The Paleo Diet

Cave ArtWhen you hear the word caveman, what comes to mind? Did you think healthy eater? If so, you’re not alone. These days, the caveman diet, known as the Paleo (short for Paleolithic) diet, has taken on a whole new meaning for the health conscious. Supporters of the Paleo diet say that going Paleo helps take you back to your “true” roots by eating the same diet our prehistoric ancestors used to eat. You may think that you have nothing to lose by following this diet since it includes only the foods that people were meant to eat, but the truth is, you may actually have plenty to lose; and I’m not talking about your weight.

Since the Paleolithic diet came before farming, it gets rid of grains, dairy, refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour), refined oils and legumes. It does let you have unlimited amounts of meat, root vegetables, fruits, and nuts, though. What makes this fad diet so hard to crack is that it includes some great nutrition messages along with some not so great ones. So what are you going to do if the Paleo diet has you between a rock and a hard place? Read on for my take on Paleo, as I list my top 3 good and not-so-good thoughts about this diet.

The good:

  1. Encourages good-for-you foods: Promotes fruits, vegetables, and heart healthy oils found in nuts, avocadoes, and fish. It also promotes whole foods, which usually leave a lot of nutrition intact when you are ready to eat.
  2. Super substitutions: Refined grains and oils are found in most chips, sodas, and candies, which often lack important nutrients. Choosing good-for-you foods such as fruits, veggies, and nuts is a good tradeoff for convenience or fast foods.
  3. Caring community: When people think about making better choices for themselves, that’s a good thing. Finding someone else who is also trying to eat well and be healthier is even better! Eating healthy can and should include your friends and family. Share your goals, have family meals, and work out together to help yourself feel supported while supporting others.

 The Not-So-Good:

  1. Forget food culture: Food is more than just the sum of its nutrients, flavors, and textures. It’s also about food our parents made for us and the food their parents made before them. Back to basics should not mean forgetting about what traditions our families have, whether it’s arroz con pollo; chicken, beans, and rice; fresh pasta; pho; fried rice; sushi; fresh baked bread; etc.
  2. Goodbye grains and legumes: Whole grains have a bunch of good stuff in them including B vitamins, fiber, and some protein. Legumes are not only inexpensive, but a great way to have fiber and protein. These two foods should be a part of a balanced diet.
  3. Unlimited meat: This recommendation is not only unsustainable to our food system, but may be unhealthy. This recommendation may encourage some people to regularly eat foods such as bacon and steak, which are high in saturated animal fat and could increase a person’s risk for heart disease and cancer. Foods like these should be eaten in moderation.

-Dietitian Bryan