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The Paleolithic diet, also known as the Paleo diet or the caveman diet, became a somewhat popular diet trend in the early 2000’s with the release of Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Diet. More recently, however, the diet was made widely popular by the intense exercise craze called CrossFit. Touted as the premiere diet to build muscle and burn excess body fat for a flawless physique, the Paleo diet has made its way into popular media and popular culture. Interestingly, it is simply founded on clean, whole foods the human race has thrived on for the past 2 million years: namely meat and fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and eggs.
The foundation of the Paleo diet is based off of research findings that our ancient, Paleolithic ancestors were in exceptionally superior health than people today, with little disease and stable blood sugars. Ancient bones leave clues about diet and health, and researchers often attribute the great health of the Paleolithic people to a combination of diet and the intense lifestyle of the ancient hunter gatherer. Today, the intense lifestyle is often mimicked with intense exercise regimes and frequent workouts for extraordinary physical condition.
The Paleo diet requires that one give up dairy, grains, preservatives, additives, processed foods, legumes, and vegetable oils, all foods that Paleolithic people were unable to attain. What is left is a whole, clean diet that is packed full of nutrients and healthy fats that will help your body run as efficiently as possible. Unlike the standard American diet that is loaded with simple carbohydrates, saturated fats, chemicals and preservatives, and sugar, the Paleo diet is loaded with whole foods that are derived from the ground, rather than a factory. These foods are the key to the long-lasting energy and vitality needed to function on a daily basis.
According to one of the leading Paleolithic diet experts, Loren Cordain, the diet is comprised of 19 to 35 percent lean proteins, 22 to 40 percent carbohydrates, and 28-47 percent fats, while the standard American diet today is comprised of 15 percent protein, 49 percent carbohydrates, and 34 percent fats. Looking at the numbers, the Paleo diet is more evenly distributed amongst protein, complex carbohydrates, and fat than standard diets, which allows for a better distribution of nutrients while preventing blood sugar from quickly rising.
The fats allowed in a Paleolithic diet are beneficial, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are often full of omega-3 fatty acids, rather than the saturated, trans-fats that currently overload the standard American diet. Main sources of fat in the Paleo diet include nuts, olive and coconut oils, and lean meat. It is highly unlikely, according to Drs. S. Boyd Eaton and Stanley B. Eaton III, that ancient Paleolithic people would eat anywhere near the amount of saturated fats that the average American eats. The negative health effects associated with saturated fat, such as heart attack and stroke, would have been nearly nonexistent.
And, unlike a low-carbohydrate fad diet or the standard American diet, the Paleo diet allows as many carbohydrates as one would like, as long as they are derived from fruits and vegetables, rather than grains. By eating this type of carbohydrate, the body gets plenty of dietary fiber, something that grains cannot offer. These complex carbohydrates help regulate the body’s blood sugar, leaving you feeling high energy levels throughout the day. Simple carbohydrates can make your blood sugar spike and then plummet, a major cause of after-meal fatigue. Furthermore, carbohydrates derived from fruits and vegetables have cancer-fighting properties, whereas grains have little to no cancer-fighting properties, according to Eaton.
Ultimately, the current trend of eating paleo is derived from the belief that since the agricultural era, food has changed significantly for the worse, and that the diet eaten by our Paleolithic ancestors was the main factor in physical health and the expansion of our brains. And, with ample scientific evidence proving the health benefits of the diet, paleo eaters can feel confident in the healthfulness of their choice.