stone age

Paleo Diet: Should You Eat Like a Caveman?

The Paleo diet fascinates me because of its origins. “Eat like a caveman” is the mantra of the proponents. What does this entail? I don’t know; I wasn’t there, but if I were, I would be healthier according to Paleo diet enthusiasts.

The Paleolithic Era

Stone Age man lived approximately 2.5 million years ago, and used tools made of stone, wood, and bone to hunt birds and animals. They actually salvaged dead animals killed by other means to provide for themselves. Hmmm.

History tells us that people who lived in the early Stone Age conducted their lives in a very structured way. Each day, a band of families bonded together to share food that they had hunted and gathered: fish, birds, wild animals, and plants. They ate when they could, which was not always every day. Food was not abundant. It was either feast or famine.

hunter gathererThe Rise of Farming

Ten thousand years ago, farming became a source for food. The newly introduced food products were dairy, legumes, and grain. According to Paleo diet supporters, the human body has not been able to adapt to the addition of these food into their diets. In a nutshell, the Agricultural Revolution harmed our eating habits.

agriculture

What is the Paleo Diet?

Whole foods lie at the center of the paleo diet.  Dieters should fill cupboards and refrigerators with grass-fed meats, vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds. They should eliminate farm-based foods like dairy products, grains, beans, salt, cereals, coffee, alcohol, and processed foods.

According to paleo supporters, our bodies cannot tolerate foods produced through agriculture and manufacturing. They believe that diabetes, cancer, and obesity are the consequence of farming and the industrial revolution. A new system had replaced the hunter-gatherer.

Foods Allowed

You can eat any of the following foods on this diet:

  • Lean meat
  • Fish and seafood
  • Fresh fruit
  • Nuts (no peanuts)
  • Vegetables that have no starch (lettuce, cabbage, spinach, green beans, broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower).

Compared to the Western diet, the Paleo diet is:

  • Higher in protein (20 – 30%)
  • Lower in carbs and sugar (carbs provided by fruits and veggies)
  • Higher in fat (good fat: olive, coconut, walnut, avocado, flaxseed)
  • Higher in fiber
  • Lower in sodium
  • Less acid
  • Higher in vitamins (C, A, B12)

Important: This diet is NOT appropriate for athletes. Paleo diet does not allow enough carbohydrates to supply adequate energy for the athlete.

Foods Forbidden

Just like in the Garden of Eden, there are forbidden foods on this diet. The apple is not one of them.

The foods a Paleo dieter should never touch are:

  • Gluten (oats, wheat, barley) Remember our post on gluten. Read now.
  • Rice
  • Potatoes and corn
  • Legumes or beans (peanuts, peanut butter, hummus, tofu, or edamame)
  • Dairy (milk, ice cream, cheese, or yogurt)
  • High fat meats (cold cuts, hot dogs, ground meat, and ribs)
  • Sugar (sports drinks, soda, honey, jam, syrup, candy, cake, and cookies)
  • Processed foods (mac and cheese, fries, fruit snacks)
  • Salty foods (soy sauce, crackers, chips, pretzels and other salty snack foods)

Potential Benefits

The Paleo diet has some benefits. The studies related to the diet are inconclusive, but some of the benefits are undeniable. The diet contributes to the following:

  • Stomach health because of the fiber in vegetables and fruits
  • Stable blood glucose levels
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Positive cholesterol levels

People have insisted that this diet makes them feel a lot better and gives them energy.

Problems with the Diet

After researching the diet, we can see the following problems:

  • The food is expensive.
  • There are no portions specified. A dieter can easily overeat. For example, nuts are very caloric.
  • The diet is high in protein but low in carbohydrates, so it is unbalanced. Carbs are a source of energy.
  • What do vegetarians do? The diet provides limited protein sources.

Original Premise

In 1970, Dr. Cordain from Colorado State University revealed his theory that humans should limit foods to what the cavemen ate.

Dr. Cordain’s associates ran a case study and limited the scope to folks with  autoimmune deficiencies.

Case Study

This study followed the eating habits of 56 patients.

Eight subjects had Crohn’s disease and 48 had other autoimmune deficiencies. With Crohn’s the immune system attacks the stomach lining of the patient. This produces many painful and uncomfortable symptoms.

All subjects surrendered their medical records and participated in the diet rules.

The eight with Crohn’s adhered to the diet and gradually their symptoms became less severe, and they all went into remission. One patient had dramatic results. In two years, the symptoms had not returned.

Other diseases like lupus did not have good results. There was no improvement in the symptoms.  Many other studies need to happen for any accurate assessments.

Modified Paleo

The diet has many health drawbacks. Rather than submit completely to the Paleo diet, modify it a bit. You can occasionally add the following foods:

  • Black beans and buckwheat
  • Sweet potato, beets, and turnip
  • Cheese, yogurt, fermented butter

Final Thought

Rather than meat and potatoes, eat lean meat and sweet potatoes. Current studies are proving that the Paleo lifestyle is not for everyone. Athletes and vegetarians should find another eating plan. In a nutshell, dieters need to limit meats and nuts, and eat plenty of veggies and fruit.

Personally, I would not last on this diet. If you don’t mind its limitations, then give it a try. It definitely improves health and wellness. The modified version is a lot more palatable.

Enjoy your food. I think each of us needs to come up with a comfortable healthy plan. If you think this is the plan for you, read some basics to decide. Read now

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Amazon has good books to check out about Paleo. Shop now.

Here is a modified Paleo meal that you can try.

Pork Loin with Apples

This recipe follows the Paleo diet. Pork pairs very well with apples and in this dish, the flavors blend nicely.

  • 1 boneless pork loin
  • 1 cup of chopped and peeled apples
  • 1 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • ⅓ cup chopped and toasted walnuts
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup (or raw honey)
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. minced parsley
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

  2. Drizzle the pork loin with olive oil generously and rub it into the pork.

  3. Rub the entire loin with the rosemary and parsley.

  4. Slice the loin vertically about 1/2 way down.

  5. Use a sizeable bowl to combine apples, mushrooms, cranberries, shallots, toasted walnuts, garlic, pepper, salt and the maple syrup or honey.

  6. Gently spread the mixture, using a wooden spoon, into the open pork loin.

  7. Place it in a roasting pan and oven-cook it for 1 hour in 350 F.

  8. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve.

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