What The Science Says About The Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet is one way to lose weight without counting calories. You simply make sure you don’t eat any carbohydrates, dairy or any other foods which can add up to a pile of guilt and cravings.

For decades, the “Paleo Diet” has been promoted as a simple, easy way to lose weight without having to count calories or track your eating habits. There are lots of people who want to believe it. And there are millions and millions of people who take their own advice about how to lose weight without counting calories, without looking for evidence that weight loss is a matter of diet alone. When it comes down to actually following along with the specific instructions for dieters to lose weight, I’d say the Paleo Diet is the opposite. It is a complete waste of your time, effort and money, and if you do want to lose weight, you’ll find many less expensive ways to do so.

Dietary advice often depends heavily on where you were raised: In the US, your upbringing determines what foods might be considered normal. In Europe, however, some foods are “more normal”.  In other words, what food is more common in one country is assumed to be more healthy.  In the US, a diet based on white bread, processed cheese, white potatoes and chicken breast – all foods considered normal in Europe but not seen as unhealthy or unappealing – would be thought to be low in calories, low in fat, and high in protein.  There are many arguments why this is not true – a lot of other than taste or affordability, like the lack of any healthy alternatives to many popular US foods – but for the purposes of this article, it’s sufficient.

               So what does a European Paleo Diet look like? It’s a diet composed of a mix of Western foods and “traditional” foods – foods which Europeans traditionally hunted and farmed or fished.  The food sources would include wild game (not wild fowl – chickens are usually included)  whole fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and whole grains, and no animal products. Food prices may be higher, though, according to my research.  I also know that, according to some Paleo advocates, the typical person could be cutting out about 10% of their diet just because of this.  Of course, even if this is true, people tend to eat many more Western “conveniences” than a full-on European Paleo diet.

I suspect people would include many of the following foods in their Paleo diets, which are thought healthy for you, but in Europe they might be considered unhealthy: Butter, Cheese, Fatty Fish, Fatty Fats, Grains, Milk, Nuts and Seeds, Red Meat, Salt Pork, Sausage, Spices and Sauces, Yogurt and Dairy Products. I do wonder if those who claim to be “paleo” would include many of these items, as well.  I’m going to let you decide, and to explain why I think some might be included, I’ll provide a table of foods, according to how common they are in Europeans.  (Note that some “fatty foods” on this list have more than 2% of fat, so they are categorized as “partially saturated fat” rather than saturated.)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Paleo person give instructions on avoiding some foods, but I do wonder what would be on that list.  Most Europeans eat many more different kinds of meat and fish than Americans.  If they were all Paleo, I imagine they’d probably include all of the foods on that table too, just as they are all listed as part of the Paleo Diet in America.  One other question is the question of why, if certain food items are included in a “Paleo Diet”, are some food items excluded from the American diet, or “Paleoified.”