Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Should we be eating like cavemen?

Diet trends pop up everyday that make crazy claims for your health, weight and even longevity. Most of us know to ignore the latest fad, but there is one diet that seems to be gaining some ground. The Paleolithic diet is referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet or hunter–gatherer diet.This diet consists of foods that are assumed to be available to humans prior to modern agriculture.

What does it consist of? 

A generous amount of protein is recommended, including meat, particularly lean game meats as well as poultry, fish and eggs.  A good amount of vegetables from leafy greens to root vegetables should also be included.  Fruit and nuts are consumed in smaller amounts with a preference for lower sugar fruits such as berries. 

It's surprising that fat is recommended in comparatively large amounts compared to other diets.  Coconut oil, ghee, lard and duck fat are all included on the list with only vegetable oils being eliminated.  It's worth noting that the paleo diet allows fresh or dried herbs and spices so that tasty dishes can be created.

Foods that are off limits: 
  • Cereal grains and legumes (no wheat, rye, barley, oats, brown rice, corn, soy) 
  • All sugars 
  • Dairy (with the exception of butter) 
Overall, this diet is high in protein, polyunsaturated fats, fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and is low in saturated fats and sugars which is generally considered to be good for you.  However, as this is a relatively new idea, studies done on this topic are minimal, so the benefits of this diet are largely unknown.

Remember that nothing substitutes a healthy active lifestyle and adopting the paleo diet is a big change that includes significant planning and preparation.  So before you jump on board, it's worth doing your research and talking to your doctor first. 

 References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Brehm B. The paleolithic lifestyle: helping stone age bodies adapt to modern times. Fitness Management. July 2001;17(8):30-31.
2. Eating like cave men. Cycling Weekly. September 11, 2008;:27.
3. Eaton S, Eaton III S. Paleolithic vs. modern diets--selected pathophysiological implications. European Journal Of Nutrition. April 2000;39(2):67.
4. FITZGERALD M. Should You Eat Like a Caveman?. Triathlete. December 2010;(320):42-44.
5. Let's go paleo!. Cycling Weekly. January 28, 2010;:38-41.
6. Mickleborough T. Understanding Fatigue And the Paleo Diet. Triathlete. August 2009;(304):128-129.

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