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Posted on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:27 a.m.

Cavemen: Did they have it right when it comes to eating?

By Melissa Gerharter MS, RD

The Paleo diet has been of interest to my athletes lately. The general idea of the Paleo diet is eating what the first humans ate: Wild plants and animals. The Paleo diet is like stepping back in time before processed foods and the cultivation of vegetables high in starch. The diet consists of fish, meat, eggs, nuts, fruit and vegetables and eliminates dairy, grains, legumes, vegetable oils and excess sugar.

Paleo supporters claim that it can help decrease cardiovascular disease, help reverse Type 2 diabetes and decrease autoimmunity. It can also help decrease body fat, which may aid athletes in their sport. This diet also helps regulate the body’s insulin response to carbohydrates alleviating the body from having "sugar crashes."

As a dietitian, I like the idea of lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and eliminating processed foods. I am a bit skeptical on the elimination of complex carbohydrates such as beans, barley and oats. I think these foods have a place in a healthy diet. I also think dairy has a place in a healthy diet. I especially think these foods have a place in the athlete's diet.

Any diet, in my opinion, that is too restrictive may cause physical or psychological issues. Also, what works for one person may not be right the next person. Nutrition is personal, based on health, activities, goals and other factors. The best diet is one that is recommended especially for you by a nutrition professional.

Melissa Gerharter MS, RD, CSSD is co-owner of Joust Strength and Fitness of Ann Arbor. She is also a part time lecturer at Eastern Michigan University and can be reached at



Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

I agree completely that nutrion is personal and what works for one may not work for another, but would quibble a bit about the definition of the best diet. I think the best diet is the one that leaves one feeling strong, energetic, and well fed. A nutrition professional may (or may not) have any idea what diet that is, but the eater does. For me and my family, that's "primal" -- very similar to paleo, but with a little more flexibility and a lot more fat.