Do you want to know more about the origins of the Paleo diet and the dietary guidelines? Read this article.
Dietary trends seem to come and go faster than the science (if there is any) or philosophy behind them can even be properly understood and analyzed. One such diet that seems to be gaining traction is the “Paleo Diet”.
Short for Paleolithic, this diet suggests that humans should primarily eat what they have been “optimized” to over thousands of years. This includes mostly wild plants and animals, hence its nickname the “Caveman Diet”.
Paleo Diet Origin
The diet is based on the Paleolithic period, which historically ended with the advent of modern agriculture. As such, the diet specifically does not include grains or grain fed meat. “Paleolithic Diet” refers to both the historical diet of the period and the modern diet based on it.
This second iteration was initially publicized in the 1970’s by Walter L. Voegtlin, a Gastroenterologist. It has since been adopted and promoted by a number of prominent nutritionists and researchers.
This diet has found considerable support amongst proponents of evolutionary medicine, who argue that contemporary humans are still genetically adapted to the diets of their Paleolithic ancestors. The human body, these people claim, has scarcely had time to acclimate to the introduction of grain. They believe that such a drastic change in eating habits is the cause of diseases of affluence such as heart disease, obesity, and gout.
In 1989, Staffan Lindeberg, a Swedish scientist and doctor, conducted scientific surveys on a tribe in Papa New Guinea that practiced a Paleolithic lifestyle. These surveys found that the population apparently did not suffer from diabetes, ischemic heart disease, stroke, hypertension or obesity.
Paleo Diet Dietary Guidelines
The diet consists mainly of pasture raised, grass fed meats, fruit, vegetables, roots, nuts, and fish. It specifically forbids legumes, dairy products, grains, excessive salt, processed oils and refined sugars.
It is based on a hunter/gatherer lifestyle and thus chiefly suggests eating wild meats (or as close to wild as possible) and foods that can be foraged for. When expanded out to modern grocery availability, these foods include meats, offal, and seafood as well as insects, eggs, mushrooms, herbs and spices.
One interesting aspect of this diet is its emphasis of grass fed versus grain fed meat. This suggestion, at the very least, has been proven to have merit. Animals fed grass rather than grain produce higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in their meat, and the advent of grain feed for farm animals is one of the primary causes of Omega-3 deficiencies in the Western diet.
Unfortunately, livestock fed grain rather than grass tends to produce significantly more milk and meat than livestock that is grass fed. As such, the vast majority of livestock in the United States is grain fed.
The Paleolithic diet is often confused with the “Raw Food” diet. In reality, however, all foods in the Paleolithic diet may be cooked at will.
The diet also suggests a fairly balanced caloric intake, with 55% coming from animal sources and approximately 45% coming from plant based sources. The diet should be relatively high in protein and low in carbohydrates.