Ever since the gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin coined the phase Paleolithic diet, people have been copying the diets of caveman in an attempt to eat healthier and lose weight.
Foods can be either hunted and fished, such as meat, offal and seafood, or gathered, such as eggs, fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables, mushrooms, herbs and spices.
In particular it is recommended to eat only lean cuts of meat, free of food additives, preferably wild game meats and grass-fed beef since they contain higher levels of omega-3 fats compared with grain-produced domestic meats.
The reasons for these food types are that prior to the Neolithic (agricultural) revolution, humans were unable to produce grains eg. Rice, flour, also they were unable to cook legumes or beans, or produce any form of dairy products, refined sugars and processed oils
It is thought that this diet is very beneficial to health as we are essentially omnivorous. There are far more vitamins and nutrients in a Paleo diet rich in fruits, vegetable, nuts and seeds than in the modern day refined processed foods diet we now consume
Medical problems that can be alleviated with a Paleo diet include Chrohns disease, IBS and Colitis. Paleo diets are Gluten free and so suitable for Coeliacs. Casein which is a protein found in milk and dairy products, and may impair glucose tolerance in humans is also not part of a Paleo diet,
Various books have been written and studies carried out on un-westernized communities, and the Paleo diet with a high protein content, low carbohydrate content has been linked to a lack of strokes, ischemic heart disease, diabetes, obesity and hypertension
However, also raw, Paleolithic dieters are even more strict and who believe that humans have not adapted to cooked foods, and so they eat only foods which are both raw and Paleolithic
The idea is to avoid any processed foods and stick to foods of plant or animal origin. GI indexes and loadings are not specified, there is not a point system or Atkins type of regime, nor is it a quick fix solution. Its more of a lifestyle change, not to lose weight fast, but to enhance ones health and minimise the risk of disease from modern refined foods
This diet is in stark contrast to a typical western diet which consists of up to 70% refined sugars, processed oils, processed cereals, dairy and alcohol, all of which are banned from the Paleo diet
These banned foods when eaten in excess have been linked to the obesity epidemic that is spreading across the Western world, as well as high volume of cases of Type 2 diabetes, cardio vascular disease and high blood pressure. The reason for this is that our former functional diet aided natural selection and the growth of the human population, our current dysfunctional diet differs greatly from what we have evolved to eat and so cause us various medical ailments
The proportions of animal to plant foods that our ancestors ate are vastly unclear. We know that around 64- 68% of the diet was from animal origin, the rest originated from plants
Our digestive system, organs, teeth, stomach pH and gut size are moistly similar to that of Chimpanzees, which are essentially fruit eaters. We share 98% of our DNA with Chimps who consume around 95% plants and 5% animal foods. However the one difference between our digestive systems if the way we synthesize polyunsaturated fats, in that we require more from our diet than Chimps, as we are require a greater quantity and are not as adept as synthesizing these fats ourselves. The best source of these fats is fish.
One mineral that is lacking from a Paleo diet is Vitamin D, which modern day humans require in much greater amounts in our sunless climate than in the Paleolithic era
About 10,000 years ago, humans began to domesticate animals and produce dairy. New foods such as beans, cereals and salt were introduced due to agricultural methods, as well as alcohol.
The industrial revolution enabled us to use food processing and intensive farming methods to produce refined cereals, sugar, vegetable oils and fatty meats.
Whilst crops 10,000 years ago were nutrient rich, after thousands of years of intensive farming, the mass produced vegetables and fruits we find in our local shops contains far less nutrients, and so would need to be more varied to ensure all the essential vitamins and minerals are consumed.
Although food production methods would have to change drastically in order to sustain the work population that has surpassed 7 billion, a Paleo diet is the healthiest way reduce the risk of modern diseases.
Strictly adhering to a Paleo diet may mean making some changes with eating out socially, avoiding alcohol and involves a certain amount of preparation. But it is well worth at least considering reducing the amount of processed foods we eat and incorporating more natural, seasonal foods which are more nutrient packed and full of health benefits that the packaged processed foods we have become accustomed to eating sadly lack.
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