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Whole Grain vs. Paleo Diet

By Lindsay Boyers ; Updated July 18, 2017

The Paleo diet is modeled after the eating habits of the hunter-gatherers who lived and thrived during the Paleolithic era. During this time, there was no agriculture, so people had to survive on what they could hunt and what plants they could collect. The theory behind the Paleo diet is that the natural eating habits of your early ancestors were responsible for healthier bodies and fewer chronic diseases than are seen today.

The Basics

The foods that were available to your Paleolithic ancestors include game meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, nuts, fruits, vegetables and eggs -- the only foods allowed on the Paleo diet. Grains, whether refined or whole, are excluded from the diet. Dairy foods, legumes, processed foods and oils are also excluded from the diet because your ancestors did not have access to them.

Whole Grains

Even though whole grains provide health benefits, creating them involves an industrial process called milling, during which the grain is placed into a machine and ground until it reaches the desired consistency. Whole grains are excluded from the Paleo diet because industrial processes like milling were not available to your ancestors. Grain in its natural form is not edible.

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Benefits of Whole Grain

Unlike refined grains, which contain only a specific portion of the grain, whole grains contain the entire grain kernel – the bran, germ and endosperm. Because of this, whole grains offer more health benefits than refined grains. Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other important nutrients, including selenium, potassium and magnesium. Whole grains also contain phytochemicals, which may help reduce your risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers, according to a 2010 article published in "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition."

Those who oppose the Paleo diet argue that removing whole grains from the diet denies you the various health benefits of whole grains.

Happy Medium

To reach a happy nutritional medium, you may want to consider adding whole grains into a Paleo-like diet. Keep the basis of the diet the same by focusing on lean meat, fish, nuts, eggs, fruits and vegetables, but add whole grains to one or two meals per day. Examples of whole grains include barley, brown rice, millet, oatmeal, popcorn, whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta and wild rice.

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