Q: How did the Paleo Diet originate?The Paleo Diet, also known as the Stone Age, Caveman, Ancestral and Hunter-Gatherer diet, is a modern interpretation of what our ancestors ate in Paleolithic times (during the stone age) as hunter-gatherers. The paleolithic era is assumed to cover over 2.5 Million years. The foods consisted mainly of meats, fish, vegetables, nuts and fruits. It limited or excluded sugar, grains, dairy products, legumes (beans), salt, sugar and processed oils. Processed foods, of course, were non-existent.
Researchers have found that our ancestors were lean, fit, in good health and not plagued with modern lifestyle diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Life expectancy was usually as good as the present day (as long as they were not being eaten by predators, suffering from poor hygiene or contracting an infection!).
10,000 years or so ago we entered the Neolithic era and began eating a diet which was dominated by grains. This was the genesis of agriculture and thus the types of food we ate began to change. With the Industrial Revolution of the 18th Century and the advances in manufacturing and food science of the last 50 years mass-produced food based around grain, sugar and man-made substances became the norm. Unfortunately, bringing with it a corresponding deterioration in food quality as well as our health.
Q: What is the Paleo Diet in today’s world?While some prescribe to the Paleo Diet based on eating the way our ancestors ate, others choose it for health, weight-loss, and/or because it’s just tasty and delicious food. It’s nutrient-dense, real food that keeps you healthy. The following list isn’t exhaustive but can be used as a base platform to ensure you make healthier food choices more often than not.
The Paleo Diet consists of eating:
- Fish & Seafood
- Nuts & Seeds
- Healthy Fats
- Grains (including wheat – even wholewheat, corn, rice, barley, rye, etc)
- Dairy (including milk and milk products, such as cheese, yoghurt, etc)
- Legumes (including beans, soy and peanuts)
- Additional sugars added to foods
- Processed Oils & Fats
- Other Processed Foods (pretty much anything that comes in a box or a can and has more than a few ingredients!)
Q: Is there any evidence supporting the Paleo Diet?There are many studies that support this modern take on the Paleolithic diet. One study that was widely reported in the British Press in 2008, was the trial run by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.
Subjects were only allowed to eat fruit, vegetables, lean meat, fish, and nuts. All beans, grains (wheat, rice), alcohol, sugar and juices were banned. In just 3 weeks the subjects had lost an average of 5 pounds (2.3kg), waist circumference had reduced by 0.2 inches (0.5cm), a 5% decrease in lower blood pressure and had 72% lower levels of a blood clotting agent that could cause heart attacks and strokes.
Dr Per Wandell noted at the time, “Short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers showed some favourable effects on cardiovascular risk factors.”
Links to numerous other studies can be found on Dr. Loren Cordain’s site: www.ThePaleoDiet.com.
 Österdahl M, Kocturk T, Koochek A, Wändell PE. Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2008
“Paleo” tends to be the word that is currently used to encompass a
whole movement of eating only whole, real, nutrient dense foods and
eschewing processed foods. We’ve already detailed what Paleo is, so
here’s a quick look at some of the other diets and protocols that are
sometimes listed under the Paleo umbrella or are closely related. As with all dietary changes we would advise seeking the advice of a suitable professional before embarking on any programme.
Q: While researching Paleo I keep hearing about the Primal diet, the Perfect Health Diet, GAPS, AIP, the Whole30, etc… What are they?
- Primal – The Primal Diet is basically the Paleo Diet with the addition of whole-fat dairy and a few other exemptions.
- Specific Paleo Protocols – These protocols are used to help combat
different ailments. They use the Paleo Diet as a base, but have
- AIP – This refers to the Autoimmune Protocol, it is used to bring autoimmune conditions into remission. It excludes nuts, seeds and nightshades (a sub-group of vegetables including ones such as tomatoes and potatoes) in addition to the normal exclusions in Paleo.
- GAPS – The Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet aims to heal the gut to help with psychological problems such as autism and depression. It’s a great one to follow even if you don’t have any psychological issues as it heals and seals the gut and, as we now know, many lifestyle diseases originate from a leaky gut.
- Ketogenic / LCHF – This protocol is meant to put your body in ketosis (where you’re burning fat instead of carbs for energy) by eating low-carb and high-fat.
- Low-FODMAPS – FODMAPS are dietary sugars that can be problematic for some resulting in things like Irritable Bowel Sydrome (IBS). Avoiding them may help clear up those gut issues.
- Low-Histamine – Histamines are chemicals produced during an allergic response, however, they can also be in some of the foods we eat. Some people are more sensitive to histamine levels in their body and so have allergy-like symptoms when these build up. These people may need to follow a low-histamine diet.
- Popular Paleo Elimination Diets – There are a few popular Paleo
elimination diets that are meant to help detox your body over a short
period (21 – 30 days):
- 21-Day Sugar Detox
- Paleo’s “Cousins” – These are a few diets that are very close to Paleo, but are not quite:
- Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)
- The Perfect Health Diet (PHD)
- Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF)