The Paleo diet is great in principal, but we don’t have to be as strict as we think to glean the benefits.
So what is the Paleo diet? The concept behind Paleo is a belief that to be healthier and happier we should return to the type of food our hunter gatherer ancestors ate.
It is based around avoiding grains, legumes, dairy, and processed foods and almost solely consuming, meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, and animal fats.
But at a recent conference a professor from the University of Minnesota said the idea that our ancestors’ diet is good for us ignores the ways in which humans and the environment around us have evolved.
He said many populations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East developed the ability to tolerate lactose – an ability our ancestors did not have. The Paleo diet promotes avoiding dairy products because our ancestors did not consume it, but many people in the world today have evolved to be able to consume lactose and suffer no ill-effects.
Another issue with the diet is that many of plants and other food stuffs our ancestors would have eaten have also evolved and changed. While it is very difficult to pinpoint exactly what they would have eaten it is safe to assume those food sources have also adapted.
Many of the plants they would have been eaten contained much higher amounts of fibre than those we consume today. Plants would have been their main source of fibre, in comparison it is wholegrains that provide most of the fibre in a traditional modern day diet.
This lack of fibre is actually a problem nutrition scientists have identified with the Paleo diet. People who avoid wholegrains and milk are at risk of missing out on key nutrients, like fibre and calcium. So while the diet may still be feasible, people who follow the diet need to be careful to ensure they meet their calcium and fibre needs.
The biggest bonus to the Paleo diet isn’t the lack of milk or grains, but its emphasis on getting rid of unnecessary sugar, like soft drinks and cakes, and eating more vegetables.
Both of these are steps recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which were created using the highest quality science to promote the best health possible. But going healthy doesn’t have to mean kicking out milk and abstaining from wholegrains. The best advice out there still seems to be ‘everything in moderation’.