What is the Paleo (or caveman) diet?

Dr. Kellyann Petrucci, MS, ND
Naturopathic Medicine
The Paleo (or caveman) diet is based on foods that our hunter/gatherer ancestors ate: lean meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and seeds. Watch naturopathic and nutrition expert Kellyann Petrucci, ND, explain the Paleo diet concept.
Nell Stephenson
Nutrition & Dietetics

The Paleo diet is very simple to follow; it includes fresh produce, lean meats and healthy fats and excludes grains, legumes, dairy and refined sugars. In this video, nutritional coach Nell Stephenson describes the Paleo diet and it's benefits.

There is a diet called the Paleo Diet which is also known as the Caveman Diet. Not surprisingly, it instructs you to look to our ancestors in the Stone Age and identify what they ate. Plants and meat were the primary focus of the diet back then, but remember that meats were lean. That means that foods like grains, dairy foods and legumes are not hugely emphasized in this program. But meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruits and berries are included in the modern version of the Stone Age diet. You won’t find potatoes or processed oils either, but you can have water, coconut water and green tea.

If you have a serious sweet tooth, you are allowed to include some raw honey and coconut palm sugar in limited amounts. There are some versions of this diet which dictate fasting days, eating substantial amounts of raw foods or eliminating tomatoes and other “nightshade vegetables.”
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

South Beach and other Atkins derivatives make the diet more palatable by allowing more fruits and vegetables. The newest alterna-Atkins is the popular paleo diet, which postulates that since the human genome appeared in its current form during the Paleolithic Period, about 2.6 million to 10,000 years ago, we are genetically designed to eat what was available then.

The paleo diet focuses on lean meats and fish, fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables. It eliminates dairy, grains and legumes because they didn’t appear on our menus until about 12,000 years ago. According to some clinical trials, the diet has indeed been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and inflammation as well as reduce acne, improve athletic performance and help with weight loss.

Many nutritionists, however, are concerned about eliminating whole grains and dairy products. A wealth of research shows that both can help decrease the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. What’s more, it’s worth remembering that cavemen tended to be much shorter than modern people and often died in their 40s, in part because they weren’t eating a diet that left them with much ability to fight off infection (or saber-toothed tigers).

Picture of salmon

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.