The paleo diet is a way of eating that only includes foods that our primal ancestors ate (with some exceptions to the rule).
When this diet first became mainstream in the early 2010s, it was all the rage. While its popularity has died down a bit, this diet is still extremely popular amongst health and fitness enthusiasts.
The paleo diet is a whole food diet based on foods that were available to our paleolithic era ancestors. The diet includes fruits, vegetables, grass fed meats, seafoods, nuts, seeds, and other healthy fats. To help you get a better idea of the diet, here is a full paleo food list.
This diet is popular because it draws a clear line between what you can and cannot eat, making it straightforward to follow.
To help you decide if this diet is right for your clients, here are some of the pros and cons associated with it.
The first pro of a paleo diet is that it's a great way to consume high-quality foods. All of the foods in this diet are whole foods that come straight from nature. By simply following the food list or a paleo meal plan, you will completely substitute packaged foods for high-quality whole food sources.
(Do you love health and fitness? A career as a fitness coach could be for you. Download our free curriculum guide and learn how you could create a career in the industry with our coaching certificate program.)2) Indirect Elimination Protocol
The second pro of the diet is that it's indirectly an elimination protocol. Since it forces you only to eat whole foods and remove highly processed foods from your diet, it removes the consumption of potentially inflammatory foods such as grains, gluten, dairy, and soy.
This allows observation of how digestion and general health feels without these foods, as well as how you feel when you reintroduce them.3) Forces You to Think About Food Choices
Similar to the first pro, this diet makes you think critically about food quality and sourcing. After a strict paleo diet, you will look closely at all of the food you consume.
The diet is a great way to highlight how prevalent highly-processed foods are, but how they can be avoided and consumed in moderation. It also encourages shopping at local farmer’s markets and seeking out sustainably sourced foods.
Since the diet is so strict, in the long term, it can minimize variation in your diet. It’s easy to find a couple of foods and meals that work well for you and eat them for months on end. But this lack of variation can lead to nutrient deficiencies and boredom.2) Not Personalized
The second con is that it is not personalized. It's just a general framework for meal plans to follow.
It doesn't know your activity level, food sensitivities, preferences, or genetic attributes, and therefore, it is not as effective as a personalized plan. You can learn more about personalized nutrition here.3) Can Lead to Dogmatic Thinking
The third con is that the diet can lead to dogmatic thinking. This diet draws clear lines between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
While this makes it easy to stick to, you can quickly find yourself going over the top to avoid all foods not considered paleo. This can lead to adverse social outcomes when you're out to dinner with friends and family or in a situation where you have limited options.
The paleo diet is a great way to learn about food quality. If you’re new to health and fitness, want to live a healthy lifestyle, or have followed an IIFYM (If it fits your macros) diet for an extended period, this diet may be a great approach to high quality nutrition. Just remember to keep the cons in mind when implementing this diet as a nutrition tool.
As with all diets, the goal should never be to eat a strict paleo diet for the long term. The goal is to find your highest order nutrition, that supports your mental acuity, daily function, and longevity.
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