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Some call it the caveman diet, others the CrossFit diet, a few even refer to it as the Paleolithic diet, which is the era that inspired it. The paleo diet takes a low-carb, high-protein, whole foods approach to nutrition. It is purported to mimic the way humans ate 2.6 million to 10,000 years ago when we were hunting and gathering, which means it relies on animal protein and plants.1
According to ThePaleoDiet.com, the diet includes fresh meats, fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and healthful oils and excludes foods that were “not part of our ancestral menu,” e.g., dairy products, cereal grains, refined sugars, etc.2
What are the benefits?
The thought is that modern diseases came about with dietary changes, therefore eating like the cavemen can help prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, acne and gout, among others.3 4
Will the paleo diet help you lose weight?
It depends. In its profile of the paleo diet, U.S. News & World Report points out that not enough research has been done; however, building a calorie deficit into your paleo diet—or any diet, for that matter—will result in weight loss. The Paleo Diet website points out that protein, which the paleo diet relies heavily upon, increases one’s metabolism, thereby speeding up weight loss and refers to clinical studies proving that show high-protein, low-glycemic load diets are more effective than low-fat, low-carb diets when it comes to promoting weight loss and keeping it off.5
Is the paleo diet safe, effective, easy to follow?
This depends on whom you ask. The U.S. News & World Report placed the paleo diet last, along with the Dukan diet, in its Best Overall Diet rankings for 2014 and gave it two stars for everything from weight loss to safety. According to CNN.com, the last-place ranking doesn’t mean the paleo diet is last bad, per se. The U.S. News & World experts who reviewed and ranked the diets found it difficult to follow long-term and lacking in some essential nutrients.6
“The Paleo Diet” author, Loren Cordain, Ph.D., professor of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University and author of “The Paleo Diet,” among other dietary books, provided a rebuttal at RobbWolf.com. Cordain cited multiple studies and provided evidence showing the paleo diet indeed facilitates weight loss, reduces one’s risk for cardiovascular disease and contributes to dramatic improvement in type 2 diabetes patients.
Diet is one facet of a healthy lifestyle. What works well for some may not be the best option for others. It is ultimately up to you to research your options and consult with a medical professional to determine what is safe and effective for you.
When did the paleo diet originate?
The paleo diet has risen in popularity and familiarity in recent years, especially among the CrossFit crowd. And while the real paleo diet originated in the Paleolithic era, Dr. Loren Cordain is credited with popularizing the modern paleo diet movement. He has been called the world’s leading expert on the topic.
However, several others, dating back to the 1990s, 1980s, 1970s and even the early 1900s, have been linked to the paleo diet and claims that eating like our ancient ancestors can be healthiest.7 8
Where can I learn more about the paleo diet?
Consider visiting these online resources to learn more about the paleo diet and healthy eating:
Remember: It is wise to consult your physician before embarking on major dietary changes. You may even wish to make such lifestyle adjustments with the guidance of a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) or dietetic technician, registered (DTR).
1Hiatt, Kurtis. (2013, December 12). "Paleo Diet Overview." U.S. News & World Report.
2The Paleo Diet. (n.d.). "Getting Started with the Paleo Diet."
4Hiatt, Kurtis. (2013, December 12). "Paleo Diet Overview." U.S. News & World Report.
5The Paleo Diet. (n.d.). "Frequently Asked Questions About the Paleo Diet."
6Wilson, Jacque. (2014, January 7). "Paleo Diet Ranks Last on 'Best Diets' List." CNN.
7American Science: A Team Blog. (2013, May 8). "The Curious History of the Paleo-Diet, and its Relationship to Science and Modernity."
8Wikipedia. (n.d.) "Paleolithic Diet."