The Paleolithic diet is based on a diet of wild plants and animals which our ancestors are believed to have foraged and consumed during the Paleolithic era until around 10,000 years ago with the dawn of agriculture.
This diet is mainly thought to consist of grass-fed raised meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, tree nuts, fruits, roots, berries and mushrooms. Proponents of the Caveman diet argue that it most closely resembles the natural foods that would’ve been eaten during this era and how the modern human’s genetics has not changed much since this time- making it the ideal diet for optimal human health.
The Health Benefits of the Paleolithic Diet
If the human body has evolved to live naturally on a hunter-gatherer diet, then modern followers of this diet will want to choose Paleo for its health benefits, i.e. losing weight and potentially lowering their risk of diabetes and diseases such as cancer. There is even some evidence to suggest that the Paleolithic diet may help in controlling diabetes.
According to a study by The University of California, “Participants in a preliminary study improved blood sugar control, blood pressure control and blood vessel elasticity. They lowered levels of blood fats such as cholesterol. And most amazingly, participants achieved these results in less than three weeks — simply by switching to a Paleolithic diet.”
In terms of weight loss, the Paleolithic diet is believed to be low in salt which could help to reduce bloating .The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has conducted studies into the Paleolithic diet to determine if it could also one day be a non-pharmaceutical treatment for type 2 diabetes. Preliminary findings have indicated that there is the potential for this to happen and a study against an ADA-type diet and paleolithic diet determined that some patients even those with diabetes, have shown improvements in lab measurements.
According to the article, ‘Paleolithic Diet May Help Control Diabetes’, UCSF endocrinologist Umesh Masharani, MD said, “People in the ongoing study who have been assigned to the Paleolithic diet have shown more improvement”. So eating like our ancestors could even provide some protection from disease.
The Paleolithic diet in your lifestyle
Incorporating a Paleolithic diet into your life can be a challenge depending on your current level of diet and nutrition. Some people may find that their everyday food intake isn’t up to the same standards required for the Caveman diet. For example they may be willing to eat meat but having to give up baked goods such as bread, would be out of the question. Bread and baked goods are forbidden in the Paleolithic diet as they are products of agriculture.
The Paleolithic diet also emphasises that early humans received half their carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits. Therefore foods such as cereal may also be out of the question on the Paleolithic diet as this is another agricultural product. Early humans would have simply received their fibre through fruits and vegetables.
According to the Nutrition Reporter Jack Challem, “The fiber in preagricultural diets came almost exclusively from fruits, roots, legumes, nuts and other naturally occurring noncereal plant sources, so it was less associated with phytic acid than is fiber from cereal grains” [Phytic acid interferes with mineral absorption].
Whether the Paleolithic lifestyle is healthy in the long term is a matter of some debate. Some argue that the Caveman diet is a way of life and not the fad diet which it has been made out to be.
By choosing to eat as our ancestors did, we are choosing to revert to a more natural lifestyle, away from dairy produce and baked goods, instead focusing on eating vegetables, meat, fruits and nuts.
This can only be beneficial to the body’s health as it allows for easier absorption of minerals and nutrients found naturally in such foods. In a world where processed junk food is increasingly becoming the norm, the Paleolithic diet may have got it right nutritionally, by keeping it so simple.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.
- The University of California; UC Health; May 3, 2010; ‘Paleolithic Diet May Help Control Diabetes’
- The Nutrition Reporter; Jack Challem, 1997;‘Paleolithic Nutrition: Your Future Is In Your Dietary Past’