Much has been said about “going paleo”, which refers to a nutritional approach that mirrors what our early ancestors ate during the Palaeolithic era, before the advent of modern agriculture. Many have had positive experiences with the conversion, claiming benefits such as improved gut health and stronger immune systems. However, these anecdotes only show one side of the story – here are some things you might not have heard about “eating like a caveman” but are true anyway:
1. Emphasis on meat COULD be harmful
One of the main tenets of Paleo nutrition is centred on the idea of increasing protein intake to switch your body's primary fat burning method from glycolysis to ketosis (that's when your body uses fat, instead of carbohydrates for fuel). However, some experts are arguing that this approach might just backfire on some Paleo enthusiasts. In fact, recent studies have shown that eating a mere two-ounce portion of some meats every day can increase the chance of colorectal cancer by as much as 18 percent. Luckily, though, David Perlmutter, M.D., F.A.C.N., author of Brain Maker. Perlmutter says red meat lovers no longer have to worry about the saturated fat problem, as new studies have shown that there's no real link between dietary saturated fat and heart disease, despite the age-old belief. It is also recommended that you alternate your protein source with organic wild fish to optimise your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower the risk of coronary heart disease, keep your LDL cholesterol levels in check, and reduce inflammation.
2. You still need your fibre
With the paleo diet relying heavily on protein, carbohydrates are often neglected and you no longer reaping some very valuable health benefits wholesome grains offer. While the diet does encourage eating low-glycaemic index carbohydrates – such as carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes – Dr Perlmutter says that sometimes when Paleo dieters cut out carbohydrates they are unknowingly missing out on foods rich in prebiotic fibre, like raw wheat bran, oats and wheat flour, which keep gut bacteria in-check and reduce inflammation.
3. It's not necessarily the best diet after you are thirty
Cutting out carbohydrates carelessly can come at the expense of gut health and increase the risk of certain health complications. When you’re older, this can also mess with your body's main source of energy. If you exclude certain carbohydrates and don't get enough protein in your diet, your body will start breaking down its own protein stores (ie. muscle) for energy instead and may compromise muscle repair or maintenance, which is especially harmful to the older among us since we're also losing muscle as we age."
4. It will affect your sleep cycle
Removing carbohydrates from your diet will definitely affect your sleep quality, at least in the beginning. In essence, carbohydrates have been proven in many studies to help you sleep better because they aid in the release of the amino acid tryptophan into the brain, which is then used to make serotonin, a chemical that boosts happiness and relaxation. So, if you're not replacing those whole grains with foods naturally high in tryptophan (like bananas, figs, and turkey), taking them completely out of the equation could affect your sleep pattern and possibly make you feel more sluggish.
5. Strict no processed food policy
Paleo guidelines can sometimes be polarising, with different schools of thought having their own definition of what can be considered truly “Paleo”. There are plenty of granola bars, crackers and ever ice cream that are touted as paleo-friendly, but that might not be the case depending on which camp you belong to. If you’re not completely sure of where you stand yourself, your best bet is to err on the side of caution on forego processed food entirely.
For many, the switch to more nutrient-dense food and a reduction in overall caloric intake is the main reason behind the success that Paleo eating brings. With that being said, it still shouldn’t be considered the “perfect” diet. Just as how some individuals would get great results from such an approach to nutrition, there will be some who would fare less well.