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What is the Paleolithic Diet?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated: Feb 06, 2024

Did caveman or humans of the Paleolithic era eat healthier diets than those eaten today? This is the contention that was first launched by a doctor in the 1970s and continues to make the rounds of discussion in many different circles that take ups subjects like human development, nutrition, physical anthropology and medicine. Creating a Paleolithic diet based on what humans ate thousands and possibly millions of years ago has been suggested as means of evoking better health, since that earlier eating was closer to what humans would have been able to access in a hunter/gatherer lifestyle, or represents what they were genetically designed to eat.

There are many arguments about the health of the Paleolithic diet and lots of people who have since suggested it as what might be the world’s perfect diet.. In particular, the foods most avoided are those that couldn’t have been “hunted” or “gathered” by early humans. Anything that speaks of agricultural development such as grains, hybridized foods, and most starches would not be allowed. Byproducts from many foods like sugar from sugar cane wouldn’t make sense either.

In principal, the Paleolithic diet, as it has been suggested, is composed of game meats, fish, easily gathered produce, products like nuts or a sweetener like honey. This does encompass a great range of food, and many may note almost complete absence of things like carbohydrates, though dietary fiber through nuts, fruit, and vegetables can be easy to obtain. There are real purists within the Paleolithic diet movement suggesting that all food obtained should be as close to source food as possible. Thus people might take wild boar over farm-raised pigs, for instance, or only eat non-genetically modified vegetables and avoid anything doused with pesticides.

For those who successfully maintain a Paleolithic diet, there can be some weight loss benefits, but health benefits overall tend to be more questionable. It’s suggested that this diet is similar, in some ways, to Atkins or South Beach, since high saturated fat consumption is fairly common and protein can make up a large share of the calories. From a human health standpoint, and despite the reasoning employed by those who suggest this diet is optimum, it doesn’t appear to be absolutely healthful for all people. Low protein diets that focus on healthier oils and grain still seem to produce healthier people.

People interested in reading about the Paleolithic diet will find many online resources, and lots of books describing it or how to implement it. It can be a challenging diet to follow because it does eliminate so many sources of food. Claims about this method of eating, have not been fully proven, and may never be. For this reason, there are many who dismiss the diet as just another eating fad.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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