Paleo Diet What The Heck Is it?
by GamerFitnation on June 24, 2014 at 02:51 PM EDT

paleo diet

By Kyle Swain

The Paleolithic, or stone-age, diet has seen a rapid rise in popularity lately, but what exactly is it and where did it come from? We have already touched upon it in our Crossfit Article, but in order to fully unravel and understand the modern phenomenon, we must look at its origins.

History

paleo diet

Perhaps the very beginning of the idea of a Paleolithic diet and lifestyle comes from an early 20th century artist known as Joseph Knowles.  In 1913, Joseph had decided to leave the luxuries of modern life and survive only on what the Maine wilderness would provide.  He spent two months in this manner of living.

At the time, Joseph was reported to have attained many great feats, which included taking down a bear with little more than a club. Other stories and skepticisms surround the experiment, but in the end Knowles did have his body and lung capacity measured in comparison to where he was before the experiment.  Based on the new measurements, Joseph had lost weigh and increased his strength and lung capacity.  It was claimed that he was more fit than Harvard’s football team.  It was not until later, however, that this vignette and others began to attract the attention of academics and gain ground for basing a diet on.

Walter Voegtlin is largely credited with laying the foundation for the Paleo lifestyle as more than just an experiment.  In 1975 he published his book The Stone Age Diet.  Despite others like S. Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner continuing to promote and write about the diet in 1985, it was, for the most part, ignored.  At the time, the Atkins and South Beach Diet were much more popular and effectively resigned the Paleo diet to a small corner in the diet world.

This all changed when Dr. Loren Cordain published books about the Paleo diet after the turn of the 21rst century, sparking a greatly renewed interest in the Paleo diet.

Today you will see several popular websites and companies like Pinterest and CrossFit promoting the Paleo diet.  It is quickly becoming the diet that defines contemporary times, much like the Atkins and low fat diet did in the past.

Philosophy

The thinking behind the Paleo diet stems from the idea that humans haven’t changed in the past 10,000 years but diets have greatly.  The switch from the hunter-gatherer way of living to a more stationary agricultural one has harmed our overall health and produced several diseases.  Diabetes and Crohn’s Disease would have been unknown to our cavemen predecessors.  If we combined what they ate with an active lifestyle we could improve our lives and well-being.

The Diet

paleo diet

So what do advocates of the diet claim that Paleolithic man ate?  Whatever he could easily find.  Meats, fruits, nuts, and root vegetables dug up from the ground form the core of this caveman diet.  What this means is that protein and fat will comprise a much larger percentage of total calories consumed instead of carbohydrates, which make up the largest part of our modern diets.

It cuts out all grains, dairy, beans, processed foods, and refined sugars.  Not even all meats are acceptable in the Paleo diet.  Meat must be grass-fed, as the diet views grain-fed livestock to not have the same health benefits. Grass-fed animals tend to come with a better ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.  The Paleo diet strives to fix the upside down ratio modern diets have. Omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils such as corn and soy tend to dominate.  This is a concern because omega-3s are meant to curb inflammation found in the body, and too many omega-6 fatty acids lead to some of our modern ailments.

Once you have the Paleo diet’s acceptable food list, the only thing you have to worry about is what and when you want to eat.  There are no rules for calorie counting or when or how often to eat.  As long as you eat the correct foods, the diet claims that everything will take care of itself.  The caloric density of the foods and satisfaction they bring helps resolve energy intake imbalances, making the diet simple and straightforward after the initial transition.

Recipe ideas

Even with all the off-limits foods, the Paleo diet does a great job of giving you a way to enjoy your favorite foods the Paleo way.  For instance, pancakes are still an option when done correctly.

paleo DIet

Here is a recipe for Almond Pancakes where the wheat flour has been replaced with almond flour to give you that breakfast favorite without cheating on the diet.

paleo diet

You will find that there are plenty of foods and recipes that were already Paleo without you even knowing it.  Beef lettuce wraps are a perfect example, found in Asian cuisine and cultures.  Frittatas are another example of this.

paleo diet

Last, but certainly not least, is a dessert recipe that is absolutely fantastic.  Zucchini brownies that employ almond butter and honey are an absolute treat, proving that you don’t have to feel deprived when following the Paleo diet.  Trust us; this is a great dessert that even non-Paleo adherents will choose over standard brownies.

Criticisms

While many have enjoyed healthy lifestyles following a Paleo diet, it may not be the ultimate guide to health.  It is impossible to know exactly what our cavemen counterparts had access to and what recipes they followed.  The idea that humans haven’t changed over time also has its share of critics.   Many of European descent are able to consume milk beyond infancy.  This ability is thought to have originated 8,000 years ago somewhere around Turkey.  This is why Europeans make up the majority of people that are tolerant of lactose while most of the world isn’t.

The World Watch Institution also points out the problems with the current high meat consumption in developed countries.  While fine to eat, consuming large amounts of meat create a strain on global resources. If everyone followed a Paleo diet high in meat, we would very quickly find that it is an unsustainable practice given current resources and methods.

Final Thoughts

One criticism of the Paleo diet doesn’t means that the rest is all hogwash.  This diet can be helpful to many as a way to achieve a healthy lifestyle.  However, it means that the process behind it is not a sacred tome to be followed.  The decision to follow a diet should be made if it works for you.  Humans may not have changed much in the past 10,000 years, but there is enough variety among us to warrant different lifestyles that will be better for some and worse for others.  Do what works for you and you will never regret it.

Edited by: Avery Osborn

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