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What is Paleolithic Diet?

The Paleolithic diet also known as caveman diet as it recommends that you eat "what the caveman ate", which consists of meat, fruits and vegetables, nuts and berries. The foods chosen must be those which a caveman could scavenge or gather, and could be eaten without cooking, since fire is a recent invention in the evolutionary period of human diets and digestive systems.

Proponents of this diet believe that processed foods are responsible for causing diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis and other immunologic conditions. Some true believers promote the benefits of eating insects.

 

Scientific Analysis

Current scientific knowledge tells us that the human digestive system does not  recognize specific foods, but only the nutrients of which they are composed –that is, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Furthermore, these nutrients are handled in very specific ways and with very specific priorities. These digestive processes did indeed evolve with the "caveman diet" and are therefore most efficient with this diet. However, just because a food was not available to cavemen does not mean it is not handled just as well by the digestive system, which has numerous complex mechanisms that make it very versatile. 

There is one critical aspect of any diet that determines whether it is the healthiest form of eating - this is not merely in the selection of foods, but in the proportion of carbohydrate, protein and fat that is consumed. 

On the Paleolithic Diet one can consume 3 fruits and 3 vegetables along with some meat in a meal. However, cavemen did not have the wide selection of our present-day produce departments. They would have had limited amounts of one or two fruits or vegetables at a time, depending on what was in season and what climate they lived in. Therefore, the bulk of their diet was meat (protein and fat) with the carbohydrates of fruits and vegetables being a much smaller portion of each meal. It is this balance of nutrients that is an integral part of how our digestive systems work.

Scientific evidence illustrates that the risk of atherogenic heart disease due to elevated LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels is most directly related to the ratio of carbohydrate to fat in a diet. A high carbohydrate diet with very low fat content (like some vegetarian diets) appears to be just as low-risk for heart disease as is a low carbohydrate, high fat diet. In choosing foods for the Paleolithic Diet, as currently described, one cannot be assured of staying consistently in either one of these categories. 

Most persons who use the Paleolithic Diet will probably maintain a normal weight, because it is difficult to over consume carbohydrates with the restrictions given. For the same reason, many persons will also probably consume an acceptable balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat, at least some of the time. However, the restrictions imposed by this plan are not necessary for achieving a healthy diet.

Regarding the concern that processed grains and milk promote disease due to their allergenic effects, there are definitely persons who have symptoms of allergies to some of these types of products. Most persons, however, display no symptoms of such intolerances, so it is difficult to make a case that these forms of food are not handled well by the body. Conditions such as heart disease and diabetes appear to be related to the quantity of certain nutrients (carbohydrate) rather than their source. For rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions, it is postulated (though not well established) that there is a dietary connection to processed foods, and some individuals may find benefit in using only natural food sources.

 

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