Is The Paleo Diet Optimal?

It seems that Paleo diets are becoming very popular lately. Paleo basically means eating the diet that humans ate in preagricultural, Paleolithic times. It is presumed by people who follow a paleo diet, that what these relatively short-lived humans ate is what’s optimal for the health of today’s relatively long-lived humans. However, this is debatable.

Preagricultural diets consisted of mainly wild plants and wild animals. They didn’t consume processed foods -sugar, oil, salt- or the milk of other species. ”Followers of the new paleo diet naturally assume that their nutrient intakes approximate that of Paleolithic humans, but their actual intakes may be wide of the mark. Nutritional anthropologists have been estimating the nutrient intakes of cavemen for several decades. As it turns out, vegan diets may actually come closer to matching the macro- and micronutrient intakes of Paleolithic diets than new paleo diets.

The table below summarizes the results of a comparison among recommended paleo menus, recommended plant-based menus, and a true Paleolithic diet eaten by early humans. The data compare three days of recommended paleo menus from a popular paleo website, three days of recommended plant-based (vegan) menus from Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition, and the estimated average daily intakes of Paleolithic people.

The table also provides dietary reference intakes (DRIs) for adult males (M) and adult females (F) who aren’t pregnant or lactating. Nutrients and other dietary factors in the new paleo or vegan diet that are more similar to the true Paleolithic diet are highlighted (pink for the new paleo diet and green for the vegan diet).”

True Paleolithic, New Paleolithic and Plant-Based Diets Compared

Paleo Chart

However, I agree that a paleo diet is an improvement to the standard first-world country diet as it eliminates ( or reduces the amounts of ) processed foods eaten. ”With its focus on consuming large quantities of meat, the new paleo diet is a pale imitation of the diet of early humans. Unfortunately, this dietary pattern also ignores the numerous health risks associated with eating meat, the ethical issues associated with an increased demand for food animals, and the looming environmental crisis that makes eating lower on the food chain an ecological imperative. People who want to move closer to a true Paleolithic diet should explore plant-based diets—such diets come as close to true paleo diets as modern day people can hope to achieve.”

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