Health Care

‘Caveman’ diet encourages lean meats, fruits and vegetables

It’s not uncommon for people to take cues from the past and apply them to their modern lives. As the adage goes, we learn from history.

The Paleo diet certainly subscribes to this idea, looking back to the nutritional habits of the caveman as the guide to a proper diet.

According to Paleo diet literature, “Paleo is a simple dietary lifestyle that is based on foods being either in or out. In are the Paleolithic Era foods that we ate prior to agriculture and animal husbandry (meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruit, berries, mushrooms, etc.). Out are Neolithic Era foods that result from agriculture or animal husbandry (grains, dairy, beans/legumes, potatoes, sugar and fake foods).”

“As far as diets are concerned, any diet that eliminates a food group would be adverse to health,” said Vanessa Bassi, Clinical Dietician for Columbus Regional John B. Amos Cancer Center, though she said the idea of eliminating processed foods and oils is beneficial.

And though Bassi said the Paleo diet would be “hard for an athlete because athletes need carbs after a workout,” CrossFit co-owner and coach Chris Kowalewski promotes the diet for his athletes.

Kowalewski himself has been practicing the Paleo diet for just over a year and has lost 31 pounds.

“We’re based on performance in the workouts,” said Kowalewski. “The Paleo diet, as far as performance-wise, is incredible.” He added that energy levels are increased, but stable, and “that constant hunger decreases.”

While Kowalewski said that calcium can be found in sources other than dairy, Bassi still has reservations about the long-term implications of eliminating dairy from one’s diet.

“It’s hard to compare life expectancies,” she said, but noted that cavemen didn’t live as long as humans do now and “with our longer life expectancy, it’s beneficial to get all nutrients every day.”

Jamie Stuckert, manager of Peachtree Natural Foods on Airport Thruway, said that while she’s not a nutrition expert, the Paleo diet “actually supports many of the things from the natural food perspective or the organic perspective. ... But there are also some controversial points because it also includes no grains, no legumes, no dairy.”

She said many credible doctors, including Dr. Jan McBarron, whom Stuckert works for, have a standard recommendation that everyone take a basic multivitamin.

“Basic levels of supplementation I don’t think are negated no matter what diet you’re following,” Stuckert said.

While Kowalewski has seen results with the Paleo diet, he emphasized that it’s not a diet trend. “This is a lifestyle change,” he said. “It’s not a diet.”

Bassi said the best plan would be to eat a well-balanced diet with whole-grain starches, legumes, a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and dairy for calcium.

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