For a full primer on the paleo diet, see WikiPedia
You could talk to 100 different “cavemen” all supposedly following the paleo diet, and each would give you a different version of its principles and implementation. Some people say you can’t eat eggs but you can have milk, or only organic chicken and grass fed beef is okay; bacon isn’t okay under any circumstance; you can have sweet potatoes, but only on Sundays. Who’s right? Common sense and science.
Study after study has shown that the only thing that determines our weight is the amount of calories we consume: fewer than we expend leads to a decrease in weight and more than we expend leads to an increase in weight. However, weight is not necessarily a measure of healthiness.
What the paleo diet does—I think more so than most diets—is get us to start thinking about what exactly we’re putting into our bodies. Sure, we could get all the calories we need from pizza and beer, and if we matched our intake and expenditure, research tells us we wouldn’t gain or lose any weight. Our bodies, however, need more than just calories to survive. They need vitamins, minerals, lipids, proteins, and other chemicals in a fairly specific ratio to function optimally. And by optimally, I mean functioning at a level that doesn’t shorten our lifespan. There are few things in life that we can control—walking across the street and getting hit by a car for example—but the food we eat is something we can.
The “paleo” misnomer
I almost hate to use the word “paleo” when describing this diet because I think it’s a misnomer. I would almost prefer it to be called the “common sense backed up by science diet,” but I think that by calling things “paleo”, we’ll all be on the same page.
Clearly, cavemen did not have access to all the meats and vegetables we have now, and certainly rarely if ever at the same time. That is supermarket luxury. They didn’t have VitaMix blenders or Shun cutlery, or refrigerators or dishwashers. Nope, cavemen probably lived a pretty hard life and ate anything they could find. If wild boar was in season, then they had wild boar. If they found strawberries in a field, then they ate those. If they happened to come across a pond of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish then they… oh wait. That’s the point. Our Paleolithic ancestors did not have access to processed, nutrient stripped, fatty foods, and because of that, scientific research has determined they were mostly free of heart disease, hypertension, and a host of other diseases that seem to be killing an increasing percentage of the population and driving our healthcare costs sky high.
So, while we may not choose to emulate our ancestors by wearing loincloths and painting in caves, taking a page from their food situation is good for our health.
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