Paleo: raw eggs with live locusts anyone?
The Paleo or Hunter-Gatherer diet is based on the principle that we should eat like our nomadic ancestors as our genes have not had time to catch up with recent (i.e. last 20,000 years or so) of dietary change induced by settlement, the domestication of animals and farming. Inclusions would be liberal quantities of fresh fruit and veg (much raw), meat and fish and nuts. Exclusions would be any grains, pulses, dairy products, processed foods (of any type even seemingly healthy ones e.g. tofu, virgin olive oil), anything with additives.
It is less of a diet and more of a set of principles for which there is an increasingly compelling base of evidence. However, my clinic experiences show me that people often don’t follow it correctly and end up choosing to follow the bits they skewing the nutritional content of the diet and hence often losing the benefits.
In addition to which, although the genes for our digestive enzymes support this model of eating this does not take account of other factors that have allowed us to adapt to a ‘settled’ diet, for example:
- The vast array of bacteria in our gut digest many foods that we cannot and we get the benfit, this includes soluble fibre in grains and pulses which confer great health benefits
- Ancient processing methods (many of which have been adulterated or lost in the last 100 years), ‘pre-digested’ foods so that we could eat them e.g. using yeast and bacteria to act on grains in bread-making, fermenting soy to make tofu/tempeh which is much more digestible than the bean, using bacteria to create yoghurt and cheese.
Whilst people interpret this diet as rump steak, lettuce and sweet potato (hence its popularity among a lot of muscle building men), the diet would have more closely resembled that of the chimpanzee where much of the staple protein was not Wildebeest steaks but in fact, offal, carrion, small mammals and insects and nothing would have been cooked. Raw eggs with live locusts anyone???
When it comes to athletic performance, even the diet’s creator, Dr Lauren Cordain, recognises that the very low-carb principles present issues and has adjusted these in ‘The Paleo Diet for Athletes’ to allow strategic use of certain carbs around performance timings. This can be a very healthy eating plan IF you follow it properly.
My advice is to go part-paleo by eating high veg, lots of fish, ditch processed foods, reduce grain and dairy consumption (which is just too high in the diet) and eat traditionally processed products e.g. unpasteurised stinky cheese and spelt or rye sourdough.