The Paleo diet refers to a diet based on food our ancient ancestors in the Palaeolithic era would have eaten. The Palaeolithic era was a period lasting 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago with the Agricultural Revolution - the introduction of farming.
The Palaeolithic diet would have only included food which grew in the wild, so meat, vegetables and fruit in season along with a limited amount of nuts and seeds.
The Paleo diet takes us back to eating this fairly simple list of foodstuffs and excludes most food introduced to our diet following the advent of farming – such as grains, gluten, refined sugars and refined oils.
Paleo is based on the idea that our bodies are built to consume the Palaeolithic list of food, but we have adapted our diet to include foods available to us since the Agricultural Revolution, and this adaptation may be the reason for the many health issues around today, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease (1) . The Paleo belief is that if we return to our ‘natural’ diet, we can improve our health and enjoy a longer, healthier, more active life. (2)
What is Paleo food?
Meat & eggs
Almost all meats are paleo by definition, it is important to stay away from meat that is highly processed – such as sausages, spam, hot dogs which, among other things, are likely to contain grains, which are non-Paleo.
Almost all vegetables are paleo, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are have a high nutritional value, which will also depend on how they are cooked (3)
Study has shown, contrary to popular belief, fat doesn’t make you fat, carbs do (4). Eating fat doesn’t automatically get straight into the fat tissue in your body, just as eating protein doesn’t automatically build muscle in your body (5). But there are natural oils and fats which are good for you and great for building energy in the body, such as Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Flax Oil, Fish Oil, Macadamia Oil and Avocado Oil (6). Essential fats are key to a healthy cell membrane which in turn is key to holding hydration within the body.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts are paleo –eat them in moderation because, although nuts contain many heart-healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals, they can also be high in calories (7)
Fruit is paleo but high in fructose, so again, eat in moderation (8)
So what isn’t in the Paleo diet?
Dairy – in the Palaeolithic Era, aside from human milk in infancy, dairy was not consumed (9)
Grains - Amaranth, Barley, Brown rice, Brown rice bread, Brown rice tortilla, Buckwheat, Bulgur (cracked wheat), Farro/ emmer, Flaxseed, Grano, KAMUT® grain, Millet, Oats, Oat bread, Oat cereal, Oatmeal, Popcorn, Whole wheat cereal flakes, Muesli, Rolled oats, Quinoa, Rye, Sorghum, Spelt, Teff, Triticale, Whole grain barley, Wheat berries, Whole grain cornmeal, Whole rye, Whole wheat bread, Whole wheat couscous, Whole wheat crackers, Whole wheat pasta, Whole wheat bread, Wild rice
Legumes – Alfalfa, Asparagus bean, Asparagus pea, Baby lima bean, Black bean, Black-eyed pea, Black turtle bean, Boston bean, Boston navy bean, Broad bean, Cannellini bean, Chickpeas, Chili bean, Cranberry bean, Dwarf bean, Egyptian bean, Egyptian white broad bean, English bean, Fava bean, Fava coceira, Field pea, French green bean, Frijol bola roja, Frijole negro, Great northern bean, Green bean, Green and yellow peas, Kidney bean, Lentils, Lespedeza, Licorice, Lima bean, Madagascar bean, Mexican black bean, Mexican red bean, Molasses face bean, Mung bean, Mung pea, Mungo bean, Navy bean, Pea bean, Peanut, Peruvian bean, Pinto bean, Red bean, Red clover, Red eye bean, Red kidney bean, Rice bean, Runner bean, Scarlet runner bean, Small red bean, Snow pea, Southern pea, Sugar snap pea, Soybean, Wax bean, White vlover, White kidney bean, White pea bean
Finding out more
There is a huge amount of information available on the internet if you are interested in learning more about the Paleo diet.
This is an interesting article, analysing 5 scientific studies on the Paleo Diet: http://authoritynutrition.com/5-studies-on-the-paleo-diet/
A list of Palaeolithic Diet Studies is available here: https://m.box.com/shared_item/https%3A%2F%2Fapp.box.com%2Fs%2F7zrxtxstzc6tdeizjosmgcxrd4t07epb
- Comparison with ancestral diets: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22826636
- Marked improvement in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic Australian aborigines after temporary reversion to traditional lifestyle: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6373464
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25828624 - Metabolic and physiologic effects from consuming a hunter-gatherer (Palaeolithic)-type diet in type 2 diabetes.
- http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v68/n3/full/ejcn2013290a.html - Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial.
- http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v62/n5/full/1602790a.html - Effects of a short-term intervention with a Palaeolithic diet in healthy volunteers (prevention of cardio-vascular disease).
- Effects of different cooking methods on health-promoting compounds of broccoli: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722699/
- Choice of cooking oils--myths and realities : http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10063298?dopt=Abstract
- Examining the Health Effects of Fructose: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1693739
- Stone Age Adults Couldn't Stomach Milk, Gene Study Shows: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/02/070226-europe-milk.html