The Paleo diet is fast-becoming one of the most popular diet trends. The Palaeolithic period spanned from approximately 2.5 million to 10000 years ago. Over this extensive period there was not just one diet, however it did tend to be higher in protein, low in saturated fats with the focus on essential fatty acids, low in sodium and high in fibre. The Paleo concept that suggests a low carbohydrate diet is incorrect. Palaeolithic humans may not have eaten wholegrain breads, pasta or rice, however they still consumed carbohydrates from other food sources. The amount of carbohydrate foods consumed varied largely depending on location and season. There is, in fact, evidence that the Palaeolithic diet from 30000 years ago actually included both grains and legumes!
The Modern Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet that is being adopted by many Australians has pros and cons. Although it encourages Paleo-goers to replace highly processed ‘treat’ foods with wholefoods it still emphasises the exclusion of important food groups including dairy, grains, legumes and unsaturated seed oils. Diets that encourage you to avoid entire food groups typically leave you missing out on key nutrients important for our health and wellbeing.
Dairy foods such as low fat milk and yoghurt provide us with calcium for bone health and strength. Wholegrain cereal foods and legumes help to keep our bowels healthy and provide us with essential nutrients for our overall health. The Paleo diet recommends coconut oil and butter which are high in saturated fat, rather than the unsaturated seed oils. Consuming large amounts of saturated fat is linked to an increased risk of heart disease whilst unsaturated fats can help reduce our risk. It might also be worth mentioning that no one in the extensive Palaeolithic period actually consumed coconut oil as they had no way of extracting it from coconuts!
Is Paleo the way to go?
The eating patterns of a Palaeolithic human would be extremely difficult to follow in the modern world. Not only have our food sources changed but the human race has evolved. The Modern Paleo Diet is predominantly based on ‘celebrity trend’ rather than scientific evidence. If you are seeking healthy eating guidelines that are based on reliable research look no further than the Australian Dietary Guidelines (www.eatforhealth.gov.au) which are backed by more than 55000 studies! At this stage there is not enough strong evidence suggesting Paleo is the way to go.
Accredited Practicing Dietitian
360 Health + Community
(Information sourced from: http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/paleo-diet/)