Many have heard of the Paleo diet yet are confused as to what it’s all about. This article explains the Paleo diet and the pros and cons of Paleo nutrition.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet originates from long ago. It is based on the concept of eating “whole” foods that were consumed by hunter-gatherers from the Paleolithic era, the time before recorded history. The focus is on consumption of meat/seafood/eggs, nuts/seeds, vegetables and seasonal fruit with avoidance of dairy and grains.
- Seafood- eat plenty of seafood such as wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, red snapper and shellfish like clams, crab, shrimp, oysters and lobster. These foods are an excellent source of protein AND omega-3 fats. These fats are only available from the sea. Try eating salmon and smelt roe too. Limit tuna and other large fish because of toxin concerns. NOTHING is more healthy and packed with nutrition than seafood.
- Meat- we are talking free-range animals eating their native foods. Pork, beef, lamb, and fowl. Try to get the organ cuts as well like liver, heart, kidney and sweetbreads. Confused about where to get good meat? Check out CrowdCow.com
- Vegetables- mostly organic green leafy ones like kale, chard, collards and dandelions along with a variety of lettuces. Broccoli, Brussels, cauliflower, etc.
- Nuts and seeds- always organic. Soak them first to minimize anti-nutrient enzymes. Favorite one? Mine is coconut. I LOVE the items from Food to Live.
- Eggs- from pasture-raised chickens. An egg contains everything a chicken needs to come to life. Try raising a chicken on oatmeal.
- Fruit- but watch the amount as fruit is high in sugar. Avocado is a fruit and so are olives. Eat them often.
Not on the Paleo plan… wheat, barley,oats and other grains, dairy (especially pasteurized), corn, soy and legumes.
What is the Evidence for The Paleo Diet?
While there are relatively few studies that have compared Paleo Diet to traditional diets, research suggests the need for more clinical trials to fully understand its mechanistic benefits to human health. A re-occurring theme in research conducted thus far is that the Paleo diet has favorable outcomes on metabolic function including cholesterol, blood sugar, and inflammation1.
Pros of the Paleo Diet
- Improves glycemic control
- A study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (EJCN) found that when type 2 diabetic subjects were placed in a Paleo diet or American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommended diet group there were significantly distinct results2. The Paleo diet group had improved insulin sensitivity and glucose balance compared to the ADA diet2. Additionally, the Paleo diet conferred more beneficial effects to participant’s lipid profiles2.
- The dietary glycemic index (GI) has been found to be consistently lower in a Paleo Diet compared to others3.
- Another study concluded the Paleo Diet improves glucose tolerance more than the Mediterranean Diet in ischemic heart disease patients4.
- Modulates lipid profiles
- In the EJCN study, participants on the Paleo diet had significantly greater improvements in lipid profiles than the ADA diet group1.
- The Paleo diet was found to exert significantly greater effects on regulating hyperlipidemia and cholesterol ratios in non-diabetic adults compared to a grain-based, “heart healthy” diet recommended by the American Heart Association5.
- Improves cardiovascular risk factors
- A clinical trial analyzed diabetic patients administered a Paleo diet or diabetic diet (dictated by the dietary guidelines) treatment3. The study, which was published in Cardiovascular Diabetology, found that the Paleo diet participants had significantly lower levels of HbA1c, diastolic blood pressure (BP), and waist circumference along with significantly higher levels of HDL cholesterol3.
- One study reviewed the effects of the Paleo diet on diabetic patients with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). It concluded that the Paleo diet has increased beneficial effects on type 2 diabetes and hallmark cardiovascular risk factors6.
- Assists with weight loss
- A two-year study with obese, post-menopausal women given a Paleo diet or Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR) diet concluded that the Paleo diet group had significantly greater reductions in adiposity and waist circumference than the NNR group7.
- Overall, advantageous for metabolic parameters and CVD risk
- In a study, the Paleo diet had beneficial effects on metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular risk factors8. The results of the PALEO DIET treatment were lower systolic BP, diastolic BP, total cholesterol, as well as higher HDL cholesterol8.
- Furthermore, there was significant weight loss in the Paleo diet group8.
- A research review concluded that the Paleo diet amassed significantly greater improvements in metabolic syndrome markers compared to guideline-based control diets9.
Whatever your diet, make it organic. If you consume dairy, make sure it is from a grass-fed source.
Cons of the Paleo diet
-Difficult diet for vegetarians and vegans. Pegan is a popular term, but Paleo man was never vegan. All societies in the history of the world were meat and/or seafood eaters. All animals eat other animals or insects.
-If an extreme athlete, work harder to get adequate carb intake. Potatoes, quinoa, and gluten-free grains along with increased fruit intake may satisfy the athlete.
- Pitt, 2016: https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2016/januaryfebruary/cutting-through-the-paleo-hype-the-evidence-for-the-palaeolithic-diet/
- Marsharini et al., 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25828624
- Jonsson et al., 2009: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19604407
- Lindberg et al., 2007: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17583796?dopt=Abstract
- Pastore et al., 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26003334
- Klonoff, 2009: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2787021/
- Melberg et al., 2014: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24473459
- Boers et al., 2014: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25304296
- Manheimer et al., 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26269362