The Paleo diet, also referred to as the caveman diet, is one of the most popular diets currently sweeping the nation. Touted for its miracle health benefits, there are countless books, blogs, websites, and products promoting the diet. Many people hop on the bandwagon and dive right into this “lifestyle” without knowing all the facts or doing proper research. Going Paleo might seem like a cure-all diet, but it’s important to have all the facts about this new fad.
The Paleo diet promotes eating foods that are considered to be anti-inflammatory while avoiding foods that cause inflammation. Foods that are “allowed” include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, offal (organ meat), eggs, seafood and fat (olive oil, avocado, coconut, grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut oil, tallow and lard). While these promoted foods contribute to health, the Paleo diet encourages the avoidance of whole food groups that are also nutritious, including dairy, grains and legumes. The Paleo diet is very difficult to sustain for a long period of time because of all the limitations it poses.
The Paleo diet promotes this way of living because it’s thought to reduce disease and illness. The idea behind this is that because our ancestors ate this way and did not have the high rates of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes that we have now, we would have reduced rates of modern diseases if we ate like them. However, the Paleo diet does not take into account the evolutionary changes our bodies have gone through and the increase in sedentary lifestyles. Humans in the 21st century live a very different life than those living in the Paleolithic era. Unlike the hunters and gatherers who lived during this time, we don’t scavenge for our food, eat raw meat and experience long periods of fasting. Therefore, our energy sources and needs are not the same.
While the Paleo diet contains many flaws, one positive aspect is that it encourages eating food from its natural sources and eliminating processed food; yet this can be viewed as limiting because of all the foods you need to cut out. Grains and legumes are completely eliminated which could cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies in thiamin, niacin, selenium, folate, riboflavin, iron and magnesium. Dairy is not allowed on a strict Paleo diet which may result in calcium and vitamin D deficiencies. Another disadvantage of going Paleo is that this diet can become very expensive, especially for many college students, because of the high prices of produce and meat.
While the Paleo diet might seem appealing because of its popularity and weight loss claims, it is not a nutritionally sufficient diet. Cutting out whole food groups can lead to nutrient deficiencies. This diet does not provide you with an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals. Moderation, variety, and balance are important for any way of eating, and simply not possible on the Paleo plan .
Photo Credit: Michelle Przybilla