The Paleo Diet (also known as the paleolithic diet, paleodiet, primal diet, caveman diet, stone-age diethunter-gatherer diet, grain-free, etc), is a diet gaining quite a bit of popularity these days. I too am learning about this relatively (it was first introduced in the seventies, but only recently has become mainstream) new diet, so I am sharing today what I have learned thus far.

Cute caveman image found here

What can you eat?  The diet consists of only eating foods that we ate when we were cavemen/hunter-gatherers. That includes fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs, fish, nuts and seeds, raw honey

What can't you eat? Anything that is not a food (i.e. junk food, candy, packaged foods), grains (including gluten free grains, oats, and pseudo grains like buckwheat and quinoa), dairy, legumes, sugar, oils

Can you bake on this diet? Yes. There are lots of Paleo cookbooks and blogs devoted to baking breads, muffins, and cakes, only they use coconut flour and almond flour (which are both grain-free), and eggs to create a "dough". I've tried making paleo bread, brownies, and cake, all with success (I like to be challenged in the kitchen and paleo baking provides me with some challenge!). So yes, baking (and thus eating sweets) is definitely still possible.

As with all diets, there are some extremes and exceptions...

Exceptions: Generally, this diet is high protein, low carbohydrate, and it eliminates grains. As with any diet, there are many variations and exceptions. The only "rule" that seems to remain consist between all of the variations is no grains as grains are a "new food" to humans that was invented recently during the agricultural revolution. Other than that, there are people who are paleo but still eat chocolate, sugar, cheese, and sausages (i.e. foods that caveman certainly didn't eat, but at least they contain any grains). On the other hand, there are others really stick to eating primal foods, which means mostly fruit and vegetables that can be gathered and animals that can be hunted.

Extremes: Some people who follow the paleo diet go as far as living like a caveman, meaning they don't wear shoes (they will wear Vibrams instead), won't eat bacon (pork is paleo, but our ancestors didn't eat bacon on a regular basis, it a new way of preparing pork), perform regular fasts (animals weren't able to be hunted everyday, hence the fasts in between kills), and exercise like a caveman (sprint, lift heavy objects, climb trees, etc. ...because there were no elliptical machines when we were cavemen!).

Some diet Pros and Cons...

Pros: Less junk/fake-foods, lower in carbohydrates (especially simple, refined sugars, it could be a good diet for diabetics?), a very clean diet (no package foods with artificial stuff allowed), naturally gluten-free, can include lots of vegetables and fruit, high protein (especially good if you are an athlete), apparently by following the paleo diet you'll have a better omega 3 to omega 6 ratio (don't have the source for this, but heard it in class last week), lots of online support communities

Cons: No research (longitudinal studies especially) supporting the paleo community claims that by following this diet you will reduce your chances of acquiring Western diseases, eating lots of meat can be hard to digest, can be expensive (almond flour and coconut flour are very expensive compared to grain flours like whole wheat or buckwheat), considered a "fad diet", ranked poorly among dietitians (says the Wikipedia article on Paleo, ha ha), not environmentally sustainable, can get boring eating meat and veggies only, like a modified Atkins Diet (which has been shown to harm people's health), many people abusing the diet to just eat bacon and steak all day long :P


  1. Hi! I am a CCNM student as well and love the Paleo diet. I find your take interesting. What harmful effects has the Atkins diet been shown to have exactly?

    I have references about the less anti-inflammatory omega-6 to omega-3 ratio if you want (http://www.eat-real-food-paleodietitian.com/paleo-diet-omega-6-to-omega-3-ratio.html and here http://www.eat-real-food-paleodietitian.com/paleo-diet-and-pastured-grass-fed-meat.html).

    Also I would like to correct that a well-designed Paleo diet is NOT a high-protein diet. It's a moderate protein diet with moderate to low amounts of carbs and moderate to high amounts of fats (healthy traditional fats). :)

    There are definitely studies showing that this way of eating is excellent for diabetes control. And if you want more info about how a Paleo diet could help prevent chronic disease, I'd highly recommend this book: http://goo.gl/wRDYP. :)

    Most dietitians bashing the Paleo diet don't know enough about it... and/or they are biased by their education heavily influenced by the food industry... (I am a registered dietitian by the way, so I know!).

    Enjoy reading week!

    1. Hi there! Nice to (virtually) meet you! Thanks for the omega 6 to 3 ratio reference and the other references.

      When I said a paleo diet is high protein, I meant that to be a positive thing! Clean, good quality, high protein diets, are good thing in my opinion.

      As for the dietitians bashing the diet and the Atkins diet being bad: they were both discussed in class, so I don't have the references right off hand... sorry. We had a big in class discussion about it. I've also read blogs by various dietitians downplaying the Paleo diet (but I've also read them down play low fat diets, vegan diets, gluten-free diets, etc. You can be sure that if the diet exists, there'll be at least one dietitian who is against it!).

      Anywho, this post was just meant to show some pros and cons about the diet, I actually wasn't leaning in either direction. I'm thinking about talking about some other diets in a similar manner on my blog in the future. Paleo is the most "trendy" right now, that's why I talked about it first.

    2. Awesome, great job at making people aware of this alternative way of eating. :)

  2. You can't eat oil? I didn't know that one! That surprises me.

  3. Fats are allowed on the Paleo diet, but not processed vegetable oils high in omega-6, such as soybean oil, cottenseed oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, peanut oil, canola oil.. More info here: http://www.eat-real-food-paleodietitian.com/paleo-diet-and-vegetable-oils.html.

    Instead, healthy, stable and traditional fats like coconut oil, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, whole avocado, nuts and nut butters, ghee and butter (ideally from grass-fed animals) are encouraged.


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