Hey, Friends! You may want to know about Paleo Diet. So don’t think more, here you will know many answers to your questions…
While we all aspire to adopt a healthier eating regimen, the task of deciphering the right approach can prove to be quite challenging. Questions arise: Should one increase grain consumption? Eliminate dairy? And what about sugar or fat?
Enter the paleo diet, a dietary choice that has gained popularity by emulating the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Such diets serve as helpful guidelines in our pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.
Now, let’s delve into the specifics of the paleo diet and determine whether it is the right fit for you. Join registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, as she sheds light on the advantages & drawbacks of the paleo diet and its effectiveness.
Table of Contents
What is the paleo diet?
So, according to Julia Zumpano, RD, the paleo diet revolves around consuming foods that humans consumed during the Paleolithic period, spanning from roughly 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. You might have heard of this diet called the Stone Age, the caveman, or the hunter-gatherer diet.
What foods make it to the paleo diet food list? Check it out below:
- Lean meat like grass-fed beef & game meats.
- Fish, including those high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon & tuna.
- Seeds like chia seeds & flax seeds.
Now, the paleo diet offers quite a variety of foods to enjoy. However, are there specific rules to follow when it comes to the paleo diet? Absolutely, according to Julia Zumpano, RD. To stay on track, you’ll need to steer clear of the following foods:
- Refined or added sugar.
- Added salt.
- Highly processed foods.
- Certain vegetables, like corn, peas, & potatoes, are high in starch.
The paleo diet’s fundamental idea is to consume foods that align with our body’s natural dietary needs. Our bodies have yet to adapt to modern farming practices, leading to a less-than-optimal response to certain foods.
As such, the paleo diet aims to steer clear of such foods, including grains and dairy, which are believed to be linked to various health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
How effective is the paleo diet?
According to Julia Zumpano, RD, the paleo diet has demonstrated significant effectiveness.
“The emphasis of this diet lies in the inclusion of single-ingredient foods,” she explains. “Eliminating all processed foods aligns with the ultimate goal of any diet plan.”
Being a high-protein, low-carb eating approach, the paleo diet can aid in weight loss. However, Zumpano advises caution when eliminating food groups like grains and dairy, as it may result in a deficiency of essential nutrients your body requires.
“By excluding grains and dairy, you might miss out on valuable fiber, vitamins, and minerals,” she warns.
Nevertheless, if you experience discomfort or intolerance towards grains or dairy, eliminating those specific food groups may improve your well-being.
“From a long-term perspective, seeking alternatives to grains, legumes, or dairy can at least provide you with the nutrients that you might otherwise lack from omitting those foods,” Zumpano points out.
Paleo diet pros:
Each diet comes with pros & cons, & Zumpano outlines some of the paleo diet’s benefits.
It can help with weight loss
When you make the conscious decision to eliminate specific foods from your diet, such as processed foods, salty snacks, and high-fat foods (especially pre-packaged items), you’re essentially redirecting your focus toward consuming whole foods.
Julia Zumpano, RD, explains the rationale behind this shift: “Indulging in processed foods can lead to excessive calorie intake, elevated cholesterol levels, and contribute to high blood pressure. By reducing the variety of foods in your diet, you’re eliminating those that tend to be dense in calories and often trigger overconsumption, such as cheese and carb-loaded options.”
There’s an added benefit as well. Protein-rich foods have a reputation for providing a strong sense of satiety.
“This aspect further aids in weight loss since you’ll feel more satisfied,” Zumpano emphasizes. “Managing cravings becomes easier on a diet that is both high in protein and fiber. Moreover, sticking to this approach becomes more manageable over time as cravings for other foods gradually subside.”
It may help lower blood pressure & cholesterol
Scientific research has indicated that following the paleo diet can contribute to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, primarily due to the elimination of high-fat and high-sugar foods. Furthermore, adopting this dietary approach may enhance glucose tolerance and increase insulin sensitivity, ultimately aiding in the management of Type 2 diabetes.
Julia Zumpano, RD, does offer a word of caution, though. Depending on the fattiness of the meat you consume, it is possible to inadvertently increase your cholesterol levels. To mitigate this risk, Zumpano advises opting for lean meat choices such as grass-fed beef loin, sirloin, flank or filet, skinless poultry, and wild game. Conversely, it’s advisable to avoid pork, lamb, or cuts of beef with higher fat content to maintain a heart-healthy diet.
Paleo diet cons:
It’s quite uncommon for a diet to have no drawbacks. Julia Zumpano sheds light on what factors to take into account before embarking on the paleo diet.
It excludes certain foods
While the paleo diet brings the benefit of cutting out processed foods and sugar, there may be better choices than eliminating grains, legumes, and dairy.
Julia Zumpano expresses concern over the complete exclusion of grains, legumes, and dairy, as they are significant sources of essential nutrients. She advises seeking a diet that maintains a balanced representation of various food groups.
Since grains are no longer part of your diet, Zumpano emphasizes the importance of ensuring adequate fiber intake through alternative sources such as fiber-rich fruits and vegetables like berries and Brussels sprouts.
Furthermore, as dairy is excluded from the paleo diet, it is crucial to find alternative sources of calcium. Zumpano suggests incorporating calcium-rich vegetables such as broccoli and spinach into your meals or considering fortified milk alternatives to fulfill your calcium needs.
Its long-term effects are unknown
According to Zumpano, while the paleo diet may have benefits, there needs to be more long-term research to support it. She advises against sticking to a strict paleo diet for an extended period and recommends taking breaks to include legumes, grains, and dairy or transitioning to the Mediterranean Diet, which is similar to the paleo diet but less restrictive and has more research to show positive long-term outcomes.
“We know the Mediterranean diet is very safe to follow lifelong,” says Zumpano. She suggests working with a registered dietitian to maximize nutrient intake and slowly incorporate small portions of the Mediterranean diet.
Moreover, trying to follow a restrictive diet like the paleo diet long term may be challenging. Zumpano suggests removing refined flour and sugars forever, salty snack foods, and processed meat and cheeses. However, following a diet with a variety of foods is most beneficial.
Should you try the paleo diet?
While the paleo diet can certainly assist you in achieving your short-term wellness goals, it’s important to consider a more balanced option for the long term, such as the Mediterranean diet.
It’s crucial to note that if you have chronic kidney disease or are following a protein-restricted diet, the paleo diet may not be suitable for you. Additionally, individuals with digestive disorders like diverticulitis or diverticulosis may encounter issues with the nuts and seeds included in the paleo diet. However, Zumpano suggests that you can still adhere to the diet by eliminating those specific categories of food.
For those with a history of eating disorders or those who are immunocompromised, it is essential to exercise caution when it comes to calorie restriction. Zumpano advises that it’s best to follow the paleo diet under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Fortunately, numerous online resources are available where you can find paleo diet recipes, ranging from baked salmon to chicken salad. As for paleo-friendly snacks, you can enjoy fruits, nuts, baby carrots, and salsa.
“Ultimately, the paleo diet serves as an excellent dietary approach to kick-start your health journey,” concludes Zumpano.
“If you have concerns regarding your weight, wish to prioritize gut health, aim to manage blood sugar levels, or struggle with dairy tolerance, the paleo diet may be a suitable choice for you.
However, it is crucial to gradually introduce more variety into your eating habits. The Mediterranean diet is a fantastic option to consider for a lifelong and sustainable eating plan.”
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