28 November 2017Paleo Diet

What is the diet?

The Paleo Diet recommends eating and drinking as ancient pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers once did. This translates to a diet made up of whole and unprocessed foods. It is high in protein and relatively high in dietary fiber. The diet has been around since the 1990's and was founded by Loren Cordain, PhD. The modern American diet is saturated with processed foods, added sugars and low in dietary fiber. Cordain states the Paleo Diet will help to optimize health, assist with weight loss and decrease risk of chronic disease. You can learn more at The Paleo Diet.

Foods to eat on the diet:

Grass-fed meats, wild game, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, non-starchy vegetables, specific plant based fats and some fruits.

Foods to avoid on the diet:

Dairy products, cereals, grains (think pasta, bread, rice, crackers), corn, soy, legumes (think beans, lentils, peanuts), processed sugars (think pastries, cookies, cakes, brownies, candy, soda), potatoes, certain oils that are refined such as canola oil and soybean oil, most types of alcohol and excessive salt.

Acceptable fats:

Flaxseed
Extra virgin olive oil
Walnut oil
Avocado oil
Coconut oil
Macadamia nut oil

Pros

  • You will likely eat more whole foods, in particular, more vegetables and fruits.
  • You will eat less salt.
  • You are likely to experience weight loss.
  • You are likely to experience improvement in glucose metabolism (important for prediabetes and diabetes).
  • You are likely to experience improved health of your microbiome as a result of eating more dietary fiber.

Cons

  • The diet can be expensive, especially if you are purchasing grass-fed meats and wild game.
  • Very active individuals may find the diet does not provide enough carbohydrate to fuel their workouts or aid in recovery.
  • Dietary choices might restrict the ease and options available when eating out with friends.
  • Might involve more cooking than you are used to doing.
  • Intake of vitamin D, calcium, and folate could be too low.
  • Cost

    The diet could be too expensive for folks on a tight budget, especially if they are trying to feed a family Paleo-style. Foods such as grass-fed meats, wild game, nuts and certain vegetables are generally more expensive than complex carbohydrates such as beans, rice and oats.

    Social Support

    In-person support: try www.meetup.com to locate and meet others who are following this eating plan. Online support at www.thepaleodiet.com. Also, MyNetDiary has a Community Forum that helps people connect with each other.

    Summary

    The paleo diet consists of many healthy components such as lean meats, high amounts of veggies, fruits and nuts. It is an improvement over the typical American diet consisting of fast food, high amounts of simple carbohydrates, added sugars and unhealthy fats. However the Paleo Diet omits 2 important food groups: whole grains and legumes. From a nutritional standpoint, whole grains and legumes provide dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals and they are convenient and affordable. For certain populations such as young, active individuals the Paleo Diet may not provide enough complex carbohydrates to fuel activity and recovery. Finally, the diet may be quite restrictive for some individuals which can mean added stress when planning, preparing meals and eating out.

    Who would benefit from this diet?

  • Individuals who desire a whole food approach to eating
  • Those interested in weight loss and blood sugar control
  • Those who don't mind prepping and cooking meals
  • Is it viable long term?

    This is a very individualized question. Each person must commit to the diet for some time and then decide for themselves if it is viable for the long haul. Some people in the paleo community have found a way to promote long term viability by creating the 85:15 rule. Essentially, this allows for 3 non-paleo meals a week.

    Do I like this diet?

    There will never be one diet that meets the macronutrient, micronutrient needs and health goals of every individual. Nutrition is highly individualized. And yet the Paleo Diet contains many components of a nutritious diet such as lean meats, high amounts of vegetables, nuts and fruits while at the same time, avoiding processed foods with added sugars. If you are an omnivore looking for a new eating plan to explore, it is worth a try!

    More resources

    For basic information about other diets, I recommend WebMD's Weight Loss & Diet Plans A - Z and U.S. News & World Report's Best Weight Loss Diets.

    Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDE

    Joanna Kriehn is a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator. She is passionate about supporting healthy lifestyles. You can learn more about Joanna by visiting her LinkedIn page.

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    Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.

    Tags:

    Weight Loss/Diets

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