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The Paleo Diet

The Paleolithic diet (also known as the Paleo diet, Hunter- Gather diet, and Caveman diet) stems from the Paleolithic Era. This era lasted nearly 2.5 million years, ending 10,000 years ago, with the development of agriculture. The Paleolithic diet is based on consuming foods that were eaten by early humans, which consisted mostly of fish, meat, fruits, and vegetables and excludes processed foods. In the past several years, the Paleo diet has gained much popularity with books, websites, and apps now available to help guide a person towards a style of eating that mimics that of our early ancestors.

Proponents of the Paleo diet believe that our current Westernized eating habits are to blame for modern diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Scientist that support a Hunter-Gather style diet believe that even though it has been 10,000 years, our genes have not had sufficient time to catch up with our current eating patterns.

The Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology reviewed The Jonsson study, which was the first study to evaluate the potential benefit of the Paleolithic diet in comparison to the more traditional diabetes diet in management of type 2 diabetes. In the Jonsson study, 13 subjects followed the Paleolithic diet for 3 months and then the diabetic diet for 3 months (or vice versa). Study results revealed that compared to a diabetic diet, the Paleolithic diet resulted in lower HbA1c, triglycerides, diastolic blood pressure (bottom number), weight, BMI and waist circumference. The study limitations include a small study size and the subjects were not blinded to what diet they were following. Nutrients lacking in the Paleo diet included calcium and vitamin D.

Paleolithic diet verses the diabetes diet:

  • The Paleolithic diet includes mostly meat, fish, fresh fruit and vegetables while excluding dairy, cereal grains, beans, fats, sugar, candy, soft drinks, beer, and extra salt.
  • The diabetes diet encourages a consistent carbohydrate intake at each meal. Participants in the Jonsson study were instructed to eat whole grain bread and cereal products, low fat dairy and decrease total fat intake (with a greater percentage of total fat as unsaturated fat).

While the reasons for the benefits of a Paleolithic diet are not known, some of the proposed benefits include the following:

  • Fewer calories
  • Lower glycemic Index
  • More satiating (resulting in lower calorie intake). Fruits and vegetables have a high water content making them more filling in comparison to other foods.
  • Higher percentage of total calories from protein (weight loss diets with moderate amounts of carbohydrate and protein have been shown to result in more favorable changes in body composition compared to a high carbohydrate, low protein diet).

Food to eat on Paleo diet:

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

Foods to avoid (or limit) on Paleo diet:

  • Cereal grains
  • Legumes (including peanuts)
  • Dairy
  • Refined sugar
  • Potatoes
  • Processed foods
  • Overly salty foods
  • Refined vegetable oils

Five Easy Diet Swaps to get you started:

  • Instead of bread, try lettuce leaf wraps
  • Instead of pasta, try making vegetable noodles with zucchini or spaghetti squash
  • Instead of rice, try cauliflower rice
  • Instead of mashed potatoes, try mashed yams or sweet potatoes
  • Instead of peanut butter, try almond butter

Bottom Line: While following a strict Paleo diet may not be for you; cutting out and/or limiting processed foods and eating more fresh and natural foods can put you on the pathway to better health.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.