What is a Paleo Diet

The chances are that you’ve been told that the Paleo diet is the natural way for humans to get nutrition, and that adopting it can bring a lot of health benefits making it an ideal choice for anyone who either wants to maintain a particular weight or become more physically active.

Although the theory behind the paleo diet (that humans evolved to eat certain types of food) has been around for a long time, the paleo diet itself has only been around since 2001 when Loren Cordain published her guide to it.

The main idea that she stressed in his book that by going back to that diet we are able to live more in tune with our body’s needs and strip away a lot of the health issues that come from our modern diets.

While there’s certainly truth in the idea that a lot of our health problems today come from a poor diet, does it necessarily mean that we should abandon modern food theory and simply stick to eating like cavemen?

What Can You Eat in a Paleo Diet

The main idea behind the Paleo Diet is that you should stick to the types of food that were available to our distant ancestors.  This means that it is a diet based on a fairly restricted range of options – typically:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit

Foods that come from organised agriculture such as cereal or dairy products are eschewed as they aren’t foods that were necessarily available in history.  In addition to sticking to a smaller range of different foods, adherents to the paleo diet also avoid any foods that have been processed, so they avoid artificial additives and preservatives.  The rough balance of food types you should focus on are shown in the pyramid below:

paleolithic diet pyramid

paleolithic diet pyramid

The diet is high in proteins and fats from meat, while fibre and carbohydrates are gained from the vegetables in the diet.

Does the Paleo Diet Benefit You

People who’ve adopted the paleo diet can be pretty passionate about the benefits that they feel they get from it, but scientific studies are generally inconclusive.  The British Dietetic Organisation reviewed the nutritional value provided by the diet and determined that it had the potential to leave users malnourished and lacking in certain key nutrients.

At the same time, the focus on fresh and unadulterated foods was generally thought to be a positive thing for people – and also for their local economies, as users generally tend to focus on produce that’s available in their local area.

As with any diet, it’s important to think about what your personal needs are.  If you’re highly active then you will always need to consume more calories than sedentary people to maintain a healthy weight.  If you’re thinking about trying the Paleo Diet, it’s useful to read Dr Loren Cordain’s website to find out more about both the theory behind the diet and also the types of food and combinations of nutrients that he recommends.