The pros and cons of “going Paleo”

Man chasing modern steakPros:

1. You will significantly reduce your intake of many less healthy processed food.
2. You will start eating more vegetables.
3. You will significantly reduce your intake of sugary processed foods.
4. You’ll significantly reduce your alcohol intake.
5. If you’re dedicated and happy to forgo many of the wonderful foods the modern world has made possible, you can achieve healthy eating and weight control.

Cons:

1. It’s almost impossible to follow a true Paleo diet. Hunter gatherer’s ate only wild game, not domesticated beef, lamb or chicken. Modern vegetables are very different to how they were 1000s of years ago and nuts didn’t come ready to eat in packets.
2. You need to be ultra organised to prepare all your own food from scratch. Most healthy convenient snacks are out.
3. You need to really know what you are doing to ensure you get enough calcium from non-dairy sources.
4. If you have a history of yoyo dieting or disordered eating, going Paleo has the potential to make matters worse. I have seen this occur with a number of my clients.
5. It can be confusing as there are many different versions. One of my clients said she could eat sweet potato and 70% dark chocolate (not sure this was around 1000s years ago), while another said absolutely no carbs or sugar.

But perhaps the biggest reason against Paleo?

7 billion people cannot follow a Paleo diet, it is simply NOT environmentally sustainable. Agriculture and the reliance on grains such as rice, corn, wheat is what has allowed so many people to live on this planet. Some may argue we have too many people, but does this stop them having their own children? And we can’t change the fact we already have 7 billion people. 

So think about it. How would the many millions in China and India survive without rice as their staple? How would the many millions in Africa and South America survive without corn as a staple?

While a Paleo diet may be a healthier way of eating for some people, it is not healthy for our planet. However we choose to eat, we need to consider whether or not it is ethical and whether or not it is environmentally sustainable.

A final important point to make is that while eating Paleo may have a number of pros and works well for some people, it is very possible to do all these things in the context of your “normal” diet (a dietitian can show you how).

Nearly all diets advocate less processed food (especially sugary foods), more vegetables and less alcohol. Therefore, given it’s impossible to eat as hunter gatherers did, is the Paleo diet just another fad diet rebranded?

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