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But what were their diets like? Typically, due to being hunter-gatherers, they survived off meats, fish, nuts, and other wild-gathered foods, like purslane leaves.1 These eating habits, which have become commonly known as the paleo diet, have gained popularity over recent times with some studies linking this way of eating to greater overall health, in addition to aiding weight loss, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. But if the paleo diet isn't undertaken properly it can quickly lead to nutritional and digestive system deficiencies.2, 3Here we'll take you through what the paleo diet is and how it can benefit your health as well as the potential health pitfalls of the diet and what you can do to protect your gut health along the way.
Is your body designed to cope with the diet of our distant ancestors? Paleo diet adherents who argue yes typically reason that, because the human race existed for a long time hunting and gathering for food - 35,000 years compared to 10,000 years in the agricultural era - our bodies have evolved based on the foods our palaeolithic ancestors ate.4 These foods include:
Whereas, the foods that our ancestors didn't have access to (as a result of a lack of modern agricultural practices), and thus those on the paleo diet should avoid, include:
A well-planned paleo diet can be highly beneficial for your overall health. It is high in fibre, antioxidants, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and protein. It also supplies potassium, which is typically deficient in people consuming a Western diet. The diet also boasts a low glycemic index, in contrast with the Western diet which typically includes carbohydrates that spike blood sugar.5, A recent study revealed that the low glycemic index of the carbohydrates sources in the paleo diet, which includes beets, sweet potatoes and squash, promoted a reduction in overall glucose levels by 36% and reduced insulin secretion by 30% in comparison with a conventional diet.6
Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.
1Gibbons, A. (2013). The Evolution of Diet - National Geographic Magazine.
2Jonsson, T., Granfeldt, Y., Lindeberg, S., and Hallberg, A. (2013). Subjective satiety and other experiences of a Paleolithic diet compared to a diabetes diet in patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutrition Journal, 147(04).
3Eaton, S., and Konner, M. (1985). Paleolithic nutrition: A consideration of its nature and current implications. New England Journal of Medicine, 312(05).
4Eaton, S., and Konner, M. (1985). Paleolithic nutrition: A consideration of its nature and current implications. New England Journal of Medicine, 312(05).
5Lindeberg, S., Jonsson, T., Granfeldt, Y., et al. (2007). A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia, 50(09).
6Seema, P., Hafiz, A., & Suleria, A. (2017). Ethnic and paleolithic diet: Where do they stand in inflammation alleviation? A discussion. Journal of Ethnic Foods, 04(04).
7Matyjaszek-Matuszek, B., Lenart Lipinska, M., and Wozniakowska, E. (2015). Clinical implications of Vitamin D deficiency. Przeglad Menopauzalny, 14(02).
8Klonoff, D. C. (2009). The Beneficial Effects of a Paleolithic Diet on Type 2 Diabetes and Other Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 03(06).
9Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients, 05(04).
10Jandhyala, S., Talukdar, R., Subramanyam, C., et al. (2015). Role of the normal gut microbiota. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 21(29).
11Jandhyala, S., Talukdar, R., Subramanyam, C., et al. (2015). Role of the normal gut microbiota. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 21(29).
12Lawrence, D., Corinne, M., Carmody, R., et al. (2016). Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. International Journal of Science, 505.
13Lawrence, D., Corinne, M., Carmody, R., et al. (2016). Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. International Journal of Science, 505.
14Diabetes.co.uk. (2017) Side effects of a paleo diet.