The Paleo, or Paleolithic diet, is a modern dietary craze that purports to mimic the diet of mankind’s early ancestors. Many proponents of the diet hold that human beings evolved over millions of years to become adapted to a certain way of eating and living that was radically changed with the advent of agriculture and a subsequent switch to a focus on cereal grains, legumes and dairy some 10,000-15,000 years ago. This pre-agricultural dietary movement began in the 1970′s and has since gained a very large following, particularly on the internet.
As it is not possible for us all to return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the modern Paleo diet allows for the consumption of cultivated plants and farmed animals as opposed to their wild counterparts. Many proponents of the diet claim that Paleo not only works as an effective weight loss tool, but combats against many widespread modern medical complications including heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, dementia, obesity, among more. While there is no true scientific consensus on the diet, and consensus is a rare thing in the field of nutrition indeed, there is a body of evidence to suggest some of these claims may have some validity.
Essentially, Paleo dieters avoid the foods we (supposedly) have only been eating since we began the practise of agriculture. These include grains, refined carbohydrates (sugar, fruit juice), legumes such as beans and soy, and vegetables and seed oils (canola, sunflower seed). These are the basic prohibited foods of the Paleo diet, and while they may seem relatively simple to avoid at first glance, many modern foodstuffs are derived from these staples. Some Paleo dieters take things a step further and choose to also avoid dairy products, nightshades like tomatoes and potatoes, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Most Paleo dieters are omnivores and place a heavy emphasis on the role of meats and fish in the diet. Many prefer to eat organic and grass-fed, as these animals are a closer approximation to wild game. Eggs are another staple for those who have not chosen to forgo them entirely. The second main pillar of the Paleo diet is vegetables which are an excellent source of both micronutrients and dietary fiber. Nuts, seeds, fruits, berries and dairy will in most cases make up the rest of your daily caloric intake. A strong emphasis is also placed on exercise, while very little is placed on calorie counting.