To Paleo or Not To Paleo…

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What is Paleo?

The diet encourages the consumption of what our ancestors were believed to have eaten as hunters and gatherers, such as meat, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, etc.  The diet discourages the consumption of foods that are considered to be primarily part of the modern day, post-agricultural “westernized diet” or “SAD” diet (Standard American Diet,) such as milk, grains, refined sugars and legumes.  Promoters of the Paleo Diet believe that these are the primary foods that have led to an overweight country, which have burdened us with an ever growing health care crisis.

Followers of the Paleo Diet claim that by eating the foods we were evolutionarily developed to consume, we can lower our risks for developing chronic diseases while also improving digestive problems, eliminating acne, increasing energy levels, etc.  They further claim that we can lose excessive body weight, thanks to the fact that we’ll be eating the foods our bodies have been programmed to fully digest and absorb.

Diet Do’s and Don’ts…

Do Eat…

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits (in moderation)
  • Nuts and Seeds (in moderation)
  • Wild Meats (grass fed beef, chicken, venison, etc.)
  • Eggs
  • Coconut, grass-fed butter, avocado, etc.

Do Not Eat…

  • Refined, Processed Foods (chips, donuts, soda, cereals, candy bars, snack foods, etc.)
  • Refined sugars
  • Juices
  • Grains and breads (quinoa, oats, bread, barley, etc.)
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, soy, peanuts, etc.)
  • Dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.)

Nutritional Basics…where do my calories come from?

Paleo Diet:

  • 30-40% Fat
  • 20-30% Carbohydrate
  • 35-45% Protein

…vs…

2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

  • 20-35% Fat
  • 45-65% Carbohydrate
  • 10-35% Protein

Behind The Research…

Despite what some will tell you, research surrounding the Paleo Diet is still in its infancy stages.  While some research has pointed to low carb, paleo style diets possibly improving blood insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and improved lipid profiles, we do not yet know the long term effects.

However, in the research article Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that refined grains such as white pasta, white breads, etc. have more of a negative effect on our arteries than does saturated fat.  Whether or not we should be eating like a caveman, it’s important to realize that refined grains just aren’t good for our overall health.

The Diet’s Health Advantages:

  1. Excludes sugary and processed foods.
  2. Reduces sodium intake.
  3. Encourages produce consumption.
  4. Encourages weight loss.  By avoiding sugary, processed junk, you’ll inevitably shed some excess pounds.
  5. Focuses on real, whole foods.

The Diet’s Health DIS-advantages:

  1. May be difficult to maintain for a lifetime.  If the thought of giving up cheese forever and ever and ever sounds horrendous to you, this diet plan may be a flop.
  2. No large studies done to analyze long term effects.
  3. Contradictory evidence.  We’ve known for quite some time, the health benefits of following a Mediterranean Diet, full of fish, fruits, veggies, healthy fats and…YES…whole grains, legumes and some dairy!
  4. Possible nutrient deficiencies, such as calcium.  Paleo promoters claim that we don’t need as much calcium as once thought.  However, there is no evidence to back up this claim and it’s important that anyone going on the Paleo Diet be smart in choosing the right foods.

The Bottom Line…

The Paleo Diet does offer some health benefits.  However, it also requires some professional guidance in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies.  In addition, it is unknown what health effects the diet has over a lifetime and it may be difficult for many to follow for long periods of time.

Research is important in helping us unlock the secrets of health, but it was never meant to be the ultimate decision on how and what we eat.  There will always be conflicting reports, and it is important that we not base our diet solely on a trendy diet or on the newest research study. In finding that so-called “perfect” diet, we still need to remember the importance of making changes that will last, while also finding a lifestyle that will feel balanced and satisfying to us as individuals.

QUESTION: What do you think of the Paleo Diet?  Have you ever or will you ever try it?  Why or why not?

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6 thoughts on “To Paleo or Not To Paleo…

  1. Nice breakdown, Sarah! I’ve long been curious as to why legumes are out. I don’t eat meat so I’m not sure Paleo would work for me. BUT I generally follow the principle of “if it makes you feel good, eat it; if it doesn’t make you feel good, DUH! don’t eat it!”

    I think you’ve bounced around trying different things… have YOU ever tried Paleo? I bet your brother has an opinion about it… what’s he think??

    • Haha, it’s funny you ask that. I tried Paleo for a day during my research and then got right back to “normal.” Living without legumes and oatmeal? No thank you! It honestly made me a pretty cranky lady..haha!

      I’ll have to mention this to my brother and get his opinion…I’m sure he’d have strong feelings about it!!

  2. I have done the Primal diet, which is like Paleo, but some dairy is allowed. At first (first year) I felt really good-sleeping through the night finally, very few to no random stomach discomfort, and my moods evened out. I was generally happy, verses generally crabby and sad. But then I started dealing with other issues – mainly hormone/mood issues. I tried reintroducing GF grains, which seemed to help, and now I am seeing a doctor who has me on a dairy, pork, and beef-free diet. I’m still GF. So, that’s been my journey in a nut shell. I think Primal helped me with some things, but personally wouldn’t recommend it long-term – probably too low-carb. But that’s just my personal opinion. 🙂

  3. I honestly have never given any thought to it either way. When people tell me that they’re doing the paleo diet, I’m all like ‘good for you’! And when they tell me they hate it, I’m all like, ‘yeah, I don’t do it either.’ Does that make me wishy-washy? Ha, ha! I guess I don’t put a lot of thought into the food I eat, other than I want it to be as natural and whole as possible (except for the occasional splurge. A girl has to eat Dorito’s every once in awhile). 😉

    • Haha, I don’t think that makes you wishy washy at all. I tend to feel the same, other than the fact that it’s my job to know every detail about the newest trends/fads/etc (because inevitably, there is always someone who wants to know the scientific details!) But I couldn’t agree more, that just eating a balanced, variety filled diet that focuses mostly on natural/whole foods is the way to go! 😀

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