To Paleo or Not to Paleo…
Ah that is the question. This seems to be one of the most popular diets right now. Proponents of this diet claim that the diseases we have today, they call “diseases of civilization” that are diet related, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc, are because our diets have changed radically since paleo people. They feel that if we go back to the paleo way of eating we will be much healthier.
I have done some research and been scratching my head about this diet for awhile. The diet states that you should eat like cave people did. Okay, so how many years ago are we talking… 10,000 or 100,000, because I’m guessing they were different. And where exactly did these cave people that we are eating like live? Because if they lived next to the ocean I’m guessing their diet was a bit different than those that lived in areas away from the ocean. Okay, enough of my questions, let’s just take a look…
The diet states that if it wasn’t eaten by cave people that it’s not on your diet. That means no grains (breads, pasta, cereal, rice, oatmeal, cakes, muffins, pastries, tortillas, crackers, etc), and apparently the potatoes of today are different than the ones people ate back then so those are out too. Oh yeah and there weren’t any dairy products or alcohol. So what exactly do you subsist on… vegetables and fruits, meat, eggs and nuts, and honey. Most books on the paleo diet don’t give specifics on amounts you should eat from each of these groups. They also recommend grass-fed and organic meats in some versions of the diet.
Yes, there are some positive aspects like lots of fruits and vegetables, no refined flours or sugar, and it’s low in sodium. But there are also some things that leave me feeling queasy, like the amount of red meat – and despite the fact that they recommend lean meats, often the paleo recipes are not low fat. I think it’s strange that processed meats are allowed (I doubt paleo people were making sausage or pepperoni, or even bacon). Also of concern, the low amounts of calcium and vitamin D.
Apparently, there is some evidence that paleo people were eating grains. Scientists have discovered traces of seeds and grains on the teeth of fossils of early humans – and on stone cooking tools (which they think paleo people were using to ground up grains into flours and cooking a form of pita bread). So, what does that mean for the paleo diet
Another thing I wonder about, how long did these paleo people live? I mean did they live long enough for diseases to show up, or were they just swallowed up by a dinosoar before they turned 20? Can we tell from fossils if they had heart disease or other diseases? I don’t know.
I think even if we go back 100-150 years, people were pretty thin, and although they certainly didn’t have the diseases of today, they did have some disease. Their lifespan was much shorter, as there was not the medical treatments we have today. Their diet, however was much healthier. They grew all their own food and made all their meals. Sugar was hard to come by so there wasn’t much of it in foods. They ate grains (whole grains, because they didn’t process things like we do today) and drank milk and they were still thin and reasonably healthy.
Are people losing weight, sure they are – hey when you cut out more than half the food groups you too would lose weight… but I am just not convinced that this diet is the answer. The biggest problem that my clients that have tried this diet have reported is just too hard to stick with. If you cannot make this a lifestyle change, then any changes you see from the diet aren’t likely to last either.
So here’s my opinion, if you are doing it and you like it and feel good, and think you can sustain it, then do it. You might need a supplement of Calcium and Vitamin D. I am going to stick with eating unprocessed (more like people did 100-150 years ago before we started processing our foods to death and adding tons of preservatives). I find it to be realistic for me – I can have all the food groups, I can make my own foods, I can still have bread… and a glass of wine when I want it. Do what works for you, make healthy choices, get active and enjoy your life at the same time! I don’t think living healthy looks the same for everyone, and honestly what works for one person might not work for another. Focus on finding what works for you, something that you can sustain, makes you feel good, and lowers your risk of disease at the same time!
For a great article on the paleo diet please check out https://www.cspinet.org/nah/pdfs/article-paleo.pdf
This article is written from the Centers for Science in the Public Interest – a source that I find to be very credible!
Tracey is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Plattsburgh, NY. She enjoys cooking healthy recipes for her family, and loves involving her daughter in the process. On her blog, she shares meal prep ideas, healthy recipes, nutrition tips and even gardening tips (to help you eat more whole foods). Check out her social media sites for more great tips.