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The Paleo Diet: Benefits and drawbacks.

The Paleo diet has recently become very popular in America as the newest low carbohydrate diet trend. The basic premise of the diet is consuming only foods that were eaten during the Stone Age. These foods include meat, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds and certain oils. The Paleo diet excludes, grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, processed foods and refined vegetable oils. Before you chose this diet, Michigan State University Extension says to be sure you are aware of the facts and to consult your physician. 

Pros

Some of the positive aspects of this diet include:

  • Focus on whole foods (no chemicals used for processing).
  • Emphasis on eating fruits and vegetables.
  • Minimal salt: Because processed foods and added salt are not allowed on this diet, those who follow it should stay well below the recommended daily limit for sodium.
  • No room for empty calorie sweets like cookies, cakes and candy.
  • Protein and fiber are abundant in this diet and both make you feel full.

Cons

Some of the negative parts of the paleo diet include:

  • Dairy, whole grains and legumes are omitted; all of these contain essential nutrients.
  • Fat and protein consumption exceeds the established dietary guideline recommendations.
  • This diet can be expensive due to the emphasis on meats and fresh produce. Meat is often among the most expensive items on your grocery list.
  • Certain supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D may be required with this diet. Supplements can be costly and may include undesirable side effects.

This diet continues to create controversy, partly due to its contradiction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate guidelines, which emphasizes consuming foods from all of the main food groups in moderation. Additionally, the American Heart Association encourages limiting saturated fat and red meats while focusing on lean meat, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Current research is inconclusive about whether the Paleo diet is a better approach to maintaining a healthy lifestyle than more traditional or modern diets, such as the DASH diet. While there are certain benefits, there is also reason to be wary of committing to the complete “cave man” diet. Those who chose to follow the Paleo diet should limit red meats and saturated fats due to their adverse effects on weight and the heart. They should also talk with their doctors or dietitians about any supplements that may be necessary.

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