Monday, August 12, 2013

The Paleo Diet: Four Myths and the Truth about How our Ancestors Really Ate!

The Paleo Diet: You've heard about it, but is it worth your time? Like any diet we've ever researched, the answer is NO!  Losing weight in a healthy way will never be connected to a fad diet (sorry, Hollywood).  Today, we'll review four myths about the Paleo Diet, look at what meal time was really like for our ancestors, and note tips that can actually make your next meal healthier.



Paleo Diet Myths and Facts:

Myth 1: Humans evolved to eat meat. Our modern agricultural diets are out of sync with our biology.
Fact: Most of our adaptations aid in plant consumption! From teeth specialized in grinding plant parts to our larger digestive tract, most of our adaptations help us digest greenery NOT meat.

Myth 2: Paleolithic humans did not eat whole grains or legumes. We should not eat grains or legumes either.
Fact: Paleolithic humans did eat grains and legumes! The myth is based on older research.  Current scientific evidence counters earlier studies.

Myth 3:  Foods featured in "Paleo Diet" meal plans are the foods our ancestors ate in the Paleolithic Period.
Fact:  Many of the foods found on "Paleo Diet" food lists are from the Neolithic Period.   Food lists for the diet include vegetables and fruits that weren't possible until the Neolithic Period and the introduction of farming.  Additionally, the actual Paleolithic Diet included grains and legumes (see myth 2). Food lists for the fad diet include mostly meat. However, meat found in Paleolithic times would have been much leaner.   Additionally, as a Paleolithic man or woman you would have eaten the bone marrow and organs from your hunt (neither of which are included in the Paleo Diet).

Myth 4:  If we adopt this ancient diet we will improve our health and live longer.  
Fact: The fad diet is no where close to the ancient one.

How should we eat? Here are some tips inspired by the debate:

1.) DIVERSITY is the key to healthy eating. There is no one main "diet" that we should eat.

The fad diet notes that processed foods are not healthy. Limiting processed foods will help you diversify your diet.  Processed foods include just three main ingredients: corn, soy, and wheat. We should eat more than these three!

2.) Eat foods IN SEASON when they are freshest.  

Our Paleolithic ancestors had to do this! Eating foods when they are in season ensures that you are getting the most nutrients and allows you to work diversity into your meal choices. Additionally, fresh foods don't need preservatives.  The function of preservatives is to prevent the growth of bad bacteria on our food.  We're not sure what eating these preservatives may do to the "good" bacteria that help our bodies digest food, so best not to include them if we don't have to.

3.) Eating whole foods is important.

Processed foods are easier to overeat.  The body has adapted ways to signal us to stop eating when we are full.  When we eat processed foods, we can consume a larger amount of food without getting this feedback. For example, the sugar is one large soda can be consumed in just 20 minutes.  Eating and digesting an equivalent amount of the whole food, eight feet of sugar cane, would take longer.

To learn more about the science that debunks the Paleo Diet, check out this TED Talk with archeological scientist Christina Warinner.

Have you heard about the Paleo Diet?  Which myth or fact is most surprising to you?  Share your ideas with us by commenting below: