How Effective Is the Paleo Diet as You Get Older?
The Paleo diet is also called the Caveman diet because it pays tribute to those people who lived before chemicals and toxins became a way of life. They ate what they could hunt and gather instead of going to the grocery store to get the latest in processed foods.
In theory, this approach sounds good until you consider that the average caveman died at a young age by today’s standards. How much of that had to do with nutrition, though? For that matter, how much does advanced medical research, like knowing what vitamins to take for a healthy heart, factor into the equation? The more we learn about lifestyle choices and aging, the more we understand how much diet does matter. Consider whether the Paleo diet is a good choice for you as you get older.
What Is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet is the brainchild of Loren Cordain, PhD, who quite literally wrote the book on the subject. His theory is that eating like our prehistoric ancestors will offer a more natural approach to strategic diet planning. If society just followed the example of their ancestors, the world would see less diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The Paleo diet is a high-protein, high-fiber plan that lowers your intake of carbohydrates, refined sugar, and salt. When you go Paleo, you focus on fresh, lean meat and fish with lots of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. The goal is to lose weight without necessarily cutting calories. With the Paleo diet, you avoid dairy products, processed sugar, salt, and starchy vegetables like potatoes and beans.
Does the Paleo Diet Work?
If you are a meat eater, the Paleo diet might make sense. There are many positives to this plan, such as the consumption of high-fiber and less processed food. A diet rich in lean meat and vegetables is a natural way to feel full and control your blood sugar levels as well.
The Paleo diet also cuts out whole grains, which can be viewed a less positive aspect of the program. Vegetarians would find this diet very difficult to manage because most forms of plant protein, like legumes and beans, are on the “do not eat” list.
The short answer is that the diet is likely to help you lose weight because it cuts carbs and refined sugar. A reduction in salt and unhealthy fats is always a plus too. However, there are currently no studies that prove the Paleo diet is healthy. Conversely, there are no studies that prove it is unhealthy, either. One important thing to note about the diet is that it will probably be more expensive than what you may be used purchasing at the grocery store – lean meat and fresh produce cost more money than items like pasta and potatoes.
The Paleo Diet and Aging
The Paleo diet promotes lean meat, which is a good source of protein. Protein is necessary for the body to build lean muscle, which is a critical marker for healthy aging, especially in men, according to a 2015 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Many of the staple foods in the Paleo diet encourage the type of muscle building associated with a healthy lifestyle.
The diet also helps you maintain a healthy blood sugar level. This is important because there is a correlation between high blood sugar and cognitive decline, such as memory loss and dementia.
Diminishing cardiac capacity and loss of muscle are a normal part of the aging process. The Paleo diet isn’t enough on its own to keep your heart healthy and your bones strong, but in combination with other healthy lifestyle choices like getting plenty of exercise, it might help.
So, is the Paleo diet effective as you get older? This diet offers a lot of positive food choices that may help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. The problem is that you are also eliminating some food groups that promote healthy eating, like whole grains and low-fat dairy. A better option might be to cut unhealthy fats and processed foods out of your diet completely and focus more on fruit and vegetables.
- Darla Ferrara