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A Caveman Diet To Keep Your Heart Healthy

Paleo Diets, like those of our Caveman Ancestors, are the new diet to keep your heart healthy according to recent research. Dietitian Juliette Kellow BSc RD investigates how a Paleolithic Diet could help you.

Eat Like a Cave Man for a Healthy Heart

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

New research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition has revealed that eating a diet like our Stone Age ancestors could actually help to keep our heart healthy and improve control of our blood sugar levels.

Scientists from the University of California studied nine adults and looked at the effect eating a diet consisting of just lean meat, fruit, veg and nuts had on their health. Cereals, dairy products and pulses were not allowed during this time.

After just 10 days the researchers found that eating a Paleo Diet reduced blood pressure, improved blood sugar control through increasing sensitivity to insulin and reduced blood levels of total cholesterol, LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides (another type of blood fat that’s linked to heart health). The research suggests that eating this type of caveman-style diet could be effective at helping to slash the risk of disease of the heart and Type 2 Diabetes, keeping the heart healthy.

WLR says . . .

This isn’t the first time research has looked at the impact a Paleolithic Diet may have on health. A few years ago, Swedish scientists found that this type of diet lowered blood pressure, reduced levels of a blood-clotting agent and resulted in a 5lb weight loss in just three weeks.

Recent publications, such as the Back to Basics Diet by David Hack, have used this sort of research to add weight to their theories.

The Caveman Diet, referred to as the Paleo or Paleolithic Diet, requires eating like our stoneage ancestors and following a low-carb, high protein diet – think Atkins, but with more fruit and veg and fewer high-fat foods. Effectively, this type of diet bans bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereals, dairy products, alcohol, sugar and processed foods – all foods that weren’t available during the Stone Age.

Eating like this is certainly a good way to ditch the junk. The Caveman Diet bans booze, high-fat, calorific processed foods and refined carbs. It also encourages us to eat more good-quality protein such as lean meat, chicken and fish, which helps to keep us fuller for longer. Meanwhile, eating more fruit, veg and nuts is a good way to boost fibre to help fill us up and increase our intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

However, there is one main concern with a diet like the Paleo Diet. Because dairy products are eliminated, intakes of bone-building calcium are likely to be low. This means it’s important to eat plenty of other calcium-rich foods like fish with edible bones such as sardines and mackerel, green leafy veg, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and oranges.

Follow a Paleo Diet for a Healthy Heart?

A Paleolithic Diet is certainly an interesting idea but most people find it difficult to follow a diet like this in the long term, mainly because it restricts so many foods. It’s likely that a drop in blood pressure is due to a reduction in salt as no processed food is eaten and an increase in potassium is thanks to more fruit and veg in the diet.

A decrease in cholesterol is almost certainly the result of a lower fat and higher fibre intake. And any weight loss will be the result of a significant drop in calories. Indeed, the Swedish study revealed that when participants swapped to a Stone Age way of eating their intakes of calories, fat, saturates and salt were significantly reduced.

The findings of the current study can’t be considered to be significant as only nine adults were included in the research and the diet was only followed for 10 days. Nevertheless, if you’re struggling to lose weight or have reached a weight loss plateau, it might be worth giving it a go for a week or two to get things moving in the right direction.

In the long term though, rather than copying the eating habits of our ancestors, you’d be better off following in their footsteps and leading a more active lifestyle that includes walking, running and swimming!

Examples of Caveman Diet Meals

Breakfasts (200 calories)

  • 1 small banana sliced and topped with 8 chopped almonds and 1tsp honey.
  • 2 poached eggs with 1 grilled tomato and poached mushrooms.
  • 1 kiwi, 1 small banana, 1 orange and a handful of blueberries.

Lunches (350 calories)

  • 1 bowl of homemade tomato soup. Plus 1 small banana, 1 nectarine, a bowl of raspberries and a 25g packet of mixed nuts and dried fruit.
  • Tuna nicoise salad made from 1 hard-boiled egg, 1 can tuna in water, mixed salad leaves, 1 tomato, 10 olives and green beans, drizzled with 2tsp olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Chicken Waldorf salad made from 1 grilled skinless chicken breast, 1 apple, 1tbsp raisins, 4 walnut halves and iceberg lettuce.

Dinners (450 calories)

  • Turkey stir fry made from 125g skinless turkey 1tsp sunflower oil, stir-fry vegetables, 20 cashew nuts and a dash of reduced-salt soya sauce. Plus 1 apple.
  • 1 grilled or griddled small lean sirloin steak served with grilled mushrooms, 2 grilled tomatoes, ½ small onion fried in 1tsp oil, salad and fat-free dressing. Plus 1 orange and a bowl of raspberries.
  • 3 lean slices roast pork with steamed broccoli, carrots roasted in 1tsp olive oil and asparagus. Plus fruit salad made from 1 apple, 1 pear, a handful of grapes and 1 kiwi.

Snacks (100 calories each)

  • 1 bowl of strawberries and 1 small banana.
  • 4 walnut halves.
  • Bowl of fresh vegetable soup

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Useful Links

http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v63/n8/abs/ejcn20094a.html

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