Here is an interesting discussion topic on the Paleo Diet. Many love it — some hate it. Decide for yourself…
Over the past few years, I have been asked about the Paleo Diet Plan. Having not tried it myself and only reading reviews by critics and previews from the authors, I did not have enough information to make a good judgment on the Paleo Plan. After researching information for a recent article on Health Screenings for Military.com, I met with several doctors and the author of The Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf and have found the Paleo Diet to be a viable solution for many people (typical Americans) but it may not be for everybody. This article gives some of the PROs and CONs of the Paleo Diet.
If you have not heard about the Paleo Diet, have you been living in a cave? Just kidding — Paleo refers to the paleolithic era when we were hunters and gathers of our food long before there were processed foods, and we ate mainly plants and animals. Some call it the Caveman Diet, Stone Age Diet, Primal Diet but the premise “of why a caveman diet?” is that our bodies are genetically programmed to perform in the same way our caveman ancestors did. The claims are that following our ancestral diet we can become healthier and decrease some of the chronic illnesses that are killing our obese society of the 21st Century. These diseases include diabetes, digestive ailments, heart disease, some cancers. As you will see below, I am not 100% bought into a Paleo Diet plan. Though I am leaning out faster using the plan MY way than any other way of eating I have tried in years. I think the goal is to find what works for you and if you are happy with the results — well — you cannot argue with results. See my Pro / Cons below:
Paleo Plan and Potential Upsides & Downsides to Consider:
PRO: I can eat as much fruit and vegetables as I want. As a big fan of 10 servings of day of these macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals, that was easy for me. CON: Not having access to good produce can make this diet challenging.
PRO: I can eat fish, poultry, game, lean meats — as much as I want? Now we are talking! Also fish or krill oil capsules are fine if you do not have regular access to fish and seafood. CON: Access to fish, game, lean meats (unprocessed) can get expensive and be hard to find year round. But if you were a caveman I bet you could find something to kill and eat! Also, if you are a vegan or vegetarian this is not for you. You have over-evolved and are too sophisticated for this diet plan.
CON: Nothing like Steak and Potatoes — oh man — I can’t eat potatoes? But I am a running, swimmer, lifter, high rep calisthenics guy 5–6 days a week. I need the carbs for energy! PRO: Hey — this is not the Atkins Diet it is just lower but natural carbs. Sure enough — I can add in sweet potatoes if I need more fuel for workouts.
CON: No breads, grains or pasta! NO CORN! WHAT? Wow — how smart is it to eliminate a major staple of the US Food Pyramid? It is tough to take out my pre-race / workout food of pasta / lasagna / spaghetti and a loaf of Italian bread. PRO: If you need to go GLUTEN free — this diet is for you! Many will argue this point but most grains are making us fat. If you must do grains, you have to do unrefined / whole grains (nothing refined or enriched) and good luck finding any. Find missing fiber in fruit / vegetables / nuts. Looks like yams, sweet potatoes will become pre-race foods to build up glycogen stores.
Personally, I have to make the above grains / breads a choice in moderation. If I choose to eat a hamburger, I can reduce my bread intake by 50% if I only eat one slice of the bun. I am slowly coming around to breadless sandwiches but I am not there yet.
CON: No milk or dairy products. Lacks vitamin D and calcium right? PRO: It is great if you are lactose intolerant. BUT we need calcium and vitamin D. We can still get calcium from a variety of sources (brocolli, apricots, blackberries, okra, spinach, etc) Get in the sun for 30 minutes a day for vitamin D (without sunscreen). After 30 minutes put on sunscreen if you burn easily. Supplement if needed with a multivitamin at the Caveman GNC.
PRO: I can eat nuts, seeds, roots, mushrooms. Great I put these on my salad all the time! CON: If allergic to nuts it could be an issue. Even though they do not recommend peanuts in this diet, many canning machines also can peanuts so you can still be subject to peanut allergens if allergic.
CON: No alcohol (beer, wine, liquor) — aw man…If you are a drinker you may not see the results you want if you drink too much. This goes for ANY diet so this is nothing new in dieting. But hey I am sure some caveman figured out how to get drunk by drinking old grape juice so maybe you are OK. (joke) PRO: I am glad I got that out of my system in my 20s. I rarely drink now anyway, so personally it is not a big sacrifice.
PRO: No Processed Food — It is better not to eat this stuff anyway. Stay away from processed meats, sweets, and pretty much anything in a box unless it is a box of almonds. Now have some discipline and try to break the habit of eating chemicals, CON: No Processed Food — damn hard to do.
CON: Digestive issues. Some people have digestive issues eating lots of nuts and fruits. GAS! PRO: You can always add in more fermented vegetables like kimchi or sauerkraut but if that makes you even more nauseated like it does me, then add in some probiotics from yogurt or supplement. I know cavemen did not have yogurt, but it does help with gas and other ailments in the digestive tract.
More and more studies are coming out for the Paleo Plan as a way to reduce waistlines, improve health screenings, (decrease diabetes, lower cholesterol, decreases blood pressure), to name a very important few. But should YOU go Paleo?
Personally, it is never a bad idea to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (nuts etc), and leaner unprocessed meats. It is also a good idea to reduce or even eliminate sugar, breads, processed foods, sweets — hard to do but GOOD for you.