The Paleo Diet: Is the Premise False?

Researchers believe cave men ancestors not only ate carbs, but the starchy vegetables eaten actually helped their brains develop.

The idea of this popular, modern day diet is to eat like cavemen; mostly meat and fish, and a limited list of fruit and vegetables.

Carbs are all but forbidden including starchy vegetables, like potatoes.

But after a new look at historical data researchers believe they have disproven the core belief of the paleo diet.

Those who eat the paleo way believe when cavemen switched to a diet of mostly meat in the Stone Age it increased their brain size.  

However, a recent paper published in the Quarterly Review of Biology  found that cavemen and women also gathered, cooked and ate starchy carbs, found in plants, as part of their diet. 

Based on a range of scientific and archaeological data they propose that while eating meat did help our brains evolve, cooked starchy vegetables were not only necessary but complementary to that brain growth over the past million years.

root vegetables

Several high profile advocates claim eating in a primal way results in weight loss, better sleep, increased energy levels and improved mood.

But Bupa’s National Medical Director and GP Dr Tim Ross says it’s important not to cut out whole food groups like carbs, protein or fat.

“Any diet that says cut out this or that is wrong. It’s not a sensible or rational approach to food,” Dr Ross says.

“You’re looking at a diet that was used by people with a lower IQ than us, they had a more rudimentary form of communication with each other and had a very short lifespan of about 30 years,” he says.

Dr Ross says our brains are programmed back to paleo times to crave things like salt, sugar, and fat to prepare for famine.

“That famine never comes now so that ability to stop eating that extra little treat takes a lot of self control because we’re naturally programmed to horde that stuff.”

The advice from health experts: eat a well balanced diet, avoid processed foods and be mindful of your portion sizes.

As for starchy vegetables, Dr Ross says, “It’s a natural food source... potatoes are great”. 

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