Well-being: What do Nutritionists Think of the Paleo Diet?
The paleo diet — also referred to as the “caveman diet” — has grown in popularity over the last few years, particularly for fitness enthusiasts and weight trainers. You may even know someone who’s done it before or decided to try it yourself as part of your New Year’s resolutions.
However, following the paleo diet isn’t exactly for the faint-hearted. For starters, the hunter-gatherer-inspired menu primarily consists of meat and seafood proteins, eggs, fresh produce, spices and healthy fats and oils — excluding many nourishing foods that add versatility to your meals.
It begs the question of whether the paleo diet is actually the healthiest diet for weight loss management and optimal well-being — and nutrition experts wonder the same. Before you head to the grocery store to stock up on essentials, it’s necessary to understand the pros and cons of the paleo diet.
Dieters are quick to rave about the effectiveness of being on such a restrictive diet for weight loss and disease prevention. When weighing the pros and cons of the paleo diet, studies skew towards uncertainty. Here are six things you should consider before starting this diet regimen.
Diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States, with one in 10 people diagnosed with diabetes and another 93 million prediabetic Americans.
Little research suggests a paleolithic diet influences insulin and glucose levels; however, some medical professionals say it may offer preventative benefits.
When weighing the pros and cons of the paleo diet, there’s no denying that high protein consumption contributes to lower blood sugar. For example, a previous study showed improvements in weight loss, fasting glucose and insulin after participants ate a diet consisting of 30% protein for three months.
Although the paleo diet may not statistically out-perform similar diets, eating fewer carbohydrates can certainly improve glucose levels in type 2 diabetes.
Inflammation usually appears with various autoimmune disorders, such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Poor nutrition, a lack of physical activity and stress often exacerbate inflammation.
Over time, however, chronic inflammation often causes serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes and various cancers. To prevent this from happening, people may decide to eat an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of different fruits and vegetables, unprocessed foods, whole grains, herbs and spices.
The paleo diet is highly anti-inflammatory and an option for minimizing pain associated with inflammatory diseases. For example, degenerative spinal disorders cause significant back pain, loss of mobility, weakness and numbness — but patients who eat paleolithic foods may find substantial pain relief and slower progression of inflammation.
Many people try the paleo diet for weight loss and are pleasantly surprised with the immediate results. For one thing, you’ll eat fewer calories, mainly by cutting out snacking throughout the day. Additionally, increased protein intake boosts your metabolism and improves satiety, making you fuller for longer.
Bodybuilders generally eat the paleo diet for weight loss and to improve their body composition. In a recent study, clinical trials showed that consuming more protein than the recommended daily intake aids weight loss, decreases fat mass and preserves fat-free mass. Additionally, the research found that eating a high-protein diet for six to 12 months helps prevent significant weight gain.
Short-term, trying the paleo diet for weight loss will likely prove effective — if you can stick with it. However, most nutrition experts would agree that it isn’t recommended long-term.
If dieting were easy, we’d all be slim and healthy — but improving your eating habits with proper nutrition takes determination and commitment.
People who do the paleo diet for weight loss will likely agree that it’s a limiting diet plan that’s difficult to follow. Transitioning from your former lifestyle of high-processed foods and sugars is challenging enough, but eliminating so many foods at once makes it even harder to sustain.
Generally, low-carbohydrate diets deplete glycogen stores and fluids immediately, giving the appearance of rapid, effective weight loss. However, paleo dieters will likely see the weight come back in several days or weeks like most fad diets.
If you’re weighing the pros and cons of the paleo diet, you’ll want to make sure you can follow it through. If not, it’s important to not be too hard on yourself and opt for a more nutritionally-balanced health regimen instead.
Because the paleo diet concentrates on high protein, it may not be the easiest or healthiest diet for vegetarians.
Paleo dieters usually fill their plates with lean meats, seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds, fresh produce, healthy oils and fewer root vegetables. However, there’s a long list of foods not allowed on the plan, including legumes.
Legumes are an essential source of protein for vegetarians. The Cleveland Clinic states that healthy adults need about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. For example, a 175-pound adult should eat approximately 63 grams.
For vegetarians, a diet rich in beans and lentils allows them to sustain plant-based eating healthily. Consider that a one-cup serving of canned low-sodium black beans contains about 14.5 grams of protein. Meanwhile, the same serving size of cooked lentils has 17.9 grams of protein.
While some vegetarians do eat eggs, they’ll find themselves deficient in the essential vitamins and minerals with such a limited meal plan.
Refined sugars and processed foods aren’t the healthiest food options on any diet; however, if you’re starting the paleo diet for weight loss, you’ll miss some fundamental food groups.
With a paleolithic plan, you’ll need to eliminate dairy products and grains. Yet, daily servings of each food group help maintain good health and reduce the risk for disease.
For women over 30 especially, dairy products contain the necessary calcium and magnesium to support healthy teeth and bones. On the other hand, oats are an excellent source of fiber, lowering harmful cholesterol levels and promoting optimal gut health.
People following the paleo diet are also more likely to have deficiencies in vitamin D. Vitamin D is critical for preventing cancer cell growth, diabetes and heart disease, regulating immunity, strengthening bones and improving cognition.
Overall, the paleo diet may work better for some people than others. It’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of eating a paleolithic diet as it relates specifically to your weight loss goals. However, you may have better luck — and health — by eating a well-balanced diet that comprises all the most important food groups.
Author’s bio Beth Rush:
Beth is the Managing Editor at BodyMind.com. She is a well-respected writer in the personal wellness space and shares knowledge on a variety of topics related to fitness, holistic health, nutrition, and disease prevention. In her spare time, Beth enjoys trying out new fitness trends and cooking healthy recipes.