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Myth: Paleo is the way to go

 

 

TRUTH:  Though the Paleo-diet is not necessarily the healthiest way to eat, it certainly is one of the trendiest right now.  And in general, what’s trendy is usually a little blown out of proportion.

Basic principles of eating the Paleolithic Way:

  •  Eat: foods that could have been hunted, fished, or gathered about 2 million years ago (wild meat, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruits and berries).
  • Don’t eat: cultivated foods, such as grains, nut or vegetable oils, dairy, sugar, legumes, or potatoes.

Supporters of the Paleolithic diet claim that our bodies are not made to process foods that became a viable food source after the development of agriculture.  Ahem, evolution anyone?!  If we can change so much as we age (i.e. become more lactose intolerant), don’t you think we’ve changed/evolved a bit in the last 10,000 years?

Here are my main issues with the Paleo Diet:

  1. You can’t actually eat the way people did 2 million years ago.  Mostly because wild game isn’t really available, meat is domesticated (and fattier), and the variety of fruits and vegetables available is limited to crops that humans have chosen to cultivate.  Isn’t eating “modern equivalents” just a euphemism for “different foods than they once ate”?
  2. In many ways, the advent of agriculture and technology is a good thing –when some foods are processed or cooked, more beneficial nutrients become available to our bodies.  For instance: flax seeds.  If we just ate the flax seeds, without processing, we wouldn’t get any of the omega-3 benefits.  Modern technology also means the ability to detect heart disease, cancer, and other diseases that Paleolithic humans could have died from.  We really have no idea, do we?  In the same vein, we’re also guessing what they ate, aren’t we?!  
  3. Whole grains, oils (like olive), and legumes (like beans and lentils) have clear health benefits.  Why omit excellent sources of B-vitamins, unsaturated fats, and lean protein from your plate?!
  4. If you follow the Paleo Diet, you may become deficient in calcium and Vitamin D – so you should take a vitamin/mineral supplement.  Though, I’m pretty sure that in 9,560 BC you couldn’t walk into Rite Aid and pick up a multi-vitamin.

Here is the main benefit of the Paleo Diet: it excludes processed foods.  With the exception of grains and vegetable oils, I agree with this.  Processed foods, those with additives and other lab synthesized ingredients don’t have many health benefits. 

BOTTOM LINE: Rightfully, the Paleo diet focuses on foods with little-to-no processing and suggests that we eat more vegetables, roots, nuts, fruits and lean meats (though wild meat is much leaner than the meat from domesticated animals).  However, there is clear evidence that whole grains, beans, and vegetable oils help reduce the risk of the diseases that Paleo-fanatics are trying to avoid. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  1. WebMD
  2. A very easy-to-read review from US News and World Report Health

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