Problems with going paleo
The Paleo diet is proving popular with bloggers, media personalities, and chefs. But is it good for your long-term health?
What is the Paleo diet?
The Paleo diet is based on the idea that the modern diet is not ideal for our ancient genes, which, according to evolutionists, have not evolved since Paleolithic times. It aims to mimic the hunter-gatherer diet of our “ancestors” with the belief that this will better protect us from chronic disease.
Also known as the caveman or Stone Age diet, it recommends avoiding grains, legumes, seeds, dairy, and all processed foods, while encouraging the consumption of most vegetables (except potato), nuts, all meats, fish, seafood, eggs, and fruit. Nutritionally speaking, the modern interpretation approximates another low-carb, high-protein eating pattern, and it doesn’t include the truly ancient foods because these are simply no longer around.
Pros and cons
Any diet advocating more whole foods and fewer processed foods is a step in the right direction. However, research on our bodies suggests that eating unlimited amounts of red and processed meat is a strong risk factor for colon cancer and heart disease! Studies on modern Paleo diets are few and short term, without the ability to confirm long-term effects. Drop-out rates are high, and people say the Paleo diet is hard to stick to and costs more.
Further, eliminating legumes and whole grains could be detrimental to both your gut health and your immunity in the long term. Studies have shown that indigestible carbohydrates and fiber from these foods are critical for promoting the growth and maintenance of healthy bacteria in the intestines. These foods have also been repeatedly linked to a reduced risk of killer conditions in modern humans. Skipping them could mean that you are missing out on food as medicine.
The bottom line
Don’t just look at short-term results like weight loss. Due to the potential concerns of eating unlimited amounts of meat and restricting legumes and whole grains (which actively fight disease), you’re better off adopting something old that’s been tried and tested. For example, the traditional Mediterranean or Asian diets would be far more beneficial to your long- term health, even with your modern lifestyle.
Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and coauthor of Eat to Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve well- being. See www.sueradd.com for more nutrition information.