By

Jennifer Low is a Registered Dietitian, with an MSc in Nutrition and a degree in Psychology. Clinically she specialises in disordered eating, bariatric surgery and IBS.

It worked for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, but does this diet’s reliance on meat suit our health, and weight-loss, needs today?

What is the Paleo diet?

The Paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, embraces the idea that we should eat like our hunter-gatherer ancestors because that’s what we were designed to do. It is marketed as a way to improve health and cure diseases including cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.

How does it work?

The paleo diet excludes all grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt and refined vegetable oils, since these hadn’t yet been developed. Instead, it recommends lean meat and poultry, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. It is low in carbohydrates and will cause weight loss due to the reduction in calorie intake.

Image of fresh fish
Based on our hunter-gatheror ancestors, the paleo diet favours fresh fish and meat

The pros

– Weight loss is likely due to calorie restriction.
– Small studies show positive health improvements, ranging from better blood glucose control and a reduction in the risk factors for heart disease.

The cons

– Low intakes of dairy could leave you with a calcium deficiency, while avoiding whole grains will make it difficult for you to get enough fibre.
– This diet is not for the eco-conscious: meat consumption has a greater impact on the environment than plant-based diets. Plus, eating more meat can be expensive.
– Most versions of the diet tend to recommend large amounts of red meat, which goes against health guidelines that say we should limit our intake to just 500g cooked red meat a week to protect against cancer.
– It is a very good marketing machine. We all know our ancestors didn’t eat expensive paleo chocolate chip cookies!

HFG verdict 

While you will lose weight on this diet, as you would on any other, it’s highly restrictive. It cuts out whole food groups, so it’s likely to be worse for your health. If you want to follow a low-carb diet, then do try this, but make sure that you are reaching 30g of fibre a day and eating less red and more white meat. Or, have a look at our healthy diet planner to lose weight and keep it off.