The paleolithic diet—or “caveman” diet, as it is commonly referred to—is a diet that takes you back to your roots. On this diet, you avoid all processed food and primarily eat fish, free-range meat, game, nuts, seeds, eggs, vegetables, and fruit.
Like its name suggests, the paleolithic diet refers to the historical period corresponding to the pre-agricultural area when there was no farming or organized food production. This diet is rather unique, because it essentially contains no grains or grain products, white potatoes, legumes, or dairy. What I find very encouraging about this diet is that it excludes all processed foods, fats, refined sugars, and canned foods. It contains higher amounts of protein and fat at the expense of carbohydrates, and it has been associated with lower rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
The paleolithic diet is a diet which is rich in nutrients, contains substantial amounts of fiber, and has much less sodium, compared to the typical Western diet.
Although no diet is perfect, the paleolithic diet has some very good features, which can be beneficial for a wide variety of people if you’re trying to lose weight or stay healthy. Here are some things you should know about the paleolithic diet.
The diet is a low-glycemic diet: The foods on this diet are low on the glycemic scale, so their consumption leads to a lower increase in blood sugar and insulin levels. People who are overweight or obese have a tendency to be carbohydrate-intolerant, so their diet must be designed to control and improve the degree of insulin resistance they have. This might be why the paleolithic diet is associated with lower rates of diabetes. Consuming the foods that make up this diet lead to a decrease in insulin secretion, blood sugar, blood pressure, and the markers of internal inflammation.
The diet is lower in calories, but nutrient-dense: On the paleolithic diet, you’ll consume vegetables, fruit, spices, tubers, fish, seafood, and free-range meat. This provides a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and high-quality fat. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s especially important to eat foods with a lot of fiber and the right proteins to help you feel full.
The diet excludes grains and dairy products: In my opinion, most people eat far too many calories from cereal grains and dairy products, especially grains manufactured from cow’s milk, which can contribute to obesity. A number of the disorders involving the gastrointestinal tract and the immune system have been attributed to the overconsumption of these food groups. If you want to lose weight, get your calories from filling, satisfying foods.
The diet excludes processed foods and sugar: This is the feature I like most regarding the paleolithic diet. It rejects most—if not all—of what I consider to be the most dangerous aspects of the traditional “Western” diet which is consumed in North America today. The reason why people are overweight, obese, and suffer chronic illness is because of their lifestyle dynamics. This diet incorporates a mixture of a healthy diet and active lifestyle, which has been shown to lower the risk of disease for many high-risk people.
The diet is low in calcium and vitamin D: Although this diet contains less calcium and vitamin D than currently recommended in the standard North American diet, the calcium contained within the various food groups is quite absorbable. If you want to increase your consumption of vitamin D, eat more oily fish, get more sunshine, or take a supplement.
There’s a lot of debate around the paleolithic diet—but it definitely has a few merits, in my opinion.
“Paleolithic diet,” Wikipedia, , June 10, 2013; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_diet, last accessed June 10, 2013.
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Jönsson, T., et al., “Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study,” Cardiovasc Diabetol. July 16, 2009; 8: 35.
Frassetto, L.A., et al., “Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet,” Eur J Clin Nutr. August 2009; 63(8): 947-55.