How the Paleo Diet Works

Paleo Diet Menu and Risks

You shouldn't be surprised to find a lack of packaged foods on the Paleo Diet menu. There were no convenience stores or super-sized grocery chains in the Stone Age, and if you're one of the 31 percent of Americans who eats more packaged foods than fresh foods in your daily diet, it may be a bit of an adjustment [source: Fairfield].

Foods that are part of the Paleo Diet include the following:

  • Lean red meats, game meats and organ meats
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Leafy and cruciferous vegetables
  • Root vegetables
  • Mushrooms
  • Fruits
  • Nuts

And in small amounts, dried fruits, honey and some oils (including coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil and animal fats) are allowed.

What's not allowed when following the diet?

  • Grains (including popular cereal grains such as barley, corn, oats, rice, rye and wheat)
  • Beans or legumes
  • Dairy products
  • Salt
  • Refined sugar
  • Refined fats
  • Canned or processed meats, as well as fatty meats (sorry, no bacon)
  • Soda and fruit juices

While those who follow the Paleo Diet may sing its praises, not everyone would recommend this way of eating. Some doubt the diet's overall and long-term nutritional health benefits. While it may be beneficial in reducing our risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and some inflammatory conditions, skeptics point out that it doesn't offer balanced nutrition, and nutritional deficiencies raise our risk of developing health problems. Let's look at the restriction of dairy as one avenue toward nutritional deficiencies. Because the diet restricts dairy, it can be low in calcium and vitamin D (although dark leafy greens are a source of calcium and fatty fish contains vitamin D). And if you're not careful, long-term, high-protein diets may also be too heavy in saturated fats -- those are animal fats -- that can lead to heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

While the Paleo Diet has pros and cons, it's important to remember that the best diet for you is one that's developed for you and your specific needs. Always talk to your health care provider before starting a new nutritional or weight loss program.

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