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Lose weight like a caveman: the Paleo Diet

Updated on August 31, 2012

One of the hottest diet trends is the Paleo or Caveman diet. There are several variations and a number of names, but the underlying principle is the same – a belief that eating the same type of diet that cavemen ate is a route to weight loss and improved health.

The idea isn't new. The Stone Age Diet was written by Dr. Walter L. Voegtlin in the 1970s. He argued that human genetics have changed little even after centuries of evolution, and that the body is better adapted to the diet eaten by the early hunter-gatherers instead of the foods adopted after the change to an agricultural society.

Dr. Voegtlin's basic diet is grounded on a simple idea – eat only the foods that would have been included in the early caveman's diet, or at least the modern versions of those foods. Quantities are not restricted, but the only foods allowed are foods that would have been edible without the benefits of modern technologies and processing. Some Paleo dieters even eliminate cooking as a 'modern' invention, but it isn't necessary to adopt a raw food diet.

The Paleo diet is fairly simple to follow. No weighing, measuring or counting is needed. The only requirement is a good understanding of the allowed foods.

  • Sugars are forbidden, including processed sugars, molasses, corn syrup, fructose, and sugar substitutes. Honey can be used for sweetening in small amounts.
  • Grains are forbidden – oats, wheat, barley, rye, rice and corn.
  • No legumes, including peanuts and soy.
  • No dairy products.
  • Most vegetables are allowed, but no starchy vegetables – potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, parsnips. Organic is preferred.
  • Lard, olive oil, flaxseed oil and coconut oil are allowed. Do not use corn, cottonseed, peanut, soybean, rice bran or wheat germ oil.
  • Most fruits are allowed as well as juices with pulp and without additives. Organic is preferred.
  • Eggs are allowed, preferably from free range chickens.
  • Unprocessed meats are allowed – beef, pork, chicken, game birds, fish, shellfish, lamb, venison. Wild game is preferred. Processed meats are not completely forbidden, but are discouraged. Avoid meat products with added corn or corn by-products or other starches and sugars.
  • Nuts and edible seeds are allowed with the exception of cashews, which cannot be eaten raw but have to be processed. Don't forget, peanuts are actually legumes, which are on the forbidden list.
  • Processed products like commercially prepared mayonnaise or ketchup, ice cream, chocolate, carob, margarine, etc. are not allowed.

Although the various versions of the Paleo diet are almost identical in most respects, they do vary quite a bit when it comes to beverages. Dr. Voegtlin's original diet allowed fruit juice, water, and tea. In NeanderThin, Ray Audette allows only water and tea freely. Juice is allowed in small amounts and coffee and alcohol are specifically forbidden. Loren Cordain's The Paleo Diet, on the other hand, is at the opposite end of the spectrum, encouraging water as the primary beverage but allowing coffee, tea, and even diet soda and alcohol in moderation.

In general, the Paleo diet is simple, requiring only adherence to the list of allowed foods. With the elimination of empty calories and heavily processed foods, the diet is nutritionally dense. On the down side, however, fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins are sometimes more expensive, especially when organic, and the complete elimination of grains and dairy may be too drastic a change for many people to make long term.


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    • thesingernurse profile image

      thesingernurse 5 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      Based on the premise that food intake should be similar to that of the early cavemen's, I wonder why they took out the legume stuff. Am pretty sure it was, in a way, included in their food; though of course, we modern people won't really know. Hahaha!

      This hub is interesting and concise. :D