There’s certainly been a lot of hype around the Paleo diet this year. You know, the one that’s referred to as “The Cave Man Diet?” So much so that millions of Americans, many of them athletes, have jumped onboard and claim it’s changed their life. Now there is controversy among experts that argue it’s healthier than a Vegan Diet, and greatly at odds with conventional health wisdom. To some the thought of eating organ meats would do more than stifle the appetite.
In my initial research there have been as many pros as cons, and proven and unproven statements. Let’s take a look……
The Paleolithic diet focuses on real, pre-agricultural whole foods such as wild-caught seafood, pastured (grass fed) meat , including offal, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. According to Wikipedia, offal refers to the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal. The word does not refer to a particular list of edible organs, which varies by culture and region, but includes most internal organs, such as the liver, heart and kidneys. In many parts of the world these are considered delicacies.
Mind you our hunter-gatherers ancestors consumed the entire animal from nose to tail and recognized the wealth of nutrients obtained from the brains, liver, kidney, heart, blood, lungs, and all other visceral organs. From their fatty acid profiles, and high vitamin and mineral contents, the inclusion of offal on your Paleo menu is almost a no brainer, according to experts.
The diet does not include dairy, legumes, grains or any processed or industrialized foods such as wheat flour, high fructose corn syrup and soy bean oil, which are a large part of the calories consumed in a Standard American Diet. The consensus being that we not only remove the foods that are at odds with our health (grains, legumes, and dairy) but we also increase our intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
What are the Health Benefits of the Paleo diet?
The Paleo diet centers around the idea that if we eat like our ancestors did 10,000 years ago, we’ll be healthier, lose weight and curb disease. Foods that can be hunted, fished or gathered: meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, veggies, fruits and berries are not processed and cut out added sugars and sodium, therefore reducing risk of obesity, heart problems, and diabetes. The fact that it is high in protein can help control blood sugar, regulate blood pressure and contribute to weight loss.
Here’s where it gets murky. Other experts believe that by eliminating the grains and legumes we are getting short changed on fiber, which reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other health complications. Researchers say we should be getting 25 grams of fiber a day.
And then there’s dairy—talk about controversy. Diary has been blamed for painful joints, sluggish metabolism and poor digestion. While some people complain that eliminating dairy saved their lives, now some Functional Medicine Doctors are saying go for it, and go all the way, eating full fat versions of yogurt and cheese.
One other caveat to consider if you are tempted to go Paleo is that it is likely to be expensive and hard to sustain. Wild game isn’t readily available and much of the plant food we eat has also been processed. Farmer’s markets are a must, and that’s a good thing. Although the idea of eating avocados, nuts, berries, and coconut is a fairly pleasing thought, at least for me.
Three of the most accomplished Function Medicine Doctors (Frank Lipman, Mark Hyman, and Joel Kahn) duke it out with Mind, Body, Green founder and CEO Jason Wachob in this video about Sugar, Gluten, Paleo, and Vegan diets. It is well worth the 30 minute investment so you can make choices that are right for you in your quest for health and wellness. And, bottom line, we all have to do what works for us.
As for me, I have to say I was at a Superbowl Party a few years ago and had some chili made with grass fed beef and it was out of this world. And I am not usually a meat eater.
For a delicious reward, try these paleo brownies.
Also watch Dr. Oz’s Paleo Diet review: