The Paleolithic Diet - also known as the 'Caveman' or 'Primal' Diet - has become a favourite nutrition approach amongst many people trying to improve their health or lose weight. It is also a diet that is strongly advocated by the popular CrossFit gym movement.

The Paleo Diet is based on the idea that the human digestive system has not evolved to keep pace with modern agriculture and food processing. Because of this, the diet suggests we eat foods similar to those our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate during the Paleolithic era.

What's involved with the Paleo Diet?

Similar to the clean eating approach somewhat stricter, the Paleo Diet cuts out all modern processed foods including junk food, soft drinks, most sauces and fast food.

You also need to avoid alcohol, real and artificial sweeteners, anything that involves agriculture or cultivation (including grains, some oils, and legumes such as peanuts, peas, lentils and beans), products with artificial ingredients and dairy products.

Paleo followers mainly eat a diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean (preferably grass-fed) meats, fish, healthy fats, poultry and eggs.

Pros

Eliminating your intake of processed foods will remove much of the unhealthy salt, sugars and fats out of your diet. This is beneficial to anyone trying to improve their health or lower their body fat. Studies have also indicated adopting the Paleo diet may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity.

You will be eating more healthy fats, fibre-rich produce and unprocessed foods which should keep you feeling fuller for longer while increasing your intake of vitamins and minerals.

Cons

The Paleo Diet is not an 'everything in moderation' approach as two main food groups - grains and dairy - are removed from your diet. There are also rather limited options for carbohydrates (as you are unable to eat pasta, cereals, potatoes and bread) which act as fuel for your body so you may find your energy levels drop.

It will potentially be difficult to eat away from home as options could be hard to control if eating at a restaurant, ordering takeaways or dining at someone else's house.

Conclusion

Although the Paleo Diet has many positive aspects, its restrictiveness may make it difficult to maintain in the long term.

However, the ideas it promotes are generally a great improvement over the average Western diet and you will likely see plenty of health benefits from following this approach if you can stick to it, even if it's only for several days each week.

If you would prefer to have a less restrictive diet, we suggest you could try following Paleo principles most of the time, but include low-fat dairy and whole grain foods.

NZ Real Health is an online magazine where you can find practical information and advice on health, wellbeing and fitness. For more articles like this, visit www.nzrealhealth.co.nz.

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