Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the paleo diet. The diet may lead to weight loss in the short term, as well as lower blood pressure, controlled blood sugar, and other possible benefits. So it’s no surprise that this eating approach has gained popularity since the publication in 2010 of the hit book The Paleo Diet, authored by Loren Cordain, PhD, a professor emeritus at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins and the founder of the paleo diet movement.
The aim of this approach is to eat like our Paleolithic ancestors, who reportedly didn’t have farms that provided food groups like grains and most dairy (though the grains claim is disputed) — and didn’t have access to modern-day packaged, processed foods. The paleo diet is all about unprocessed, natural foods: Think vegetables, fruit, meat, seafood, natural fat sources, nuts, seeds, and eggs.
Some people enjoy the freedom of the paleo diet because they do not need to count calories or other macronutrients. Others find it too restrictive because it excludes many healthful foods. While the paleo diet is based on a high veggie intake with fruits included as well, its followers will be missing out on rich sources of nutrients from whole grains, soy foods, and legumes.
A Paleo lifestyle can definitely be difficult for vegetarians, especially since it excludes beans. In addition, the diet does allow some carbohydrates, but it is still fairly restrictive. The amount of carbohydrates may be inadequate for athletes which is their energy source for training and exercise. Whole grains are an important source of nutrition — aside from cholesterol-lowering fiber, these complex carbohydrates offer B vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate, and minerals including iron, magnesium, and selenium. Most athletes need between 3 to 6 grams of carbs per pound of their body weight, per day. This is very hard to do with just fruits and vegetables since a paleo diet doesn’t allow grains.
If you want to “health up” your diet, rather than going paleo, it is possible to find a level of flexibility (no counting involved) while still including healthy whole grains, beans, and soy foods. Whichever diet you choose to follow, it should include one aspect of the paleo diet– tons of veggies! You may consider:
Eating three meals a day
Including some protein at every meal and snack
Including foods with color at every meal or snack
Including some grains at every meal and snack, such as cereal, whole grain bread, rice, or pasta
Including a little fat at each meal, such as nuts, butter, salad dressing, oil or a little mayonnaise
Being selective with some of the less healthy foods