The paleo diet is inspired by the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, though it doesn’t actually mimic any one ancient diet in particular. It focuses on consuming whole foods, including a variety of unprocessed meats, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and the like. Sounds good, right?
While there are undoubtedly some nutritional benefits to be gained from a paleo lifestyle (and claims to back that up), there’s some concern about the long-term effects of such a diet. Beyond that, its adoption by a certain kind of culture based around Crossfit gyms has given it a tough-guy fad reputation. The truth is...it probably lies somewhere between healthy and misguided.
Some of the reputed health benefits of a paleo diet include increased energy, improved sleeping habits, anti-inflammation, and reduced allergies. The proteins and healthy fats that are prevalent in the diet can help lead to that, but those who go on the diet need to remember that variety is still key. Loading up on daily steaks won’t necessarily keep you healthy, but blending red meat with chicken and fish, plus a colorful dose of veggies, might.
When the body adjusts to a paleo diet, it burns extra fat and can help keep a person lean. Exercise still plays a role in that, however. And going beyond the day to day, some medical professionals highlight the low rate of diseases like cancer and asthma that hunter-gatherer people had when on similar diets. Does that really mean it will work for us, though?
It’s the long-term unknowns that worry some. Maybe a paleo diet married with a healthy workout routine is a recipe for success. There are certainly plenty of people who will say so. There are also people who say, for example, that we are missing out on insoluble fibers by cutting out most whole grains. So, the field is split.
Another concern is that a diet that cuts out things like pasta and potatoes may set us up for higher rates of colon cancer down the road. That and some of the diet’s fat-substitutes, like coconut oil, are high in saturated fats, which may not be so good for us.
Like most diets, paleo is probably best for us when we take just parts of it to help build a sustainable, healthy lifestyle. While it’s not all bad, it’s best to go with what’s intuitive, rather than to stick to something that has some health professionals cautious at best.