What is the Paleo Diet?
Many diet gurus, workout fiends, and nutrition specialists have been touting the benefits of the Paleo diet. A Paleo diet is named appropriately because it focuses on eating foods available only in the Paleolithic Age, when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. This eliminates ALL processed foods, refined grains, cereals, and milk. Only fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and seeds are allowed. The diet makes sense because evidence has shown that processed foods and sugars are responsible for many health issues. It increases the consumption of meats, fruits, and vegetables, which add nutrients and antioxidants to the diet.
Some of the health benefits of the Paleo diet include weight loss, reduced inflammation, increased satiety, regulated blood sugar levels, and corrected nutrient deficiencies. The diet is high in protein and fat, and since it’s all-natural, it is filled with nutrient rich foods.
Foods that should be avoided on the Paleo diet are refined sugars, refined oils, dairy, legumes (including peanuts, beans, and tofu), salt, potatoes, cereal grains, starches, and alcohol. Many Paleo experts allow grass-fed butter since it is more a fat than a dairy product, but that is a little controversial. Other controversial foods are pseudo-grains, such as quinoa. Quinoa is not strictly Paleo, but some people on Paleo diets eat it from time to time. It should be avoided if weight loss is the goal or if there are gut issues.
If your goal is weight loss, certain foods that are considered Paleo should be consumed in moderation. For example, butternut squash, acorn squash, yams, sweet potatoes, and beets are starchy vegetables. While technically allowed, their high starch content increases blood sugar levels and may promote weight gain, so they should be consumed in moderation. Additionally, processed meats and meat high in fat should be avoided since they provide more calories and fat. While fruits are Paleo-approved, they are also high in natural sugars, so consumption should be limited to once a day, with the focus on low glycemic fruits, such as berries and apples.
Some critics of the Paleo diet state that the diet may be too high in protein and difficult for many people to follow. Additionally, the diet is high in seafood. Many types of fish and shellfish are very high in toxins. However, in general, I believe the benefits of the diet far outweigh the negatives. In fact, if your goal is to lose weight in 2018, a version of the Paleo diet is a great way to start off the New Year!
By Denise Groothuis MS RD