Would we all be healthier if we ate like our ancestors did 10,000 years ago? The answer is yes, according to Loren Cordain, Ph.D., the creator, and author of The Paleo Diet. Though Cordain wasn’t the first to recommend the hunter-gatherer eating approach, his book, which was first published in 2002, popularized the notion.
The Paleo Diet continues to be one of the most popular diets today — and also one of the most controversial. But what exactly does following the Paleo diet entail? And why do people love it — and love to hate it — so much? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is the theory behind the Paleo Diet and what can you eat?
The Paleo Diet is based on the assumption that, although our society has become highly industrialized, our bodies have not evolved at that same rate. In fact, we’re not that different physiologically from our caveman ancestors, says Cordain, and this is where many health problems stem from.
A paleo diet typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds — foods that in the past could be obtained by hunting and gathering. A paleo diet limits foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago. These foods include dairy products, legumes, and grains.
Whether or not our ancestors ate potatoes or not, the Paleo diet can trigger some pretty significant changes in both weight and health. For instance, soon after adopting a Paleo lifestyle, many followers notice a decrease in appetite and cravings — which leads to less overeating. One reason for this is the change in macronutrient proportions. Though it’s not considered a high-protein diet, a Paleo intake is typically lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein than the typical Western diet.
Another reason is the removal of refined carbohydrates and added sugars. Together, these two factors help to stabilize glucose and insulin fluctuations which minimizes cravings. The better regulation of blood glucose also tends to provide a more steady level of energy.
One thing almost everyone can agree on is that cutting out processed foods is a step in the right direction. But it’s also a somewhat restrictive approach to food, and it may not provide enough flexibility or nutrients for everyone. Give Paleo a try if you’re interested and intrigued to see what the sustained popularity is all about, but also consult your doctor to make sure it aligns with your lifestyle, your health needs, and tastes.
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