Is the Paleo diet right for you?

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By now, you’ve probably heard about the Paleo Diet, or you even have a friend who follows it religiously. Even though you may be familiar with it, you may not know much about it. Here is the quick and dirty break down of this popular nutrition plan. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new nutrition or health program.

Paleo 101
Basically, people who eat a Paleo Diet, only eat foods that were consumed by early humans, and consists mostly of fish, lean meat, fruits, and vegetables. The proteins consumed should also be grass-fed, pasture-raised, or wild-caught. Those on the Paleo Diet do not eat dairy, grains, or processed foods and sugars.

The Benefits
Lean proteins support strong muscles, healthy bones, and boosted immunity. When on the Paleo Diet, there is a good chance you will lose weight. This is because protein makes you feel fuller longer, so you are less tempted to snack between meals. And let’s face it, most of us reach for unhealthy snacks like cookies, chips, or candy when we need to nosh. The more protein you eat, the less hungry you will feel.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Paleo Diet, or you even have a friend who follows it religiously. Even though you may be familiar with it, you may not know much about it. Here is the quick and dirty break down of this popular nutrition plan. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new nutrition or health program.

Paleo 101

Basically, people who eat a Paleo Diet, only eat foods that were consumed by early humans, and consists mostly of fish, lean meat, fruits, and vegetables. The proteins consumed should also be grass-fed, pasture-raised, or wild-caught. Those on the Paleo Diet do not eat dairy, grains, or processed foods and sugars.

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The Benefits

Lean proteins support strong muscles, healthy bones, and boosted immunity. When on the Paleo Diet, there is a good chance you will lose weight. This is because protein makes you feel fuller longer, so you are less tempted to snack between meals. And let’s face it, most of us reach for unhealthy snacks like cookies, chips, or candy when we need to nosh. The more protein you eat, the less hungry you will feel. Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. A diet high in fruits and vegetables can decrease the likelihood of getting diseases like cancer, diabetes, and neurological decline.Healthy fats, like the ones found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil, are promoted in the Paleo Diet because studies show that Monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats contribute to decreasing the risk for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, and cognitive-related health problems.

The Drawbacks

Not everyone is a proponent of the Paleo Diet, though. Some negative aspects of the diet have been addressed recently. One is that the Paleo Diet does not specify portion size. Nutritionists and doctors worry that some people may take advantage of this and feel that it’s perfectly acceptable to eat a five pound jar of nuts or take in more grams of protein per day than what is recommended. Adult men should eat around 56 grams per day, and women should have about 46 grams per day. You should get no more than 35% of your daily calories from protein. Over consumption of protein can lead to increased glucose production, which can contribute to Type 2 diabetes.

Another concern is that by cutting out carbohydrates from healthy grains, you may be cutting out a significant energy source. Leslie Bonci, RD,MPH, LDN, the Director of Sports Nutrition at UPMC claims that, “grains, whole or otherwise…are good for health and energy.” She also adds that, “Most athletes need between 3 to 6 grams of carbs per pound of their body weight, per day. This would be very hard to do with just fruits and vegetables.”

Lastly, some detractors claim that the Paleo Diet is too costly because of how much you would need to spend on grass-fed meats, wild seafood, and pasture-raised poultry. Depending on where you live and where you shop, each of these can cost between $4 – $6 a pound. For some people, these prices are just not in their budget. Others who are willing to spend the money may only be able to sustain it for a short amount of time. Either way, there is a chance that the Paleo Diet may end up discouraging people from getting healthy.

The Takeaway

In the end, whether you choose to try the Paleo Diet or not, now you know most of the facts and can make an informed decision. Also, feel free to do your own research because nutrition programs are not “one size fits all”. So even if the Paleo Diet works wonders for your friend, it may not be the best choice for you, and vice versa.  Deciding to change your diet and health is a big undertaking, and it can be overwhelming with all of the options out there. No matter what path you choose to attain better health, taking the first step is better than doing nothing at all. Here’s to your health!

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