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Health Guide Review: 2,5/5

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Paleo Diet Review

What is it?

The Paleo Diet is a diet plan for people looking to eat a hunter-gatherer diet that emphasizes the way humans used to eat.

The idea behind it is that our ancestors used to eat foods that were more wholesome, and because of this they had better overall health.

The main focus of this diet is to emphasize:

  • Unprocessed foods: The idea is to eat foods found in nature that came before agriculture. This is believed to be the main reason why our health today is in decline. The attention shifted from eating natural foods, to eating artificial ingredients those supporters of this diet claim is making us sick.     
  • No emphasis on micro or macronutrients: Because hunter gathers would eat whatever they could catch and find, there’s no emphasis on what kinds of splits you should have between fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Generally, you’re allowed to eat all kinds of foods and hypothetically this includes a meal that only has all meats.          
  • Lack of a caloric limit: While this diet plan doesn’t set a limit on calories, it’s claimed to be able to help maintain weight. This is because it’s believed that dairy, grains, and processed foods are the reason why obesity is now an issue. Also, when you don’t eat sugary foods that supporters of this diet claim is the reason for bad health, the body is claimed to be able to regulate itself.
  • General diet: As mentioned, the caloric limit isn’t emphasized. There really isn’t a limit to this diet as long as you avoid certain foods. Basically you’re allowed to eat as much and whatever types of foods that you’d like. The approach to this diet is simple, eat like a caveman used to.

You can read many different books and websites that outline the basics of this diet. It’s unlike other plans as it’s more about eating natural foods, as opposed to specific macronutrients and micronutrients.

While it’s not specifically for weight loss, the diet plan emphasizes that overall health will be improved. So by the virtue of eating better foods, your body will be able to regulate itself. Therefore, you’re likely not to be overweight.

Foods Allowed by the Diet

 Some foods that are emphasized include:

  • Meat, fish and eggs. Preferably wild caught fish  and grass fed meats.
  • Vegetables.
  • Fruits.
  • Seeds.
  • Herbs and spices.
  • Fats and certain oils.

More of an emphasis is placed on what’s not allowed:

  • Processed foods.
  • Sugar of all kinds and soft drinks.
  • Legumes including peas, lentils, peanuts, soy, carob, clover, alfalfa, and more.
  • Artificial sweeteners and artificial ingredients.
  • Vegetable oils and margarine.
  • Trans fats that often come from processed oils or certain meats.
  • Potatoes.
  • Majority of dairy products. Some paleo diets allow for full fat dairy and milk, though there’s a disagreement depending on which site you find.

One benefit to this diet according to the website PaleoLeaps is that:

“Calorie counting is not encouraged, neither is portion control”

 This can make it easy to eat all the types of foods allowed on this diet. You basically eat as you’d like without having to restrict yourself to weighing foods on a scale.

However, not all paleo diet supports can agree on whether or not you should limit carbohydrates. Some argue that depending on the type of hunter-gatherer background, one would be allowed more plants, which will are known to provide carbohydrates. Other websites that offer advice are stricter, and they claim high animal protein and low carbohydrate are essential.

Scientific American presented one argument against this diet. They mention that a 1990 anthropological study into the Hiwi tribe showed that these hunter gatherers:

“are not particularly healthy”

“are shorter, thinner, more lethargic, and less well nourished.”

“men and women of all ages constantly complain of hunger”

This is from a tribe whose diets consist of 95% foods that would be considered strict paleo. Therefore, it’s not the best decision to change to a fully paleo lifestyle. Those who are forced to live this don’t have the best overall health, and they’re also malnourished.

Also, another distinguishing factor is whether or not the diet allows for some types of dairy. Some argue that full fat unprocessed milk and cheese is paleo, though other sites won’t allow this.

This is one of the great issues with this diet. Not every site agrees on whether or not you should eat certain foods, or how much of a split if any, is required for the amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

 How Does the Diet Work?

 It’s fairly simple, you eat like a caveman used to while avoiding processed foods like cereal, grains, sugars, and anything that’s not traditionally eaten by our ancestors.

One tricky thing about this diet is eating out. Since you’re not allowed salt, vegetable oils, processed dairy, and other processed foods, you have to be careful about how your food is prepared. This means you either have to ask your server for specific alterations, or you have to prep all your meals from whole unprocessed foods.

Many prepackaged foods even if they’re paleo foods, can be prepped with things like salt.

According to Kathleen Zelman, a registered dietician, this diet:

“may be a tough plan to follow long term due to dietary limits and restrictions”

 The problem with eating like our ancestors used to, is that now, these types of foods can be costly. It’s often advised to only eat foods which are grass fed, wild caught, or organic. This significantly raises the overall price.

The Leiden University Medical Centre performed one study into the diet:

“None of the RCTs evaluated an improvement in quality of life”

The Quarterly Review of Biology also performed an analysis, which showed that carbohydrates were incredibly beneficial to human health. The study showed that:

“cooked starch, a source of preformed glucose, greatly increased energy availability to human tissues”

It also showed a remarkable improvement in brain health. According to this landmark 2015 study, carbohydrates were directly responsible for the growth of the human brain.

This is why glucose, which is found in carbohydrates, is the main fuel source to the brain. It’s also a great post-workout food, as it quickly delivers support to the muscles.

All this information means that the idea of a paleo diet is flawed. Since, starches and legumes are actually quite healthy and not a bad thing to add to your diet in moderation.

Pros 

  • Emphasizes eating lots of wholesome, unprocessed foods.
  • There’s no limit on portions, and calorie counting is not necessary.
  • Not eating processed foods is good for overall health.
  • There are many free resources online that provides tips on how to properly prepare and live with this diet. Many books are also published that offer things like recipes and strategies.
  • It’s fairly easy to know what foods are allowed.

Cons

  • It can be expensive to eat like this. It’s often advised to eat grass fed meats, and you have to avoid cheap staple foods such as potatoes, oats, legumes, and all types of starches.
  • Eating out can be difficult, as you have to avoid many common foods. You’d have to ask to replace things like added salt in order to keep up with this diet.
  • There’s no proof to suggest this diet is any better than others for helping people lose weight. In fact, studies have shown that starches were important for helping the development of the human brain.
  • The idea of the diet is flawed, as out bodies can now eat grains without getting sick.
  • Evidence is available to show that eating foods like dairy and grains are actually good for you.

 Better Alternatives to the Diet

 This diet can be really demanding. The main issue being that not only will your grocery bills likely go up, but also there’s no scientific evidence to support the idea that you should avoid the non-paleo friendly foods.

New science in genetics shows that many people can now enjoy dairy and grains while gaining many benefits.

Scientific American studied this diet and they add:

“the Paleo Diet is founded more on privilege than logic”

“Which hunter-gatherer tribe are we supposed to mimic?”

The major issue not yet explained is whether or not you should follow a paleo diet according to the Inuit, Hiwi, Kung, Hadza or other tribes. Each one had access to different type of foods. For some it was heavy on meats, other’s had less access and eat more veggies and nuts.

It’s for this reason why this diet has not yet been proven to be an effective diet plan.

 Conclusion

 There’s both good and bad things allowed by this diet. Eating less processed foods will always be a good solution for overall health and weight loss.

Making sure you eat more natural foods from the earth is always a better solution. However, the idea that you can just eat as much as you want is not a proper way to lose weight. Calories can accumulate very quickly, and making sure you stay under a certain amount of calories is necessary for weight loss.

Also, the paleo diet is flawed, there are too many hunter-gatherer tribes that ate completely different kinds of foods. Another problem is that the body has adjusted o eating grains and dairy, there’s no proof to suggest these are bad for everyone.

Better diet plans exist that don’t require you to limit yourself as much as the paleo diet requires.

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