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What is The Paleo Diet?

The Paleo Diet is one of the latest fad diets to go mainstream. Chances are more than one of your friends has tried it and raved about its effectiveness. But what exactly is the Paleo Diet? Essentially, it’s a commitment based in the belief that humans survived for millennia on a hunter and gatherer diet. It is an effort to eat like humans used to back in the caveman days. This means meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, regional veggies, and seeds. One big thing you’ll notice not on that list: Processed carbs. Indeed, the Paleo Diet can be seen as the “Low Carb Diet” and is also referred to as the Caveman Diet, the Stone Age Diet, and the Hunter-Gatherer Diet.

Proponents of the Paleo Diet believe that humans were much more healthy in the Paleolithic Age when they only ate foods that came directly from the earth. It was the advent of agriculture, they claim, that led to the decline in human’s diets and overall health. It is primarily the gluten and lectins that are found in grains that are bad (if not dangerous, some claim) to the human body.

Gluten is a protein found in things like rye, wheat, and barley. Some experts are starting to claim that much of our population may be gluten-intolerant. Over time, those who are gluten intolerant can develop health conditions such as dermatitis, joint pain, reproductive problems, and acid reflux amongst others. Lectins, strangely enough, are natural toxins that exist within grains to protect themselves from being eaten by animals, humans included. Lectins prevent our gastrointestinal tract from repairing itself from normal wear and tear. This can cause serious long term damage to our bodies.

Other things the Paleo Diet eliminates is processed sugars and other processed foods. You can still get plenty of sugars from fruits which contain them naturally, but nothing processed. There’s nothing really up for debate in this respect as it’s well known that processed sugars lead to unhealthy spikes and crashes in our body and is easily turned into fat.

Proponents of the Paleo Diet also suggest that the kinds of foods you can eat — grass-fed meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, nuts, fruit, oils, tubers — are so nutritious and filling that it’s harder for those on the diet to overeat.

The main criticism of the Paleo Diet is that it propagates the, some say false, belief that humans are fragile creatures. Critics argue that humans are much more nutritionally flexible than previously thought. Similarly, it also draws criticism for “fear mongering” and vilifying grains in the same way that fats have been vilified.

As has been proven with most fad diets by now, there are positive and negative aspects of every diet. Diets in general are flawed in that they imply a temporary quick-fix rather than a serious lifestyle change that includes regular exercise. Certainly, eating real and natural foods is healthy. I think very few people could argue against that point. Whether just because something isn’t 100% natural means it’s unhealthy is up for the debate on the other hand. The Paleo Diet ultimately means eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed sugars which is good for everyone. Whether you believe in the whole system is up you.

Photo Credit: Amber Karnes via photopin cc

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