What a nutritionist really thinks about the Paleo diet

Your bestie credits going Paleo (aka “the caveman diet”) for her newfound weight loss and surge in energy. But is ditching grains, legumes, processed foods and most dairy actually healthy? We tapped nutritionist Melissa Kelly to find out.

What are some of the potential benefits of the diet? “The Paleo diet seeks out fresh fruits and veggies and nuts, while recommending organic and grass-fed proteins. This may lead to a decreased intake of artificial flavors, additives and chemicals. Also, a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is often associated with a higher daily intake of dietary fiber.”

And what about the downsides? “Following a restrictive diet that eliminates whole food groups can lead to deficiencies in calcium or vitamin D. And having a very high intake of protein may lead to kidney issues or a change in blood lipid levels.”

So, would you recommend the Paleo diet? “While the increased fruit and veggie intake is always a plus for overall health and wellness, I do not support a diet plan that eliminates full food groups. This emphasis on restriction and elimination can lead to disordered eating. In addition, health professionals agree that there is no resounding evidence or research to support all the health benefits that Paleo supporters tout.”

Bottom line: While the Paleo diet includes nutrient-dense whole foods and nixes many highly processed foods (including those with added salt, sugar and unhealthy fats), its restrictive nature makes it a difficult eating plan to sustain long-term. And while anecdotally, the Paleo diet may help some people shed pounds, there are very few large, high-quality studies to support this. Still interested in giving the diet a go? “I always recommend that people considering Paleo consult both their physician and a registered dietitian to evaluate potential risks,” says Kelly. Sounds like sound advice to us.

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