Does the trendy Paleo diet have it all wrong?
The popular Paleo, or “caveman,” diet encourages eating only foods consumed during the Paleolithic era such as meat, fish, nuts and certain fruits and vegetables. The diet prohibits most carbohydrates, including cereals, grains and legumes, as well as dairy, refined sugar and processed foods.
Researchers at the University of Florence have discovered oat residue on a 32,000-year-old Paleolithic grinding tool found in southern Italy. Extensive studies of the tool indicate that early humans collected and processed a variety of plants, including oats, to produce flour. The tool owners also appear to have applied heat to the grains to dry them out and make grinding easier, according to the study.
The study clearly indicates that the exploitation of plant resources was very important for hunter–gatherer populations, researchers said. Some modern dietitians applaud the new finding.
“Grains are especially important in our diets as they provide essential nutrients like complex carbohydrates, along with vitamins and minerals,” says Lexi Weber, registered dietitian and manager of hospitality services at Advocate Eureka Hospital in Eureka, Ill. “They’ve been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and other health problems, including high blood pressure, stroke and obesity.”
Weber stresses that it’s important to look for whole grains high in fiber and other beneficial minerals.
“Food labeling can be tricky, and the front of boxes are sometimes misleading,” she says. “The first word should be ‘whole’ or ‘100 percent’ when looking at ingredient lists. If the first word is ‘enriched’ or ‘unbleached flour,’ it is not considered whole grain.”
In addition to oatmeal, Weber also recommends quinoa, barley, wheat, wild or brown rice, popcorn, bulgur, corn or rye.
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