It seems like every year a new “fad diet” pops up and takes over people’s lives and dinner plates. One of the recent ones that has become extremely popular is the “Paleo Diet.”
The idea behind his diet is that we should be eating like our ancestors did. One of the suggestions to accomplish this is to eat more meat and cut out grains from our diets.
However, this seemingly goes against the principles of sound nutrition. But is that necessarily a bad thing?
In this post, I will explore three reasons why I believe that the Paleo Diet isn’t necessarily all that accurate; and possibly not all that healthy.
Meat is Meat is Meat?
Modern food is a far cry from what cavemen actually ate. While science and advances have provided developed countries with plenty of food, they have also modified the food in the process.
If you talk to people who eat game meat (animals you hunt down and then eat) on a regular basis, you will often find a common remark: the meat is leaner.
The meat we eat that is raised, on the other hand, is not so lean. In fact, farmers often overfeed their animals, and even sometimes restrain their movements, in order for them to grow bigger.
Bigger animals mean more meat. And more meat means more profit.
The unfortunate reality of the situation is that most of the meat is sourced from unhealthy, overweight animals.
There are alternatives to this, of course, but they are costly ones. Because the food supply is mainly controlled by larger corporate farms, it becomes difficult to find leaner meats. And when you do find them, they are very costly.
Is the Premise Correct?
In a his guest appearance on the Scientific American blog, Rob Dunn, a biologist at the North Carolina State University, points out that the entire premise of the Paleo Diet might not even be right.
I’ve spoken to a few people that are on the Paleo Diet and noticed a pattern: many of them like the idea that they can eat a lot of meat.
Hey, our ancestors did it. And that’s what we should be doing too. Right?
Well, maybe not.
In his article, Rob Dunn points out that the actual diet of the Paleolithic era was far more plant-based than meat based. He also goes even further and asks “why do we stop at Paleolithic man?”
If we are going to model our diet after our ancestors, why not take it even further? If we look at the diets of apes and hominoids, they were almost completely plant based.
The reality of the matter is that we, as humans, have actually evolved to be able eat many different foods – in fact, pretty much anything. Rob Dunn still makes the case that we should be eating a much more plant-based diet. But that’s a discussion for a different time (and blog post).
Are Grains Really All That Bad?
One of the main keys to the “Paleo Diet” is avoiding grains. The assumption is that humans aren’t really meant to eat them, and that our cavemen forefathers sure didn’t.
Well, as it turns out they might have.
People, Plants and Genes: The Story of Crops and Humanity explores this idea and actually reveals that humans may have consumed grains as early as 200,000 years ago.
That’s quite a long time. And if we are going back to the “old days of eating,” maybe we shouldn’t be cutting grains out of our diets.
It’s also important to note the health benefits of eating grains; such as reducing the risk of heart disease, regularizing the digestive process and actually helping weight management.
One of the reasons that “Paleos” preach against consuming grains is the presence of gluten; a protein that has recently gotten a lot of news coverage and one that has been labeled as “bad for you.” However, Dr. Alessio Fasano of the University of Maryland has estimated that only 6%-7% of the population actually has gluten intolerance. And only one in 133 people has full-blown celiac disease.
So as it might turn out, completely cutting out a major, highly-valuable food group out of your diet might not be as good of an idea as it seems on the surface.
So what’s the Bottom Line?
I don’t mean to completely disregard the Paleo Diet as terrible or completely inappropriate. But I think, perhaps, the takeaway here is that it certainly isn’t appropriate for everyone.
It is often easy to start losing weight by completely cutting out certain food groups. But that doesn’t mean that your weight loss is healthy.
On an individual level, you have to choose what is right and works for you.
If you know you have certain food intolerances, avoid them. Test and experiment to see which diet provides the best results for you. And remember the tried and true advice “everything in moderation” is often a good choice.
Author: Rob Kinsly is a writer with a passion for health and nutrition. He has recently launched HealthYolk to provide readers with a common sense approach to staying healthy. Make sure to check out his “12 Greatest Tricks for a Health Diet and Life” report.