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Food Trends: Eating Like a Caveman? (The Paleo Diet)


Everywhere you turn, people are talking Paleo! Here at Kindred Nutrition, Paleo is the eating plan clients ask about most.

What is Paleo?

Websites, magazines, even entire books are devoted to Paleo. The diet is especially popular among people advocating the Crossfit exercise plan. But what, exactly, is Paleo? Well, descriptions vary depending on who you ask. But most advocates generally define the Paleo diet as those foods eaten by our hunter-gatherer (Paleolithic) ancestors. This translates to lots of animal protein and lots of plants (veggies and fruits). The rationale for the Paleo diet, loosely explained, is that we should eat those foods humans evolved eating, as opposed to the grain-heavy, processed diet of more modern times. The argument seems logical enough, and lots of fresh produce is a no-brainer, right? Let’s take a closer look.

Paleo Basics
To “eat Paleo,” avoid all processed foods and sugar, and limit (but do not eliminate) carbohydrates. Specifically, avoid grains (wheat, corn, etc.) and focus on animal protein, non-starchy vegetables, and fruits. Paleo advocates often differ on whether any starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc.) are appropriate. Some Paleo eaters embrace beans and lentils, while others do not. 

A Paleo diet is likely to be full of fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, and low on the Glycemic Index. It’s entirely possible that many people will feel great and lose weight eating this way. I am somewhat concerned with the long-term, however. Eliminating dairy and grains means eliminating main sources of calcium, fiber, and other nutrients, which opens the door for nutritional deficiencies. And, this diet is restrictive and will require advance planning to maintain day in and day out. The burnout potential is high. If you haven’t been practicing portion control and continually are “sneaking” non-Paleo foods, weight maintenance is likely to be a problem.

So, what’s the takeaway on the Paleo diet?

Ø  Advantage: The diet dramatically reduces sugar and sodium consumption, which is a great benefit. Another plus is that there is a lot of support for this diet. A quick Web query will bring up tons of information, book titles, sample diet plans, and forums for followers to share experiences.  And, protein is filling, so it’s unlikely you will go hungry on this diet.

Ø  Challenge: The Paleo diet prohibits dairy and grains. Restrictive diets are difficult to adhere to long-term and require monitoring to ensure your diet provides vital nutrition. For example, whole grains provide much-needed fiber and are also fortified with nutrients. You’ll miss out on all of that by eating Paleo. As a dietician I’m always concerned when a diet eliminates entire categories of foods like this.

Ø  For Your Consideration: If you choose to follow the Paleo diet, be sure to identify your calcium sources and consider a Vitamin D supplement. Also, have a plan for how you will handle eating when you can’t easily supply or control your meals (e.g., social dining situations, restaurants). If possible, consult a dietician. He or she can review your Paleo food choices and help tweak them to ensure optimal nutrition.

 

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Comments

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