Eat like a Caveman?

Author: Brady Burrows

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, then you’ve probably heard of the paleo diet. Maybe you have friends who are paleo, or maybe you’ve tried it yourself. Fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, no processed food or grains. Sounds great, but let’s dig a little deeper. What is the paleo diet and does it work?

What is the paleo diet?

A couple of million years ago our ancestors thrived on a diet consisting of lean meats, nuts, and fresh produce. Eventually agricultural practices were developed and our hunter/gatherer diet changed to a diet high in cereal grains. (wheat, oats, corn) It is this diet shift that advocates of the paleo diet point to as the root cause of all our modern chronic diseases we see today. Robb Wolf a former research biochemist and author of New York Times Bestseller "The Paleo Solution" claims, “it is our modern diet full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar that is the root of degenerative diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and many other chronic diseases.”  

Where did the Paleo Diet come from?

The idea behind the paleo diet was first cited in Weston Price's 1939 book titled "Nutrition and physical degeneration, a comparison of primitive and modern diets and their effects." During the 20's and early 30's, Dr. Price traveled all over the world and made detailed observations about diet and health in non-westernized countries. He found that tribes who had adopted a modern diet (heavy in grains), had declining health. Although Price made these claims in the 30's, it wasn't popularized until 2002 when Dr. Loren Cordain released his book "The Paleo Diet". This book was the first of its kind available to the public, and the paleo diet quickly became a household name. Today Cordain and Wolf are widely known for their part in popularizing the paleo diet.

Paleo diet model

  • Animals: beef, chicken, pork, turkey, bison, fish
  • Animal products: eggs and honey
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Raw nuts

When the paleo diet was first introduced things like legumes and dairy didn’t make the cut, but many paleo enthusiasts have recently added things like grass fed dairy and legumes into the mix.

Does it work?

In 2007, a study was conducted on the effects the paleo diet had on glucose tolerance in diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals. The individuals were put on either a paleo diet, or a mediterranean diet. (high in veggies and fat, moderate protein) The outcomes measured were glucose tolerance, insulin levels, weight, and waist circumference. The study was conducted for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12 weeks, participants on the paleo diet lost an average of 11 pounds and 2.2 inches around their waste, compared to the control group who lost 8.4 pounds and 1.1 inches around their waste. Furthermore, all 15 of the participants in the paleo group had normal blood sugar levels, compared to 7 of 15 in the control group. While this is just one study, I think it’s important to highlight the positive impact that the paleo diet could have on certain demographics.

Flaws of the Paleo Diet

  • Any diet that lists foods as "good" and "bad" or cuts out a certain food group is hard to follow. It leads to all or nothing type thinking, which makes it hard to stay consistent. Without consistency, you won't get the results your looking for.   
  • There isn't enough evidence yet for excluding dairy or grains. Sure, some of us may benefit from cutting back on dairy and grain consumption or even cutting it out completely. At the end of the day listen to what your body is telling you.
  • Cutting out dairy completely could lead to deficiencies in calcium. If you choose to go paleo, look into supplementing calcium.                                                

Want to go paleo? What to do next

  • Check out The website is run by Dr. Loren Cordain, and has a ton of recipes and tips to help with your paleo lifestyle.
  • Sit down with a coach and talk about your health goals, or setbacks. We would be happy to make you a nutrition template or give you some pointers in the right direction.
  • Make small manageable changes and go from there.
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