Living a Caveman’s Life: The Honest Truth About the Paleo Diet

Paleo Diet

Diet and fitness products are part of a multi-billion dollar industry. Within that industry there are, literally, hundreds of different diets. It would seem that each year or so one diet is pegged as the “it” diet. In recent years the Paleo diet seems to have been tapped for the honor of “it diet” of the moment. While online users have sung the praises of this primitive diet since 2013, doctors and nutritionists seem to be at odds over the Paleo diet (sometimes call the “caveman diet”). So, what’s the real story with this diet, anyway?

What is the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet is based on the foods that people from the paleolithic era ate. The Paleolithic era was a period of time when human begins began developing primitive stone tools. The humans of the era largely relied on hunting and gathering for sustenance. Today’s Paleo diet is largely based on what people of the Paleolithic era would eat. Vegetables, meats and seeds make up the majority of the diet. Salt, sugar, grains, dairy and legumes are completely removed from a Paleo eater’s diet.

What is the Theory Behind It?

The Paleo diet is based on the theory that the human metabolism has not evolved enough to properly process today’s modern diet. The diet also theorizes that by removing such foods form the diet, optimal metabolism of food can be achieved, thus leading to weight loss. Proponents of the diet also allege that removing grains and all modern processed foods leads to a healthier digestive system, as it is no longer bogged down by the processing of foods that people weren’t meant to eat in the fist place.

Is the Theory Behind the Paleo Diet Sound?

Paleolithic Era Art - Lascaux Cave, France

Paleolithic Era Art – Lascaux Cave, France

Scientists and doctors believe that the very basis of the Paleo diet is not sound. There are a couple of problems that can be seen in the diet at first glance. First, the Paleolithic era was an extremely long period of time in human evolution. Now, according to your own personal views on evolution you can choose to believe whether the era began about 2.6 million years ago and ended about 10,000 years ago. At any rate, because the era encompasses so many years it is hard to determine exactly what individuals living in the era ate. The diets of people living in the Paleolithic era varied widely based on when in the era they lived, and their location. For example; scientists contend that many people living in the paleolithic era did eat grains. Grains are strictly prohibited in the Paleo diet.

Nutritionists also argue that the removal of important food groups lead to poor health and can cause significant weight gain when the diet is stopped. Removing grains, legumes and diary strictly limited the ingestion of important vitamins and minerals, as well. Overall, nutritionists argue that the Paleo diet lacks a balanced diet, making it unhealthy and difficult to stick to in the long run.

Doctors argue that the inclusion of more red meat, less whole grains and no dairy can lead to nutritional issues. Because dairy is a large source of vitamin D, those sticking to Paleo diets often encounter issues with keeping enough of the vitamin in their bodies. Vitamin D deficits were not a problem during the paleolithic era because people spent a majority of their time outdoors and in the sun. The sun is a top source of vitamin D. People today spend their times indoors and behind computers, and even when they are outside are too heavily clothed to absorb enough vitamin D to keep their levels in the healthy range. Low vitamin D levels can cause fatigue, depression, muscle weakness, bone pain and digestive problems. 

A red meat heavy diet can also lead to heart disease, or exacerbate current heart troubles. Red meat, which is a staple in the Paleo diet, should be eaten sparingly in today’s population, according to doctors and nutritionists. Lean meats, such as chicken and turkey are suggested as protein sources before red meats by most nutritionists and doctors. The Paleo diet, however, is a heavy proponent of red meat, as that is what many in the Paleolithic era were able to hunt and consume.

Is Paleo a Good Option for Me?

The Paleo diet may be used, in moderation, to jump start weight loss, or to help individuals along on an elimination diet, but doctors advise patients to consider it a short term eating stint, rather than a lifestyle change. Many who attempt the Paleo diet long term end up failing and gaining weight back as they quickly add sugar and grains back into their diet. This yo-yo effect is unhealthy and can lead to more significant health problems than excess weight.

Paleo Diet?  Sorry, Fad Diets Don't Work.

Paleo Diet? Sorry, Fad Diets Don’t Work.

According to experts the best diet is a balanced one that includes all food groups. Vegetables, grains, fruits, dairy and protein are all important to creating a healthy diet and, thus, healthy lifestyle. Diets that eliminate entire food groups in the absence of a medical need to do so, are generally “fad” diets and their effectiveness in long-term weight loss is relatively low.

Stephen Ralph
Stephen Ralph
Stephen is the Founder of Health Haxor, an active duty USAF service member, online entrepreneur and fitness buff. In between a busy schedule Stephen is an active contributor to Health Haxor and regularly posts articles related to men's health, fitness and nutrition.
Stephen Ralph
- 8 years ago
Stephen Ralph