The Paleolithic diet, or Paleo diet, is based on the theory that ancient humans lived on a mostly carnivorous diet. Hunter-gatherer humans ate what they could catch in terms of meat, and the plant foods ingested were gathered, not cultivated. According to the diet’s theory, humans adjusted to the hunter-gatherer diet over thousands of years. During the Holocene period (last 10,000 years), humans began to cultivate their food. Supposedly humans have not had enough time to properly adjust to the farmer diet and lifestyle on a genetic level. This non-adjustment is what has led to “diseases of civilization”.
“Disease related to civilization” is the term given to any disease that is believed to have roots in diet or lack of exercise. In the paleolithic lifestyle diet contributed little to disease. Critics of the diet point to a short life span as the primary reason such disease was not more common in paleolithic times. That, along with no written history of medical complaints, leads critics to believe that diet did not play a large part in lack of civilized diseases.
The paleo diet consists of foods our paleolithic ancestors are known to have eaten. Meats from domestic or wild game, nuts, vegetables, leafy greens, mushrooms, and seeds. Dieters are allowed to drink water only when using the strict versions of the diet, though some people do believe teas are fine. Some people using the paleo diet go even further in their beliefs. ‘Raw’ paleolithic dieters believe that hunter-gatherers did not cook their food, but ate their meats and other foods raw. They believe that humans never adjusted on a biological level to cooked food.
The paleo diet does have quite a few good points. By eliminating processed foods, the body becomes healthier and sheds pounds. Without processed fats only “good” fats are used by the body, eliminating high cholesterol levels. The diet is similar to other low carbohydrate diets, but without the allowance of processed carbs in later stages. The belief is that paleolithic people did not bake, nor use certain grains or legumes. Without such grains there was no baking which eliminated breads or cookies and cake.
The paleo diet has been shown to be more satisfying per meal versus traditional “Western” diet. Some studies have been carried out, though none have had proper control groups, or a lengthy study time allotted. There has been no data that proves or disproves the diet, but the many people who have benefitted from the diet are proof enough that following an ancient diet can help some people.