Behind the Diet Curtain
This is not what cavemen ate. But it might work for your goals anyway. [Photo courtesy Pixabay]
The Magical Premise: Too Good to Be (Completely) True
- Some of our model ancestors weren’t actually all that healthy.3
- Health, stature, quality of life, and life expectancy varied wildly throughout history, despite our ancestors’ access to organic, free range, GMO-and-RBGH-free, raw, lean beef.4
- Some people have already developed adaptations to modern foods like dairy, and even those with clear sensitivities sometimes adapt with repeated exposure, suggesting our bodies are more flexible than we think.5,6
- Grains, sugar, and starchy vegetables have been in our diet for far longer than dairy, inviting a question: why haven’t we evolved out of the need for a paleo diet, and how long until that happens?7
- Whole grains are either anti-inflammatory or neutral and are a key part of many healthy diets.8,9
- A diet without some level of processing was never sustainable, and farmed food, organic or not, is substantially different from its wild variants.10 No grocery store is truly paleo.
- Some foods, diets, and all effective supplements aren’t paleo, yet they consistently correlate with good health and improved athletic performance.11
Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain
- The paleo diet restricts the most common carbohydrate sources in the standard American diet and, unless fully replaced, you’ll simply take in fewer calories.
- Switching to paleo from the standard American diet almost inevitably increases protein intake. Protein leaves you feeling fuller longer than carbs.12
- The planning and preparation required to keep one’s paleo purity puts up a barrier to casual eating and makes us mindful of what we’re doing. In the same way, many people who start counting calories will lose weight even when they don’t intentionally try and do anything with that information.
- Avoiding added sweeteners, flavorings, and hyper-palatable comfort foods may remodel our expectations and help break negative food habits and cravings.
- Protein takes more energy to digest1,13 and supports muscle gain14 when paired with effective training, which improves metabolism (slightly) and allows for greater output in sport or the gym.
- Nutrient deficiencies are surprisingly common.15 Replacing Twinkies and mystery meat with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, and seeds may provide these missing pieces, improving health and allowing us to move more.
- Many people take on other lifestyle habits along with “going paleo,” including increased physical activity, better sleep, and stress management.
Pulling the Right Levers
There Is No Magic Shortcut
- Does it directly (or indirectly) move calorie balance the way I want?
- Does it provide enough fruits, vegetables, protein, and essential fats?
- Does it leave me feeling good and performing well in the gym?
- Can I follow this diet in the long run and be happy?
1. Gropper, Sareen Annora Stepnick., Jack L. Smith, and James L. Groff. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Canada: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2009.
2. Cordain, Loren. The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011.
3. Fodor, J. George, Eftyhia Helis, Narges Yazdekhasti, and Branislav Vohnout. "“Fishing” for the Origins of the “Eskimos and Heart Disease” Story: Facts or Wishful Thinking?" Canadian Journal of Cardiology 30, no. 8 (2014): 864-68. doi:10.1016/j.cjca.2014.04.007.
4. Holt, Brigitte M., and Vincenzo Formicola. "Hunters of the Ice Age: The Biology of Upper Paleolithic People." American Journal of Physical Anthropology 137, no. S47 (2008): 70-99. doi:10.1002/ajpa.20950.
5. Gerbault, Pascale, Mélanie Roffet-Salque, Richard P. Evershed, and Mark G. Thomas. "How Long Have Adult Humans Been Consuming Milk?" IUBMB Life 65, no. 12 (2013): 983-90. doi:10.1002/iub.1227.
6. Szilagyi, Andrew. "Adaptation to Lactose in Lactase Non Persistent People: Effects on Intolerance and the Relationship between Dairy Food Consumption and Evalution of Diseases." Nutrients 7, no. 8 (2015): 6751-779. doi:10.3390/nu7085309.
7. Henry, A. G., A. S. Brooks, and D. R. Piperno. "Microfossils in Calculus Demonstrate Consumption of Plants and Cooked Foods in Neanderthal Diets." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108, no. 2 (2010): 486-91. doi:10.1073/pnas.1016868108.
8. Masters, R. C., A. D. Liese, S. M. Haffner, L. E. Wagenknecht, and A. J. Hanley. "Whole and Refined Grain Intakes Are Related to Inflammatory Protein Concentrations in Human Plasma." Journal of Nutrition 140, no. 3 (2010): 587-94. doi:10.3945/jn.109.116640.
9. Lefevre, Michael, and Satya Jonnalagadda. "Effect of Whole Grains on Markers of Subclinical Inflammation." Nutrition Reviews 70, no. 7 (2012): 387-96. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00487.x.
10. Raymond, Ruth D., Cassandra Moore, and Kelly Wagner. "Crop Wild Relatives." Crop Wild Relatives. 2006. Accessed June 09, 2016.
11. Buford, Thomas W., Richard B. Kreider, Jeffrey R. Stout, Mike Greenwood, Bill Campbell, Marie Spano, Tim Ziegenfuss, Hector Lopez, Jamie Landis, and Jose Antonio. "International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Creatine Supplementation and Exercise." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 4, no. 1 (2007): 6. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-6.
12. Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M. "Protein, weight management, and satiety." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2008;87:1558S–61S.
13. Westerterp-Plantenga, Margriet S. "Protein Intake and Energy Balance." Regulatory Peptides 149, no. 1-3 (2008): 67-69. doi:10.1016/j.regpep.2007.08.026.
14. Campbell, Bill, Richard B. Kreider, Tim Ziegenfuss, Paul La Bounty, Mike Roberts, Darren Burke, Jamie Landis, Hector Lopez, and Jose Antonio. "International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Protein and Exercise." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 4, no. 1 (2007): 8. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-8.
15. Moshfegh, Alanna, Joseph Goldman, Jaspreet Ahuja, Donna Rhodes, and Randy LaComb. "WHAT WE EAT IN AMERICA, NHANES 2005-2006. Usual Nutrient Intakes from Food and Water Compared to 1997 Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D, Calcium, Phosphorus, and Magnesium." 2009. Accessed June 9, 2016.