes)
• Sugary treats (sodas, candy, etc)
Foods to be consumed in moderation
• Alcohol (spirits, beer, and wine)
• Diet soda
• Coffee and tea
• Oils (avocado, canola, flaxseed, olive)
As a whole, the Paleolithic, or Caveman Diet, has the right idea. If I were to write my own version of the Paleo program, it would be similar but allow whole grains and beans, and significantly reduce the amount of meat intake. Some dairy products, while newer to the human diet and somewhat difficult for the body to process, also offers a multitude of nutritional benefits, such as calcium, protein, and B vitamins. A nutrition plan that cuts out processed, packaged foods is a great idea, but the Paleo plan could stand to allow in a few foods that our ancestors didn’t have access to – aside from zero-calorie soda.
Do you think the Paleo diet is healthy? Have you tried it? Speak up, share your Paleo review!