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Can ‘Paleo’ Food Fuel Your Body?

By Stephanie Booth
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman

teen eating barbeque ribs

Ready to eat like it’s the Stone Age? That’s the main idea of the Paleolithic (“Paleo”) or “Caveman” diet.

What’s a paleo diet?

The idea behind this eating plan is to try to eat like hunter-gatherers who roamed the earth millions of years ago, explains Debra Nessel, a registered dietitian at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. “Early humans ate primarily wild-caught meat, fish, and whatever edible plants they could forage. Their diets didn’t include grains, legumes, dairy, or Dunkin' Donuts.”

So what does that mean today? You’ll eat lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. But you’ll have to cut out foods that became popular when humans started farming about 10,000 years ago. That means no processed or junk foods, added sugars, and salt. But it also means cutting out a lot of healthy foods that can be good fuel for your body, such as:

  • Whole grains, like wheat and barley
  • Beans and legumes
  • Dairy products
  • Potatoes

 

Is going paleo good for you?

“Many people who ‘go Paleo’ feel pretty good,” says Nessel. “The question is whether they could be equally healthy on a less extreme [plan].”

The point of eating is to give your body and brain energy, help you focus, and keep you in a good mood. A paleo diet can make it harder to get all the nutrients your body needs to do that.

For instance, whole grains are great fuel for your body and brain, but off-limits in the paleo diet. And since the plan focuses on meat, you could end up taking in more unhealthy saturated fat than you bargained for. Down the line, that can lead to a bigger chance of health problems.

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