Is the Paleo Diet for You?

Eating like your ancestors for better blood sugar today.

By Jack Challem

Google "Paleo diet" and you get almost 10 million results. People find the concept compelling — eating the way human beings did when they had no choice — but can the eating habits of your ancient ancestors really help you lose weight and manage your blood sugar today?

Paleo Diet FossilThe Paleo diet refers to what Paleolithic (or Stone Age) people were eating roughly 10,000 to 50,000 years ago. In those days, people hunted for meat, sometimes fished, and gathered a lot of vegetables. They did not eat any grains, processed fats, or sugars (other than occasional honey, which was difficult and painful to obtain). In other words, no one stuffed themselves on breads, pastas, pizzas, muffins, bagels, soft drinks, fries, or desserts. Knightia (Herring) - Fossilized Fish from the Eocene Age
Green River Formation, Kemmerer, Wyoming

But you don't really have to live like a caveman (or cavewoman) to get some of the benefits of this ancient diet.

Paleo eating gained medical respectability in 1985 with an article by S. Boyd Eaton, M.D., in the New England Journal of Medicine. He wrote that many modern health problems, including obesity and diabetes, resulted from a mismatch between our ancient genes (which haven't changed) and our modern indulgence in convenience and fast foods.

Dietary Changes

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., a professor at Colorado State University and author of The Paleo Diet and The Paleo Answer, points out that ancient peoples were free of the "diseases of civilization," such as diabetes and heart disease. Like Eaton, Cordain has based much of his research on anthropological surveys of 229 pre-technology hunter-gatherer societies and 50 modern-day hunter-gatherer societies, such as African bushmen.

Of course, ancient eating habits varied by geography and season. So did the ratio of animal-to-plant foods, with some societies consuming a higher proportion of animal foods and others more plant foods. One interesting fact is that none of the societies were completely vegetarian.

Our ancestors' diets began changing around 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture and the introduction of grains and grain products, including flour, bread, tortillas, sugar, and alcohol. Because human teeth cannot effectively chew raw grains, the seeds had to be pulverized (i.e., processed, refined) before consumption. Such processing increases the glycemic effect of grains and also makes them easy to overindulge in, thus boosting our risk of heart disease.

Paleo Foods

Foods to Limit or Avoid
Natural, lean meats (beef, poultry, pork) Dairy foods (butter, cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.)
Eggs Grains (barley, corn, oats, rice, wheat, etc.)
Unsalted nuts and seeds Legumes (all beans, soybean products, lentils, etc.)
Non-starchy vegetables Starchy vegetables (potatoes)
Fish Salty foods (processed meats, condiments, etc.)
Shellfish Sweets
 Organ meats (beef, lamb, pork, and chicken livers, tongues, marrow, and sweetbreads) Sugary soft drinks
 Game meat (alligator, elk, caribou, goose, etc.) High sugar fruits, dried fruit, all fruit juices
   Fatty meats (bacon, lamb chops, chicken thighs, wings, and legs, etc.)

**This info was gathered from various sources.


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Last Modified Date: February 06, 2015

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by Brenda Bell
Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...
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