Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are just a few of the health problems that supporters of the Paleolithic diet, also known as the caveman diet, attribute to our sedentary lifestyles and modern diets high in sugar, fat, and processed foods.
To begin, Dr. Cordain advises that to be and stay healthy on the paleo diet, you must exercise consistently while adhering to a rigorous diet consisting solely of items that may be hunted and harvested.
The paleo diet, in its purest form, permits you to eat only foods that humans ate 2.5 million years ago when they originally roamed the earth.
Paleo Diet Foods to Eat and Stay Away From
You'll find fewer processed foods on the paleo diet, but you'll also have to avoid all grains, legumes, and most dairy. Here's a look at the eating plan in more detail.
What Should You Eat?Although the paleo diet hasn't been proven to work, if you want to give it a shot, you'll need to focus on eating a lot of natural foods and fats, such as the following:
- Beef, pig, and poultry cuts that are lean, preferably grass-fed, organic, or free-range.
- Quail, venison, and bison are examples of game animals.
- No more than six eggs per week, ideally free-range.
- Shellfish and other types of fish
- Strawberries, cantaloupe, mango, and figs are examples of fruit.
- Asparagus, onions, peppers, and pumpkin are examples of non-starchy vegetables.
Similarly, Holley notes that any foods that were not readily available to Paleolithic humans are off-limits in this diet.
Processed foods, which often contain extra butter, margarine, and sugar, should not be included in the paleo diet.
The same may be said about dairy, which Paleolithic ancestors may not have had access to, and legumes, which many proponents of the diet claim are difficult to digest.
Keep in mind that certain paleo diets are less stringent than others, allowing some dairy items or legumes, such as peanuts, according to Holley.
Is a Paleo Diet Beneficial to Heart Health?
The paleo diet, like type 2 diabetes, may or may not be good for your heart. It all boils down to how you approach food.
Your heart health would most likely deteriorate if you ate an unlimited amount of red meat (which the paleo diet theoretically allows).
While doctors appreciate the elimination of packaged and processed foods like cake, cookies, chips, and sweets — all of which are proven to be detrimental for your health - they aren't fans of the paleo diet's prohibition on entire grains, legumes, and most dairy.
Whole grains, in particular, have been associated to lower cholesterol and a decreased risk of stroke.
What Are the Consequences of the Paleo Diet?
While eliminating entire food groups can help you lose weight (see the popularity of the all-meat carnivore diet, which most dietitians don't advocate), you may risk losing out on important nutrients.
For example, some doctors warn against the paleo diet since it eliminates dairy, which can result in decreased calcium and vitamin D levels. This could put you at risk for osteoporosis, bone fractures, and rickets over time.
Many people are also concerned because the diet is sometimes viewed as being meat-centric.
"Some people exploit the paleo mindset to justify eating too much meat and not enough plant-based foods," Hyman says.