What is the Paleo Diet?

The Paleolithic diet, also frequently called the paleo diet, is a diet which is based on trying to subsist on many of the same foods that would have been consumed by our ancestors in the Paleolithic era.  Proponents of the diet argue that humans are evolved to subsist on certain types of foods, many of which were widely available in that time period, and that because our genetics as species have changed little since then, it is beneficial to us to follow a nutritional plan which mimics the diet of our ancestors.  The paleo diet was popularized in the mid-1970s by gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin.


The paleo diet is centered around many modern foods which are commonly available, and attempts to mimic the dietary regimen of Paleolithic hunter-gatherer societies.  The main sources of meat in the paleo diet are those that can be hunted – grass-fed, pasture raised meats, such as beef and lamb – and fish.  The diet is rounded out with vegetables, fruits, roots, nuts, herbs, mushrooms, and other foods which can be gathered in the wild.  Though the foods embraced by the paleo diet were typically hunted or gathered by our ancestors in the Paleolithic era, it is understood that the meats and produce of the modern paleo diet are cultivated plants and domesticated animal meat.  As for beverages, those who participate in the paleo diet are advised to drink mainly water, but tea is also considered acceptable by many proponents.


The paleo diet excludes many staples of the modern diet, such as grains, dairy products, salt, oils and refined sugar.  Alcoholic and fermented beverages are also restricted.  Some practitioners eat only raw foods, but generally speaking, the paleo diet consists of both raw and cooked foods.  In addition to simply limiting the intake of certain foods, a high level of physical activity is advocated by many proponents of the paleo diet, as they acknowledge that our ancestors’ lifestyle did not differ from ours in diet alone.


One of the major benefits of the paleo diet is that because it incorporates so much fiber, protein and animal fat, those who participate in it will feel full longer and, therefore, eat fewer calories than those who are on other diets which include processed or refined foods.  It also limits intake of refined sugars, sodium and processed foods, all of which have been known to cause health problems when consumed in excess.


Unfortunately, studies of the paleo diet have been few and small in scope, so it’s hard to tell how nutritionally adequate it is, or whether it really does reduce the risk of so-called “diseases of affluence” (such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, et cetera).  That being said, there are many people who have had great results with the paleo diet, and it’s hard to dispute the idea that eating naturally and avoiding processed foods would be a bad thing.  Certain experts, like the government sponsored  Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association)  tend to advise caution with the diet because it limits the intake of grains and dairy, both of which are considered to be important food groups, and encourages the consumption of higher amounts of animal fats than are generally considered advisable. As with any other diet, it’s important to take things in moderation, and make sure that you’re getting the necessary nutrients to stay healthy.


The two books we recommend that best describes the paleo diet lifestyle are:

The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson – An easy read with entertaining scenarios!

The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf – A more in-depth look at the lifestyle.


~ Submitted by IHPro


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