From crossfitters to spinners, the word “Paleo” is definitely #trendy. And maybe your intention of digging into this lifestyle diet is to get back to your roots by pursuing a healthier way of eating. But, despite the buzz, is Paleo really the best option for you?
The Paleo diet involves eating foods preferred by our ancient ancestors while avoiding manufactured or processed foods like dairy and grain products. Though there are certainly a boatload of pros involved in doing away with many of today’s potentially harmful foods, is the Paleo diet really as healthy as all the fanatics say? With it’s recent last place finish on a list of diets debated by nutrition and health pros, perhaps it’s time we take a closer look at the truth behind the Paleo craze.
The Pros of the Paleo Diet
Steers you away from processed foods: One of the key necessities of the Paleo diet is cutting out processed foods, which can actually lower your calorie intake and your intake of saturated fats. This can also mean you end up cooking more frequently, ultimately assisting you in a healthier lifestyle overall. Plus, this means you’ll focus on natural products, which is always a health benefit.
Focuses on nutrients: Foods that are supported by the diet such as fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, almond milk and nuts bring in plenty of nutrients despite having cut out grains and legumes. You won’t have to worry about vitamins and protein when so many whole foods aren’t restricted.
Emphasizes quality: By steering diet-goers towards the highest-quality proteins, Paleo dieting emphasizes consuming quality meat like grass-fed beef, wild game meats, wild seafood and pastured chickens. This focus may mean you get more Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants found in lean meat and seafood. Plus, happy animals make us happy!
The Cons of the Paleo Diet
High in saturated fats: While modern research suggests we might be over-reacting to the harm saturated fats can cause us, most experts still don’t recommend too large of an intake of this kind of fat. Because the Paleo diet doesn’t cut out foods like bacon, T-bone steaks or coconut oil—all foods that are high in saturated fat—this lifestyle change may ultimately lead you to unsafe intake of saturated fats that may be problematic for your heart health. Just because you can eat it, doesn’t mean you should.
Difficult to sustain long-term: Like most diets, this one can be hard to do for long periods of time. Because the Paleo diets cuts out certain mainstream food groups all together, including dairy and grains, it can be a difficult lifestyle change to maintain for long periods of time. This is especially the case if you find yourself out for social dinners or attending special events.
May operate under false assumptions: Foods that are shunned by the Paleo diet like milk, bread and cheese are foods that we (as the human race) have been eating for quite some time now. The Paleo diet may be operating under the false assumption that our guts are still the same as they were a few million years ago. Though we owe a lot to our ancestors, our bodies, including our stomachs, have evolved over time. This means that we’re likely able to digest these foods sufficiently (and healthily). Sure, we still think processed foods are pretty much the worst, but can cheese really be that bad for us (in moderation, of course)?
The Paleo diet verdict: So, is it a healthy option or a faulty fad? We suggest that Paleo dieting can be be both a good or a bad thing depending on how it is interpreted. To get the most out of your Paleo diet, be sure to switch up your protein sources on a regular basis, including your cooking oils, and opt for lean proteins like poultry and fish. Remember that a good diet is only one part of a healthy lifestyle, so don’t leave your exercising in the dumps and cut yourself some slack here and there—you don’t want to be “that Paleo girl” to all your friends.