The Paleo Diet: Is the Caveman Diet Up-and-Coming or Simply Outdated?

The first time I heard about The Paleo Diet, I pictured this:

paleo diet

It looks strange and disturbing, right? Why would people find it appealing to eat how our ancestors did 10,000 years before the agricultural revolution? Not I, especially since I have a profound love for cereal, pasta, potatoes, cookies, and the occasional brownie! But after doing some research, I realized that the diet isn’t as bizarre as I originally thought.

Here is some information on what the modern Paleo Diet entails:

The Paleo Diet consists of a diet rich in protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant phytochemicals. The quantity of fat and protein is not closely monitored, but rather the quality is of utmost importance. Fats should be mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats) and omega-3 intake should be increased. Saturated, trans (bad fats) and omega-6 fat intake should be minimized. Carbohydrates should be scarce in one’s diet and refined foods should be completely avoided. As a rule of thumb, 3 non-Paleo meals are permitted. So what does that mean?

Here is what The Paleo Diet would look like:

What To Eat:

  • Grass-fed meats
  • Fish/seafood
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy oils (olive, flaxseed, avocado, and coconut)
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables

What Not To Eat:

  • Cereal grains
  • Dairy
  • Refined sugar
  • Refined vegetable oils
  • Processed foods
  • Salt
  • Legumes

There are a few things to think about if you are considering The Paleo Diet. Various individuals thrive with this type of diet plan including professional athletes and cross-fit enthusiasts. Those looking to lose weight have also seen a decrease in overall body fat and increase in fitness abilities by adopting a more natural, unprocessed diet. Slowly teaching the body how to rely on plants and grass-fed meats minimizes cravings for refined foods such as unhealthy fats and refined sugars since your body no longer relies on them. Ultimately, the diet is about fueling the body for power rather than eating for pleasure.

On the other hand, many scientific facts on fueling the body are overlooked in this diet plan. I am reluctant to adopt The Paleo Diet because I have been taught in almost every Exercise Science and Nutrition class at Oakland University about the importance of restoring muscles after exercise. The fancy scientific name for the energy we store by eating carbohydrates is called glycogen, which is essentially sugar. And not all carbohydrates are created equal! As an avid distance runner, I know that I could never fuel my body for a marathon by simply eating meat (protein) and fruits and vegetables (both are carbohydrates). I rely on whole grains and potatoes for concentrated energy that will restore my depleted muscles after exercise. Highly trained athletes can adapt their bodies to run primarily on fats, but it simply isn’t as effective for short-term and high-intensity exercise.

Whether or not to pursue The Paleo Diet is completely up to you, and your fitness goals should be taken into account when coming to a decision. I encourage you to look for the science behind the diet, not just Googling opinions (such as mine). Talk to a doctor or dietitian for advice on whether or not this diet can work for you. Good luck!

-Taylor Thompson, Wellness Intern

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2 thoughts on “The Paleo Diet: Is the Caveman Diet Up-and-Coming or Simply Outdated?

  1. Taylor, I agree with your assessment about glycogen. I suggest you look into the Perfect Health Diet, which advocates the use of “safe” (low toxin) starches like white rice and potatoes as an integral part of a balanced meal. I’ve been eating the PHD interpretation of Paleo for about 3 years now and I’ve found that it’s a much more rewarding and sustainable way of eating than low-card.

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