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Let's get primitive: pros and cons of the Paleo diet

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Optum Perks Author

By Optum Perks Author

Surely by now you've heard of "Paleo". (And no, it's not that famous Brazilian soccer player). Paleo is the new diet craze sweeping the nation (and your Facebook page). Whether you're already deeply committed to this diet, still wavering on the fence, or currently sinking your teeth into a hearty slice of pan pizza, take a few minutes out of your day to educate yourself on the pros and cons of the Paleo diet.

The Basics:

Eating "Paleo" is simply consuming what we believe our primitive ancestors did. The list is mostly limited to:

  • Meat (preferably grass-fed): livestock, poultry, fish, reptiles, insects
  • Eggs
  • Fruit
  • Veggies
  • Seeds & nuts

While there are a few different variations of the diet, this is generally the comprehensive list, cutting out grains, processed foods, and dairy.

Sounds like a lean and mean diet, right? With the abundance of proteins, fruits and vegetables, the body uses those calories rather than storing them away as fat.

The idea behind the diet stems from the understanding that modern food has more "extras" than our bodies can handle. In other words, our digestive systems have not adapted as quickly as has the food industry. Undeniably, studies have seen extensive health benefits from eating this way. However, this primordial diet presents its own set of drawbacks.

To decide if this diet is for you, take a look at some of the pros and cons:


1. Its guidelines are black and white

The diet lays out what you should eat and what you shouldn't eat. Simple. There isn't the need for calculating portion sizes or calorie counting. Sticking to the approved food list (no cheating!) is basically the extent to which you need to pay attention to the diet. No obscure cuisine you've never heard of before, no special preparation instructions, and no strict serving sizes. Just you and your food.

2. It's not ridiculously expensive

There are plenty of diets out there that result in some expensive trips to the grocery store. However, with Paleo, all its ingredients are incredibly basic. A quick trip to the meat counter, the produce section and maybe the nut aisle and you're set. Familiar food + familiar prices = no surprises at the register.

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There wouldn't be such a buzz about eating Paleo if nobody was seeing results. The diet has proven benefits such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Lowered cholesterol
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Increased energy

And the diet is naturally gluten-free, accommodating those with Celiac disease (or perhaps a gluten intolerance). Some dieters with Celiac have noticed a decrease in their symptoms since going Paleo.


1. The evidence hasn't caught up completely

While some absolutely swear by Paleo, there hasn't been sufficient results to back it up 100%. Of course, increasing your serving intake of fresh vegetables and cutting all the processed desserts will undoubtedly have a positive impact on your health. However, research does not fully support that cutting grains and legumes completely out is a healthy move, as these types of food do supply certain benefits like better glucose control and decreased stroke risk.

2. The evolution is off

To say that our bodies are exactly the same as our primitive ancestors would be incorrect. The modern body has evolved, and while it certainly doesn't need those processed foods, it may not behave precisely like its ancestors'. Additionally, today's meats and vegetables are far different than the caveman's. Livestock is much fattier than the lean cuts of the ancient days. Vegetables have been "bred" to produce only their best traits. Our bodies and our food sources are not the same.

3. The cavemen weren't necessarily healthy

They were lean and strong, yes. But they dealt with their own set of problems like parasites, diseases and atherosclerosis. Even today, eating a diet of primarily meat can be extremely unhealthy. The diet also lacks certain natural vitamins that are extremely beneficial.


So wherever you are in your diet, take a second to consider the arguments. Perhaps the most simple solution is to develop your own "Paleo". Up your veggie intake, substitute some fruit in place of your desserts, take it easy on the bread. Paleo eating is obviously beneficial, but it's important to introduce it in a way that agrees with your body.

For more healthy tips or medical advice, check out searchRx.