26 Feb Debunking the Trend: The Paleo Diet
You may need to channel your inner caveman for the Paleo Diet. This diet is based off of the Paleolithic era, about 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. But is this caveman-esque diet good for you?
Eat like a Caveman
During the Paleolithic era, farming and processed foods were not available, making hunting and gathering the main resources for food. This diet focuses on lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that could have been found during that time period. But it also eliminates many options including grains, legumes, dairy, potatoes, refined sugar, and highly processed foods
The hypothesis behind this diet is that sudden increase in the modern day food supply has surpassed our body’s ability to keep up. Paleo advocates also believe that today’s farming practices and highly processed manufactured foods are the main cause of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
However, the Paleo philosophy loses some credibility as genetic research has found digestive, evolutionarily changes. Research has found that the number of genes associated with the breakdown of starch has increased. This may suggest that our bodies are adapting to today’s food supply making the restrictions called for on the Paleo Diet unnecessary.
Is it Good For You?
Weight loss is a possible result of the Paleo Diet, especially since added sugars and processed foods are eliminated. Both are are the top calorie sources in the American diet, so calories would automatically be slashed. But some of the food restrictions called for on the Paleo Diet can be problematic.
Several major food groups are eliminated including grains, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), and dairy. These foods are important staples in our diet and contribute a wide range of nutrients our body needs for nourishment and optimal health. Excluding these foods could potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies and a whole other list of health concerns.
If you choose to follow the Paleo Diet, understanding how to get all of your nutrition is essential. Quinoa, a possible grain substitute, contains all nine essential amino acids classifying it as a “complete protein.” On the other hand, dairy is much harder to substitute because soy (the closest substitute nutritionally to dairy milk) is a legume and restricted. In this case, calcium and vitamin D (important nutrients found in dairy products) may need to be supplemented.
The staple foods promoted on the Paleo Diet are perfect additions to a healthy eating plan. Lean meats are lower in saturated fat than their higher fat counterparts (beef and pork) and are an excellent source of protein. Additionally, fish include essential and often missed omega-3 fatty acids shown to be beneficial for heart health. Including these foods will boost the healthiness of your menu and are great to incorporate regularly.
Should You Try It?
When it comes to the Paleo Diet, incorporating rather than restricting is most beneficial. Restricting whole food groups like whole grains, dairy and legumes will likely be more harmful than helpful. Instead, make a point to add fish 2 to3 times a week, choose lean proteins, and fill your plate with different fruits and vegetables. It is good to bring out your inner caveman every once and awhile, but not for a complete overhaul.
Sheridan Jonas is a junior at Miami University studying nutrition with a focus in dietetics. She plans on working towards becoming and registered dietitian post-graduation and furthering her passion in nutrition.