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The Truth About the Paleo Diet

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A man dressed as a cavemanPeople are always talking about the newest diet craze or fad diet that helped them drop that last 10 pounds they were struggling to lose. The magic plan that works for one person may not work for another. One of the diets many people (including many athletes) still talk about today is the Paleo diet. Athletes are always trying to gain that edge or clients are always trying to cut something out of their diets they think is the culprit for their weight gain. So what exactly is the Paleo diet and are there any benefits? Well, let me break it down for you!

The Paleo diet is often referred to as the Caveman diet and only includes foods that humans consumed during the Paleolithic era (2.5 million years ago until about 10,000 years ago). The Paleo diet is based on the fact that our bodies were supposed to eat like our ancestors and not like the current American diet which consists of highly processed foods and high fat fast food. In a nutshell, the Paleo diet includes food such as:

  • Lean meats (chicken, turkey, pork, lean beef, and buffalo)
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Fresh fruits
  • Non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, salad greens, carrots, squash)
  • Nuts (except peanuts) and seeds
  • Plant and nut based oils (olive, walnut, coconut, grapeseed)

Foods not included in the Paleo diet are:

  • Grains (oats, wheat, and barley)
  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes)
  • Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese)
  • Legumes and beans
  • High fat meats (salami, hot dogs, high fat cuts of steak)
  • Sugars
  • Salty foods
  • Processed foods and trans fat

While there are quite a few positives to the Paleo diet, you also have to remember that any diet that overly restricts the intake of one or more food groups runs a real risk of falling short on certain nutrients. Dairy, grains, and beans are three key sources of carbohydrates and other vitamins and minerals that are taken out of this diet. People restricting these three food groups may not be getting enough calcium, potassium fiber, and some B vitamins. However, some of the benefits to the Paleo diet include the following:

  • Fewer additives, preservatives, and chemicals are consumed
  • Focus on whole foods and eating clean
  • Rich consumption of healthy fats (monounsaturated & polyunsaturated)
  • High fruit and vegetable intake so antioxidant consumption is high

 

Whenever you are considering trying a new diet, be sure to seek advice from a registered dietitian to make sure you are meeting your daily needs and are losing weight safely. Remember, the way you eat should be a lifestyle change and not something that should be extreme or overly-restrictive! Balanced approaches to nutritional modification are more sustainable in the end.

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Tags: Healthy Eating , Nutrition Trends

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MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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