Healthy Living NT

The Paleo Diet

06/05/2015 Written By Nerida Deans, Dietitian, Darwin
The Paleo Diet has been in and out of ‘food fashion’ for the last 20 years and it is currently back in fashion. It is based on a theory that our current agricultural based diet is out of step with our genes of hunter-gatherer man and is thus making us sick. The Paleo Diet solution is to eat like a cave man (paleolithic man).

So what can you eat? Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables and some fruits.

On the banned list are dairy, grains and cereals, pulses, starchy vegetables (tubers), sugar and any processed foods or drinks.

So does it work? Actually yes, people can and do lose weight by following this diet.


Some reasons include:

  • Increase in vegetables
  • Reduction in processed foods and therefore less added sugar, fat and sodium
  • Reduction in alcohol

However there are some problems with the Paleo diet, including:

  • It is extremely difficult to get adequate calcium from this diet from non-dairy sources
  • It can be a real challenge having to prepare almost all meals and snacks from scratch
  • The diet is based on two unfounded assumptions: that our genes have stopped evolving since paleolithic times and that we know exactly what paleolithic man ate on a day to day basis.

Actually, today’s fruits and vegetables are thought to be very different to those of paleolithic man. The carrot of today is nothing like the small fibrous bitter vegetable from which it originated and broccoli is an invention of modern agriculture.

Today’s meat is bred for marbling fat content and chickens are bred to be big using selective cross breeding techniques. It has been suggested that Paleolithic man would have eaten lean game, eaten the whole animal, not just the muscle (if he caught it) and done a lot of running and or walking in the process of hunting it.

Diets would have varied from latitude to latitude and season to season. There have been remnants of grains, pulses and tubers found in the teeth of paleolithic skeletons and tools used for grinding grains which suggest that grains would have been part of their diet.

This diet is most definitely not a sustainable way for the 7 billion people in the world to live – there are billions of people who rely on grains such as wheat, corn and rice to survive.
So, whilst there are positive components of the Paleo diet, the evidence remains unconvincing. Either way, it is good to keep in mind that these positives such as increasing vegetables and reducing processed foods are changes that can be made within a more balanced diet.

This article was published for Territory Way magazine issue 116, June 2014. For more interesting articles please click here

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