I came across this post on Facebook today, posted ironically by Paleo Magazine: Dont’ Eat Like a Caveman - as a person that follows the Paleo diet and therefore “eats like a caveman” I was intrigued. I personally hate it when people describe my diet and lifestyle as the caveman diet. I admit that I have used this description before when explaining what Paleo is because when I say I eat a Paleo Paleolithic or Primal diet most people respond with a glazed look in their eyes, so I revert to the Caveman piece since it seemed to work successfully for Geico. I don’t really think about my diet as things that cavemen would eat though, we live in a modern world and most of what we have isn’t what a caveman would have had. We have large apples, cavemen probably had small tart crab-apples like the ones I have on the tree outside my house. Paleo doesn’t necessarily mean what a caveman ate…but I digress.
I’ve pulled some of the highlights from the article by Melody Cherny as an opinion piece on FoodSafetyNews.com. The good news about this piece is that as Paleo is gaining more popularity the information about it is getting more accurate – not 100% accurate, but much better than some of the other stuff I’ve seen out on the interwebs. I’ve added my commentary as bullets under the quotes I pulled from the article, take a look at some of my thoughts and read the article first while you’re at it, it’s really not that long – Dont’ Eat Like a Caveman.
Paleo is a fad diet based on Dr. Loren Cordain’s book [The Paleo Diet]
- LP – Paleo isn’t exactly a fad diet, in fact I don’t really like to call it a diet at all, instead its a lifestyle. Would you call being “vegetarian” a fad diet…I don’t think so. Paleo is the same, its a philosophy of eating whole foods focusing on meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and excluding grains, legumes, and dairy.The Paleo Diet claims to be “the world’s healthiest diet.”
- LP – I haven’t really seen this stated anywhere and I read a lot of pro-paleo stuff! I think that its something that is making people that practice it healthier and anecdotally its helped a lot of people. I guess the claim to be the worlds healthiest diet may be derived from the perspective that its eating more of the foods you were evolved to eat (most of evolution occurred LONG before the advent of agriculture and modern food science). Try it out for 30 days to 3 months and see how you look, feel, perform and see if your biomarkers improve – then decide if its healthy for you
…consuming more vegetables, fruit, roots and nuts, and cutting down on sugar, salt, processed oil, dairy and alcohol is always a good idea, I do not agree that people should exclude whole grains and legumes from their diet. Nor do I agree that people will become healthier by consuming large amounts of meats, seafood and eggs.
- LP – Yes, there are a lot of common sense things about the Paleo diet that many people can agree with. The controversial piece seems to be the exclusion of a food group, which from anyone that has gone to school for nutrition will tell you that excluding a whole food group is always bad…however the reason for the exclusions of these foods is because they are pro-inflammatory and harmful to your gut – meaning that they aren’t promoting optimal health. The author doesn’t explain why she is concerned that eating more meat, seafood, and eggs may be problematic to your health, just that she doesn’t agree that it will make you healthier…I’d like to know why she feels this way to understand her point of view.
- LP – Maybe not ALL people will become more healthy by consuming large amounts of meat, seafood, and eggs but you have to remember that you are eating much more than just those things. Taken in isolation, you are taking things out of context.
The Paleo Diet promulgates the diatribe against carbohydrates. …Whole grains are an important part of a long-term, healthy diet. They provide ample doses of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
- LP – Paleo is not anti-carbohydrate, and whole grains do not have to be part of a healthy diet. Nutrient for nutrient if you compare a whole grain to a vegetable (especially a green one like broccoli) you are going to find that the vegetable contains more nutrients, more vitamins and minerals, more fiber, and fewer calories than the grain will. You can get iron from better sources than whole grains, remember all those meats, seafood, and eggs that you are eating if you’re following a Paleo lifestyle…
- LP – Comprehensive Paleo studies haven’t really been done; however, people that are following a Paleo lifestyle are noticing that they are able to “cure” some autoimmune diseases, reduce symptoms of type 2 diabetes, and seem to be healthier in the long run. Doubt what I say, check out Art DeVany!
Paleo Diet is that it’s not environmentally sustainable if adopted on a mass scale — not to mention expensive (grass-fed, pasture-raised meats that the Paleo Diet encourages are more expensive and less available than conventional meats)
- LP – To be honest here I don’t know enough to really comment on the sustainability factor. What I do know if calorie for calorie meat and poultry are better nutrient sources than grains – so if we converted some of the grain production to meat production it may make things more scalable. And yes animals that are raised properly, not by an industrial machine are more expensive and they should be. Americans have substantially lower food prices than most other areas of the world because of farm subsidies and many other things. It’s about time we started getting higher quality (pastured and grass fed and finished) meats and paid for it as well. I realize that buying and eating this way is more expensive – to be Paleo you don’t HAVE to only eat that way but you start to learn about food quality and why it matters so it’s an evolution and soon you’ll be voting with your wallet – I predominately only buy grass fed and finished meats, and my current preferred source is Philly Cow Share.
A final problem with the Paleo Diet is that it promotes a high protein, low carbohydrate intake ratio, which puts stress on the body.
- LP – I mentioned this a little earlier but Paleo doesn’t actually promote or recommend a ratio of macronutrients (high carb, low carb, etc). Because eating Paleo includes foods that are nutrient dense and not calorie dense many people that eat Paleo tend to eat higher fat and less carbs. You can be high protein, high fat, and even high carb (you just have to work much harder eating sweet potatoes & squash instead of bagels) and still be following a Paleo lifestyle. Paleo just narrows the food choices, the rest of how you eat is up to you. Endurance athletes that are Paleo eat more carb dense foods, regular people probably eat less…when you change to a Paleo lifestyle you’ll be more in tune with what your body wants and find that you trend towards what works best for you, not some magic ration of protein, fat, and carbs that you are constantly counting and calculating.
Overall I appreciate the criticism of the Paleo diet, and the fact that there is criticism means that there are people out there taking this seriously. I don’t want people to blindly try the Paleo Diet because they’ve heard that it’s the best thing since sliced bread…I want people to understand a little of the WHY and then try it out and see how they look, feel, and perform. If you don’t feel better, look better, or perform better when eating a Paleo diet then try something else! I definitely agree with one point the author makes “consuming more vegetables, fruit, roots and nuts, and cutting down on sugar, salt, processed oil, dairy and alcohol is always a good idea” this is more in line with the principles of a Paleo diet. After reading I’ve decided I’m not taking her advice…I’m going to continue eating like a Caveman!