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Is The Paleo Diet Healthy?

Updated on July 29, 2012

The Paleo diet is short for Paleolithic diet. Some people refer to it as the caveman diet. It is based on what some people presume is what ancient neanderthals ate during the Paleolithic era which ended around 10,000 years ago. It consists mainly of fish, vegetables, fruit, fungi, grass-fed pasture raised meats and nuts, and it excludes grains, legumes, refined sugar, dairy products, salt, and processed oils. I’ll break these down further for you so you can see the good points and the bad points from this diet. The Paleo diet is based on many assumptions, and unfortunately those assumptions is what makes it unhealthy. With some slight modifications and common sense however, it can be a step in the right direction and a much healthier way to eat.

The good news is that the Paleo diet excludes refined sugar, dairy products, salt, and processed oils. A little bit of salt in your diet is OK, too much however is bad for you. One of the big problems with the Paleo diet is that it lumps entire groups of foods together. You simply cannot do that with the human diet because the devil is in the details. Blindly lumping groups of foods together is unhealthy and very unwise. Several examples are fish and processed oils. It would be similar to grouping all cholesterol together, and saying that all cholesterol is all bad, when in fact some cholesterol is good and even needed to stay alive.

Simply put, if you prevented your body from producing cholesterol you would die. Cholesterol is needed for cell development, hormones and even vitamin D. The problem with cholesterol is that there can be too much of it, and it can be of the wrong type (HDL). Similarly when the Paleo diet suggests to eat all fish or avoid all processed oils, this way of thinking is also unhealthy.

Lets look at fish first. Fish in and of itself is not the culprit, as much as the toxic soup that it grows up in. For this reason you generally want to eat smaller fish as they have been swimming around in that toxic environment for a shorter amount of time. There is one exception to this rule which we’ll get into in a minute. We all learned in the first grade that generally speaking, the bigger fish feed upon the smaller fish in the fish food chain. Likewise the biggest fish have been exposed to the toxic waters the longest, and so they contain the most toxins and should be avoided the most. Farm raised fish is the exception and should also be avoided, especially farm raised Salmon. For more about this see this article:

The main benefit we get from fish is their Omega-3 levels. Certain fish have higher Omega-3 levels than do others. Sardines and Alaskan Wild Salmon (make sure it specifically says Alaskan Wild on the label) contain the most Omega-3. There are people however who can’t tolerate the taste of fish, and so for those people consuming a good Omega-3 supplement is a good alternative. Do not be tricked into buying “fish oil” though, as it contains very little Omega-3. You also want to make sure that all of the toxins and contaminants have all been filtered out of your Omega-3. The healthiest Omega-3 supplements are pharmaceutical grade. To learn if your Omega-3 is pharmaceutical grade see this article:

Cold water fish is the healthiest to eat. They have an impressive amount of vitamins, protein, minerals and of course Omega-3. So as you can now begin to see there is some fish that is good to eat, while eating other fish can be down right unhealthy. This is why you don’t want your diet to blindly lump “all fish” together as the Paleo diet does. The Paleo Diet also does not take into effect that back in the Paleolithic era the oceans were no polluted, but they are today.

Medical Research Refutes The Paleo Diet

Another thing that the Paleo Diet also does not take into account is that animals back in the Paleolithic era were vastly different from current domesticated animals. Did you know that horses were once the size of the common house cat? The main source of meat today comes from cows and pigs, and they did not even exist back then, so how could Paleolithic man have ever had roast beef or a pork chop in their diet? The creators of the Paleo diet simply have a wild theory, and now they are trying to shoehorn that theory into the Paleo diet, but it doesn’t fit and it scientifically never will.

Having said that I do strongly believe that people should stop eating the SAD (standard American diet) and instead start eating in a more natural way, and this is why studies like The China Study are so important, because they take a large portion of the human population and see what actually works and what doesn’t. I’ll be posting more about The China Study in an upcoming article. If you’re unfamiliar to what The China Study is, well, it is quite simply the largest comprehensive real world study of human nutrition that has ever been conducted. It was launched via a joint partnership between Oxford University, Cornell University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine. The study includes over 367 variables, 65 counties in China, and a whopping 6,500 adults.

When they were done, they had more than 8,000 statistically significant associations between human lifestyle, diet, and disease. Simply put, the meat industry can’t argue with their findings. Some of these findings were that animal protein actually promotes the growth of cancer. Another one of the studies surprising findings was that heart disease can actually be reversed simply through nutrition. Another way to read that is that heart disease is caused from bad nutrition. Another finding is that plants are your best friend health wise. It’s not just cancer and heart disease that responds to a plant-based diet, as consuming more plants extend to also helping protect you from things like diabetes, autoimmune diseases, bone, obesity, kidney, and brain diseases as well.

Researchers in The China Study also discovered from multiple, peer-reviewed animal studies, that they could actually turn the growth of cancer cells on and off like a light switch, by simply raising and lowering doses of casein, which is the main protein found in cow’s milk. It should not be a surprise then, that heart disease and cancer kills more people in America than anything else. The important part for you to know is that it can be reversible through good nutrition. Wouldn’t you like to be healthier?

This is why the top health researchers, nutritionist and doctors like T. Colin Campbell from one of the top medical institutions in the world, The Cleveland Clinic, are now recommending to avoid animal protein and dairy in your diet. The Paleo diet on the other hand, is trying to get you to consume more animal protein. It’s your health, choose wisely.

Another example of not wanting to lump everything together is with processed oils. This one however is easier to sort thorough. You should simply avoid all processed oils EXCEPT for Olive and Canola oil, which are very healthy to consume. They are another way to get those much needed Omega-3’s into your system. Most processed oils are very high in Omega-6, which is unhealthy at the levels typically found in the SAD (standard American diet). (For more about this see the article located here: What you want to do is to lower your Omega-6 levels, and raise your Omega-3 levels.

This is not so easy to do as most processed foods contain cottonseed oil, margarine, soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, or corn oil, all of which are very unhealthy in their toxic high levels of Omega-6, and most corn oil comes from genetically altered corn. All you need to do is to walk into your kitchen and read the nearest food label from one of your cabinets to see just how many products contain one of these toxic unhealthy processed oils. Removing the processed oils listed above from your diet should be job one, but it is not easy to do because they are so prevalent. This is another problem with the Paleo diet, as many times it contradicts itself by recommending to stay away from processed foods, but then it tells you to consume the very ingredients found in those processed foods.

Saturated fats are infamous for clogging your arteries, and the Paleo diet recommends saturated fat. Saturated fats have also been proven to raise your bad cholesterol and to cause heart disease. Why would you consume something that has been proven to cause such serious and deadly health problems? This is what happens when a diet lumps all processed oils together. It doesn’t take into account their differences, or how each one actually effects your health.

The best part about the Paleo diet is that it says to avoid alcohol, sugars and processed foods. Removing these things from your diet will indeed greatly increase your health. However the Paleo diet doesn’t take into account that we are not genetically identical to Paleolithic man, and this is where it falls short. Eating toxic fish and saturated fats will not make you healthy, and in fact can cause a host of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and diabetes just to name a few.

The Paleo diet “assumes” that Paleolithic man was healthy, when scientific research proves otherwise. A 2011 and 2012 ranking by U.S. News & World Report, consisting of 22 health experts, ranked the Paleo diet lowest of all diets evaluated. They found more holes in this diet than swiss cheese, basically because the Paleo diet is based on theory, and not solid science. Still it will help some people simply because it removes alcohol, sugars and processed foods from their diet. If you just make those simple changes in your diet you will become much healthier.


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