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As the fascination with a low-fat diet fades into history, along with VHS tapes and New Kids on the Block, three diets are getting more attention – the Mediterranean diet, Low-Carb and Paleo. Of the three styles of eating, the Mediterranean diet has received the most research attention. With the Mediterranean diet, a large part of the problem lies in the fact that there is no clear definition of what makes up the diet. Part of the popularity comes from the health and longevity of people living near the Mediterranean.
Often overlooked is the fact that in some areas of the Mediterranean, foods are cooked in lard, butter and sheep’s tail fat. To further complicate things, the entire lifestyle of those in the Mediterranean is significantly different than those living in modern day America. Research on a more standardized Mediterranean diet has shown that it lowers body weight and improves lipid and glucose levels compared to the Standard American Diet (SAD). For the average person, the food choices in a Low-Carb diet seem more obvious than in a Mediterranean diet.
Since starch is significantly limited, gluten-containing grains are significantly reduced or even eliminated from the diet. Although the Paleo diet is based on eating the way humans did tens to hundreds of thousands of years ago, it’s just recently become popular.
Root-based starches are pretty filling, so even those who follow a Paleo diet without counting carbs will probably eat a lot less carbohydrates than the SAD diet and perhaps even the Mediterranean diet. The bulk of the Paleo diet is made up of non-starchy vegetables, animal proteins, nuts, seeds and animal fats. Based on the hundreds of research articles and books I’ve read, I personally lean toward a combination of Low-Carb and Paleo.
The Paleo diet helps to clearly eliminate problematic foods such as grains, vegetable oils, sugar and most, if not all dairy.
I’ve been on a low-carb diet for over a year now, mostly to eliminate hypoglycemia (which it did), and for the first 6 months, would have swore it was the only way to go.
Many people believe that the change from a hunting and gathering diet (rich in wild fruits and vegetables) to an agricultural diet (rich in cereal grains) gave rise to our modern chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
This is a fundamental tenet of the Paleo Diet, and a big reason why proponents say we should return to the meat and produce-based diet of our past.
However varied their diets across the globe, most Paleolithic humans likely consumed about three times more produce than the typical American. And when compared to the average American today, Paleolithic humans ate more fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, unsaturated fat, vitamins and minerals, and much less saturated fat and sodium. Modern hunter-gatherers are healthy, and their health declines when they switch to a modern diet. Our ancestors lived pretty much all over the world, in incredibly diverse environments, eating incredibly diverse diets. So the claim that we should eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and meats because we are evolved to eat precisely those foods is a little bit suspect.
Proponents of the Paleo diet argue that our ancestors’ diets could not have included a lot of grains, legumes, or dairy foods.
Meanwhile, grain granules on grinding tools from all over the world suggest that Paleolithic humans made a widespread practice of turning grains into flour as long as 30,000 years ago.
In fact, a 2009 review revealed that not only did our Paleolithic ancestors eat legumes, these were actually an important part of their diet!


Legumes have been found at Paleolithic sites all over the world, and in some cases were determined to be the dominant type of plant food available. But Paleo proponents also offer another reason to avoid these foods: Their high concentration of anti-nutrients, which supposedly reduces their nutritional value to zilch. And, in a mixed diet composed of other nutrient-dense whole foods, phytic acid is unlikely to cause problems.
Another argument for a Paleo diet is that eating grains can lead to inflammation and related health problems. Our digestive systems have adapted over millennia to process a low-energy, nutrient-poor, and presumably high-fiber diet. This vast genetic diversity ensures that our GI tracts can adapt rapidly to changes in diet and lifestyle.
Which, as we know, are two of the main reasons people recommend starting Paleo diets in the first place. To find out if that is so, a number of researchers have been putting Paleo diets to the test with controlled clinical trials. They lost 70 percent more body fat than the Mediterranean group and also normalized their blood sugars.
The Paleo diet may indeed be the best plan, but it’s hard to know for sure without direct comparisons that match macronutrients and calories. Many Paleo advocates have recently come to appreciate and encourage the addition of moderate amounts of starch (albeit a more limited variety of options than I would prefer), as well as some dark chocolate, red wine and non-grain spirits (such as tequila), and grass-fed dairy. We are anticipating lots of questions about what the Mediterranean diet entails and how it differs from some of our other popular plans.
Everything that is Paleo is also gluten-free, but not everything that is gluten-free is Paleo.
Personally, Vanessa and I lean toward Low-Carb and Paleo over the Mediterranean Diet for reasons I’ll explain below. Their diet is often characterized as consisting of more olive oil, legumes, vegetables, fruit, unrefined grains and fish. As such, it wipes out a common allergen often found in the diet of those following a Mediterranean diet. In those studies, participants lost more weight on the Low-Carb diet than on the Mediterranean diet. Within the Paleo diet culture, there is a range of opinions about the amount of carbohydrates people should consume. Any of the three are better than eating the Standard American Diet, so if someone is more likely to follow one way of eating over the others, that’s the one I’d recommend. In doing so, many of the foods that cause digestive problems and inflammation, which is at the core of virtually every disease process, are wiped out of the diet. In fact, the evidence for wild legume consumption by Paleolithic humans is as strong as it is for any plant food.
And further, that we really only thrive in a world with similar conditions to the Paleolithic era.
And as little as several days on a new diet can lead to dramatic changes in the bacterial populations in your GI tract. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-reponse meta-analysis of prospective studies.
Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a Paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet.


Impacts of Plant-Based Foods in Ancestral Hominin Diets on the Metabolism and Function of Gut Microbiota In Vitro. Moving North: Archaeobotanical Evidence for Plant Diet in Middle and Upper Paleolithic Europe.
Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. A Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease. A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Modern Human Physiology with Respect to Evolutionary Adaptations That Relate to Diet in the Past. See this diagram to get a little more insight into the difference between Clean Eating, Paleo, and Mediterranean. Researchers look at groups of people or populations who are identified as mainly eating a certain way, look at their health outcomes and compare them to other groups. It’s possible their health could be maintained by eating a diet of only meat, lard and wine while living the same lifestyle. If I had to choose between the SAD and the Mediterranean Diet, I’d recommend the latter without hesitation. As for the Mediterranean diet, it’s better than a low-fat diet or a SAD, but its lower emphasis on increased protein, and its inclusion of grains and higher-carb foods make it less appealing than the other two styles of eating. However, I need to gain weight and am finding it hard to do on a low carb, grain free diet.
No diet is perfect and I recommend a high-quality full spectrum multi-vitamin along with fish oil, a probiotic and magnesium. He and his colleagues have conducted two clinical trials testing the efficacy of the Paleo diet.
Paleolithic Nutrition Revisited: a Twelve-year Retrospective on Its Nature and Implications. Microfossils in Calculus Demonstrate Consumption of Plants and Cooked Foods in Neanderthal Diets (Shanidar III, Iraq; Spy I and II, Belgium). Cardiovascular Disease Resulting From a Diet and Lifestyle at Odds With Our Paleolithic Genome: How to Become a 21st-Century Hunter-Gatherer. To see an example of a Mediterranean meal, check out this delicious Creamy Fettuccine with Broiled Tomatoes! However, since HDL and LDL cholesterol levels both tend to rise on a Low-Carb diet and drop on the Mediterranean diet, researchers claim the Mediterranean diet lowers heart disease risk more. Most carbohydrates in the Paleo diet come from root vegetables such as potatoes, yams and squash, or from fruit.
Most people I know aren’t that active, which is why I lean toward a lower-carb, higher-protein Paleo plan. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list, check out this post from Diane Sanfilippo author of the best-selling book Practical Paleo.



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