With so many diets cycling in and out of popularity through the years, it’s almost impossible to keep up. You may have heard the buzz surrounding the latest craze: the Paleo diet. But what’s it all about? Let’s break it down and figure out why stars like Kim Kardashian and Matthew McConaughey love it.
The Bare Bones
Also known as the “Caveman diet,” Paleo is basically about eating the way cavemen ate in prehistoric times. The diet is based on the principle that health problems like obesity, diabetes and heart disease are illnesses caused by civilization; so in order to fight the effects of the modern diet, we should return to a hunter-gatherer diet. This means that if a caveman could not eat a certain food, then neither can you.
Anything that cannot be hunted or found has to go. That means no grains, no sugar, no salt and no processed foods. For college students who rely heavily on pasta, pizza and cereal, cutting out these major staples may not sound ideal. But why consider bucking up and giving up grains?
Here’s a brief science lesson: grains are composed of carbohydrates, which are then turned into glucose by the body to be used as energy. However, any energy you don’t use gets stored as fat. So as far as weight loss goes, the fewer carbs you consume, the less glucose in your body, which means that your body will have to burn fat as its primary fuel source.
The Raw Deal
So let’s talk about what you can eat. The main staple of the diet is protein, which means you can go all out on grass-fed meat, fish, fowl (chicken, turkey) and eggs. Fruits and vegetables are also encouraged. Natural oils (such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil) and nuts are allowed. Tubers, also known as sweet potatoes and yams, get the okay – although these are carbs, they are natural so they’re approved. The key is that everything must be consumed “raw” (baked, steamed, etc.) — nothing fried, breaded, dried, processed or doused in salt. Since the cavemen couldn’t have fried chicken tenders, unfortunately you can’t, either.
The Paleo diet prides itself on the fact that there is no calorie counting necessary. As long as you’re eating only the permitted foods, you’re allowed to eat as much as you like. This is encouraging. As far as losing weight goes, eating raw has obvious advantages; it’s not very surprising that cutting out pizza and potato chips will result in weight loss or improved health.
The success many have found with the Paleo diet has elevated it to near fad-status, as droves of celebs from Kim Kardashian to Tucker Marx promote its effectiveness. Some might argue that eating “real” food can never be a fad, but how do actual nutritionists weigh in on the matter?
Not all Nutritionists Agree
The problem is that the food groups that the Paleo diet bans provide essential nutrients. Research has shown that the nutrients found in legumes, whole grains and dairy not only help to maintain a healthy weight and reduce blood pressure, but also to lower one’s risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. There is also the concern of dieters eating too much red meat to compensate for the loss of grains, which can take a toll on heart health.
The raw-food inspired Paleo diet can be a great way to revive and cleanse the body for a few weeks at a time. Even a short diet can lead you to lose weight and gain energy. That said, due to a current lack of conclusive research, be more wary before entering a long-term Paleo diet.
If you do decide to go Paleo, check out some of these websites for Paleo-friendly recipes: