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What Are the Pros & Cons of the Paleo Diet?

By Janet Renee, MS, RD

The Paleo diet is a method of eating that mimics your ancestors' diet from the Paleolithic period, which ended about 10,000 years ago. Often called the hunter-gatherer diet or the Stone Age diet, the Paleo plan promotes foods your ancestors would have been able to hunt and gather, such as meat and plants. It excludes foods made available once industrialization began. The Paleo diet provides benefits, but also has some drawbacks and may not be suitable for everyone.

Helps Balance Diet

One of the major advantages of the Paleo diet is that it promotes healthier eating habits. Most Americans consume more than the recommended amount of salt and refined sugar, which can contribute to chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. On the Paleo diet, you'll avoid table salt and refined sugar, which helps balance your diet. You also avoid processed foods and junk foods, so you'll cut your intake of unhealthy fats.

Boosts Nutrient Intake

The Paleo diet recommends eating fresh fruits and vegetables, which increase your intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber, a nutrient the typical American fails to get enough of. The plan also recommends eating healthy unsaturated oils, which is a good way to increase your intake of essential fatty acids. At the same time, you'll decrease your exposure to additives, preservatives and other chemicals by choosing whole, unprocessed, organic foods.

Lacks Variety

The Paleo diet is somewhat restrictive and lacks variety. Because you must avoid legumes, dairy, starchy vegetables and grains, you may find it difficult to stick to the diet. Those who are able to handle the restrictions may find themselves becoming bored from the lack of variety. Most nutrition professionals recommend eating a wide range of healthy foods instead of cutting out entire food groups. In addition, the Paleo diet avoids food groups that offer health benefits, such as legumes and grains.

May Not Suit Certain Energy Needs

The Paleo diet recommends getting 35 to 45 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates. This amount is significantly lower than the dietary reference intake of 45 to 65 percent the Institute of Medicine recommends. If you're very active or an athlete, the Paleo recommendation may not supply enough energy. In addition, the Paleo diet cuts out carbohydrate sources that usually serve as staples for active individuals, such as whole grains, legumes and starchy vegetables.

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