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Paleo Diet Explained!

This diet was inspired from the belief that we would benefit from eating like our ancestor from the Paleolithic era, that is, spontaneously, according to needs determined by our genes. In addition, hypotheses are stating that these generations were in excellent physical shape, and suffered less from chronic diseases than we do today. Since very few foods were cooked in the Paleolithic era, this diet is essentially raw.

So what does this diet consist of exactly, which is said to help lose weight, energize, as well as prevent and cure diseases? The general guidelines are to eat according to your hunger, and take care to avoid certain types of foods, including dairy products from animal sources, cereal products, as well as legumes and starchy foods (such as potatoes, for example). This means this diet provides only 22 to 44 % of the calories as carbohydrates (vs. our needs which vary from 45 to 65 %), 19 to 35 % as proteins (vs. our needs which vary from 10 to 35 %), and 28 to 47 % as fats (vs. the 20 to 35 % we need).

People can become motivated to try this diet for different reasons, but weight loss and the energizing feeling seem to be the most significant features. But do they know that these very-low carbohydrate diets, even though they trigger a quick weight loss, are also linked to a bigger weight regain after about 6 months? Indeed, carbohydrates are essential for the organism to recover properly after a physical activity, because they replenish glycogen reserves (which are used as fuel by the organism during effort) in the muscles and liver. To learn more about carbohydrates, I invite you to read the article Les glucides pour vous donner de l’énergie, published on April 24 2012 (French version only). Also, a nutrition high in fat is associated to a greater amount of energy used for digestion, which means decreased vitality, as well as higher risks of seeing levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) increase. In our modern societies, we do not need that much fat, because we are more sedentary, with a roof over our heads, heating, warm clothing, in addition to easy access to food (one of the major roles of fat is to act as a thermal insulator in addition to being an energy reserve).

It is necessary to know that the more a diet is rich in a variety of foods, the more we get to eat all the nutrients our organism requires. By the way, archaeologists have successfully demonstrated from isotopes that the populations of Neandertals who ate a wider variety of foods lived longer than other populations.

Would it be right to think that men from the Paleolithic era were really healthier than we are? Did researchers also consider the fact that most of the chronic diseases of our era appear at an age exceeding the longevity of prehistoric men?

And you, what do you think?

by Marilyne Petitclerc and Audrey-Ann Lemay, nutrition intern


HOCKETT, B. et HAWS, J. (2003). Nutritional Ecology and Diachronic Trends in Paleolithic Diet and Health. Evolutionary Anthropology, vol. 12. (p.211-216).

BARIBEAU, H. (2005). Régime paléolithique. Site de Passeport Santé. [En ligne]. http://www.passeportsante.net/fr/Nutrition/Regimes/Fiche.aspx?doc=paleolithique_regime (page consultée le 15 oct 2012).

CORDAIN, L. et autres. (2002). The paradoxical nature of hunter-gatherer diet : meat based, yet non-atherogenic. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (p.42-52).

Marilyne Petitclerc

Holder of a degree in nutrition from Université Laval, Marilyne has worked as a nutritionist for Nautilus Plus since 2010. Passionate about healthy eating and sports nutrition, she also gives lectures and hosts cooking workshops. With her clients, Marilyne makes extensive use of the instinct diet approach and the Mediterranean diet model. Furthermore, she has attended classes on live nutrition at the Hippocrates Health Institute. Maryline ran the Quebec City Marathon des Deux Rives - Half Marathon in 2010 and 2012. She also took part in the Staircase Challenge, another event held in Quebec City in June 2012. Marilyne also plays in an Ultimate Frisbee league and trains regularly at the Nautilus Plus branch where she is employed.

Paleo Diet Explained! is a post from I'm taking charge. I'm taking charge is a blog that aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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