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No-grain food regime of ancient man: Is it possible to remain fit with Paleo diet?

While most diet plans that claim to help reduce weight, restrict some food items, one of the most extreme approaches is to completely give up eating grains. That is the Paleo diet for you. It derives its name from the Paleolithic Age, dating 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.

What is Paleo diet?

The diet does not include eating any form of grain. It is also known as the caveman or Stone-Age diet and focuses only on the foods man ate ten millenniums ago. The foods included in the diet regime are all those, which became available after small-scale farming began. These can be fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, seeds and eggs. Basically, the idea is to stick to the foods that people as hunter-gatherers could get during the Paleolithic Era. The diet restricts dairy products and legumes as well. The focus of the diet is to draw nutrients and energy from foods in their raw and ‘close-to-nature’ or unprocessed form.

Advocates of this diet claim that it is based on the principles of evolutionary biology, aiming to emulate the dietary habits of our Paleolithic ancestors. However, the true nature of the Paleolithic diet and its potential health benefits has been subjects of debate and controversy.

Some benefits of Paleo diet

According to an article published by the University of California, Davis, A paleo-diet plan that prioritizes fibre, potassium, and antioxidants, while minimizing simple carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar, can serve as a nutritious and health-conscious approach to eating. This dietary strategy places emphasis on consuming locally sourced, sustainable, organic, and non-GMO foods, as well as opting for grass-fed meat options. By discouraging highly processed foods and those containing artificial ingredients and colourings, the paleo plan promotes a more natural and wholesome approach to nourishment.

With a focus on incorporating ample amounts of fruits and vegetables, a paleo diet can provide a wide range of essential nutrients. Additionally, adopting this eating plan may kick-start weight loss efforts and lead to improvements in blood sugar and lipid profiles, particularly in the short term. By adhering to the principles of a paleo diet, individuals can cultivate a healthy relationship with food while prioritizing the consumption of nutrient-dense whole foods.

However, the Paleolithic era, spanning from 2.6 million to 10,000 years ago, presents a vast time frame and a diverse range of climates and geographic regions. Determining a single, all-encompassing diet during this period is challenging.

What does the diet-plan lack?

Harvard School of Public Health’s article, Diet Review: Paleo Diet for Weight Loss argues, while the paleo diet has its benefits, it is important to be aware of potential pitfalls that can arise. One challenge is meal planning, as the diet heavily relies on fresh foods, requiring time and effort to plan, purchase, prepare, and cook meals. This can be particularly demanding for individuals with busy lifestyles or limited cooking experience. Additionally, the cost of fresh meats, fish, and produce can be higher compared to processed alternatives like frozen or canned options. Another consideration is the exclusion of certain food groups, such as whole grains and dairy.

The need for balance

The Paleo diet has evolved over time and lacks a standardized version, resulting in variations and discrepancies in food choices among enthusiasts. While lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are typically included, debates surround the inclusion or exclusion of certain foods like white potatoes and frozen fruits and vegetables.

Meal planning can be time-consuming and challenging for those with busy schedules or limited cooking experience. The emphasis on fresh foods may lead to higher costs compared to processed alternatives. Excluding whole grains and dairy raises the risk of nutrient deficiencies, including calcium, vitamin D, and B vitamins. Moreover, the reduction in fibre intake without whole grains may increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Concerns also arise from the high intake of red meat, which studies have linked to increased mortality, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

While many people advocate the diet for weight loss, the questions surrounding the sustainability of such a diet remain.

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