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Is The Paleo Diet Healthy Or Controversial?

Updated on September 14, 2017

Modern society has made food available in a way our ancestors could only dream of. Not only in quantity, but also in variety. Hunger still exists in many parts of the world, but on average people eat a lot more than in the past. In some cases, people eat so much that it's no longer considered to be healthy.

As a result, being overweight or even obese is becoming more and more common. There is then a strong need to control body weight, which in turn leads to dieting as a solution. What and how much people should eat has become extremely important. This is reflected in, for example, the food labels on packaged food to help people control their weight by providing them information on what they eat.

Many dieting plans have been introduced to satisfy the huge demand for dieting from the public. One of the more notable ones is known as the Paleo Diet, Stone Age Diet or Caveman Diet. This in turn has spawned many variants, all promising followers of this diet a better and more healthy lifestyle.


What is the Paleo or Caveman Diet?

The Paleo or Caveman Diet basically suggests to eat as our ancient ancestors did. The diet is based on the eating habits of prehistoric people during the Paleolithic Era, which started around 2.5 million years ago and ended around 10,000 years ago. Hence the name Paleo Diet. Caveman refers to the fact that many of our ancestors used to reside in caves where they found shelter against the elements.

Prehistoric people were primarily hunters and gatherers of food within close proximity. Agriculture like we know today did not yet exist meaning that much of what modern people currently depend on should be off limits according to the Paleo Diet. If they didn't have it, you shouldn't have it according to this reasoning.

What variants are there of the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo Diet started during the mid 1970s and has since attracted many followers, which have made many changes or additions to the original plan. For example:

  • Some diet plans emphasize emulating the physical lifestyle of prehistoric people, which included lots of body movement out in the open.

  • Much wider use of carbohydrates than has traditionally been the case. The Paleo Diet originally was more conservative in this regard.

There is a tremendous variety available and it is up to the individual to decide which ones they like best. There certainly is no shortage when it comes to choice.


What are you allowed and not allowed to eat with the Paleo Diet?

What you are allowed to eat depends on what specific plan of Paleo Diet you have chosen. In general, if something was not available to prehistoric people, then that particular item is also forbidden with the Paleo Diet. That's basically what it comes down to.

Some examples of what is not allowed with the Caveman Diet:

  • All products made using grains such as bread, cereals and others.

  • All dairy products such as milk and cheese.

  • Sugar, although honey can be used as a substitute.

  • Salt

Some examples of what is allowed with the Caveman Diet:

  • Meat from animals fed with grass, but not with grains.

  • All sorts of fish.

  • All eggs from animals.

  • All nuts such as walnuts and so on.

  • All types of fruit.

Why is the Paleo Diet controversial?

The Paleo Diet promises a better and healthier life to those who follow what it prescribes. By simply emulating prehistoric people in their habits, people can eliminate many of the illnesses that plague large parts of the population. Problems such as obesity that is becoming more and more widespread, in the U.S. especially, can be countered by adoping the Paleo Diet. At least, that is the claim.

The Paleo Diet is controversial in that is has both supporters, who think the Paleo Diet is good, and opponents, who think the Paleo Diet is bad. Both sides are of the opinion that they are correct and the other side is wrong. Boh sides have their arguments, which will be elaborated on in the following paragraphs.

Why is the Paleo Diet good according to supporters?

Supporters of the Paleo Diet are of the opinion that it better reflects out natural eating habits and is therefore healthier. The current eating habits have been distorted because of agriculture and the food products it has made available in modern times. Much of what has been made available is no good and the consequences are there to see.

Supporters point out that people nowadays suffer a lot more from illnesses such as Diabetes, which were barely known to occur in the past. In their eyes, this proves that current eating habits are unhealthy and that people should go back to what they did in the past. This would help regain their former health.


Why is the Paleo Diet bad according to opponents?

On the other hand, opponents argue that there is not enough scientific evidence to back up what supporters claim. The Paleo Diet in their eyes is more like a fad that should not be taken seriously. This camp also points out that it goes against conventional wisdom of what people should normally eat. They say that we are not certain what exactly it is that prehistoric people ate due to the passage of time.

Opponents are not convinced that products derived from modern agriculture has resulted in many negative consequences for people. The increasing occurrences of various diseases could simply be the result of people living longer than they did in the past. Since our ancient ancestors did not live as long, they didn't have the chance to develop diseases which people nowadays can get because there is more time.

So is the Paleo Diet healthy or not?

From the previous paragraphs it should be clear that there are different opinions regarding the Paleo Diet. The answer to the question therefore depends entirely on the person answering it. Even experts are not certain on whether the Paleo Diet is good or bad, which can make things quite confusing.

If you're thinking of going on a diet and considering trying the Paleo Diet, it is important that you do your own research. Do not rely on the opinion of a single source, but on multiple ones. Whether people should try the Paleo Diet for themselves is entirely up to them to decide.


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    • Kloud stryfe profile image

      John 2 years ago from Foster

      Well written. I truly believe that the Paleo diet is something that needs to be experienced before a definitive conclusion can be made. In my case my life did a complete turnaround. There is no other lifestyle other than Paleo for me.

    • johntsang profile image

      John Tsang 4 years ago

      Thanks for commenting.

      The food nowadays is definitely much more artificial than it used to be.

    • jravity1 profile image

      jravity1 4 years ago from bellevue, MI

      I have heard a lot of back on forth on the subject. The fact is though that all the extra stuff they are putting into are food is effecting us heavily. Just the use of corn and corn byproducts is now every where in food. Thank you for sharing.

    • johntsang profile image

      John Tsang 4 years ago

      KA Pederson, glad my article was helpful.

      Thanks for commenting and voting!

    • KA Pederson profile image

      Kim Anne 4 years ago from Texas

      Was wondering what it was, I figured it was a back to the basics type of program. It has to be healthier than all the processed foods we eat today. Voted up for useful.