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Lessons from the Paleo Diet (Part 1)

July 16, 2013 by Andrea Godfreyson, Registered Dietitian

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I’m pretty sure that if our Stone Age ancestors could time travel into present day, they would be surprised to learn that some of us have decided to stop eating all the grains we’ve spent thousands of years learning to cultivate. I think they would have killed for a cookie.

Regardless, given the widespread popularity of the Paleo diet, the question begs to be asked, should you “go Paleo”?What is the Paleo Diet? 

The Paleo diet is based on what people ate during the Paleolithic era (about 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago). As this was largely before agriculture started, people ate what could be hunted or gathered from the wild.

Foods allowed on the Paleo diet include: grass-fed meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit and some oils. The assumption is made that people in the Paleo era did not eat grains, dairy products, legumes or potatoes. As a result, these foods, as well as refined sugars, processed foods, added sugar and salt are avoided.

The Paleo diet is based on the premise that our bodies haven’t yet adapted to a diet that includes the products of farming and that eating these foods contributes to chronic disease.

Is that what people of the Stone Age ate?

Archeologists and critics of the diet argue that there was no single “Paleo diet”. During the Paleo era, people spread out over many parts of the world and ate the foods that were available to them. People ate local, so diets could be varied in different regions.

People from the Paleo era would have eaten meat when they could get it, but it would have been wild meat, which is typically quite lean. Other parts of the animal would be eaten as well, including organs and bone marrow. They would have also eaten wild plants, which were different from the domesticated/cultivated varieties we see in stores today.

Do you want to know more? Check back on Friday for the benefits, risks and an answer to the real question, ‘should you go Paleo?’

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