The paleo diet, which gained popularity a few years ago, advocates eating the same foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors allegedly ate thousands of years ago. Is it the right food plan for you? We spoke with nutrition experts to learn about the pros and cons of this diet to help you make your decision. Check out what they have to say.
“Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, seafood, lean meat, and healthy oils are part of the paleo diet. Processed foods, grains, dairy products, legumes, artificial sugar, vegetable oils, butter, and trans-fat are prohibited on the diet. This food plan is based on eating whole foods and avoiding all manufactured items. This way of eating can help you lose weight while also providing a number of health benefits,” says nutritionist Dr Rohini Patil.
7 pros and cons of a paleo diet
Helps weight loss
The paleo diet includes nutrient-rich whole foods and eliminates processed ones. Recently, a number of studies have found that the paleo diet aids weight loss. “Paleo diet works by removing high-fat and processed foods with little nutritional value but a lot of calories. It emphasises eating fruits and vegetables, which are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre that have high satiety value, thereby preventing weight gain,” remarks Shraddha, nutritionist, Gold's Gym.
Reduces inflammation in the body
Eating low carbohydrates, low glycemic index foods helps prevent excess inflammation. “Inflammation in the body raises the risk of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary disease. Antioxidants abound in the paleo diet. Antioxidants work to prevent free radicals from causing cellular damage by ‘deactivating’ these molecules. This reduces chronic inflammation and the development of age-related diseases,” states nutrition coach Eshanka Wahi.
Gluten and dairy-free
People who are gluten and dairy-free can also follow the paleo diet. “The paleo diet is a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet that improves health by providing balanced and complete nutrition while avoiding most processed and refined foods as well as empty calories. Additionally, many people feel a lot better eating paleo because it eliminates common allergens such as gluten and dairy. Moreover, this food plan is ideal for you if you follow a gluten or dairy-free diet,” adds Eshanka Wahi.
4. Improves gut health
“An advantage of a paleo diet is that it helps improve gut health. A paleo diet consists of wild foods that have a good number of natural enzymes, which strengthens the gut. Also, typically, this food is also free from pesticides and GMO mutation of seeds,”
Overall health benefits
Research shows that the paleo diet could help improve heart health and enhance blood sugar control. “With the aim to take us back to our old healthy ways of living and to cut ties with junk food, the paleo diet helps combat lifestyle disorders such as obesity and hypertension, which are risk factors for heart disease. Some scientific studies also claim that the diet improves insulin action, thus helping manage blood sugar,” adds Sapna Kamdar, nutrition expert, Urban Platter.
“Since being on a paleo diet requires one to eliminate grains, refined sugar, and soya, which are often inflammatory for the body, when these are eliminated, one feels lighter and more energetic and can lose weight as well. Moreover, paleo is great for managing lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiac diseases, thyroid and hormonal imbalances as well,” says Pooja Rajpal, nutritionist and founder of 62 Vegan Street.
Eliminates certain food groups
The paleo diet excludes major food groups such as grains and dairy, as well as other nutritious foods such as legumes. “While it is still possible to meet your nutritional needs without the excluded food groups, it will be more difficult. For instance, when you eliminate dairy from your diet, you must prioritise other calcium sources. Complete elimination of food families is not something I recommend, therefore making paleo a lifestyle could be very hard,” adds Wahi.
“It can be difficult to stick to the paleo diet as it eliminates the intake of major food groups, which are extremely nutritious and provide us with the much-needed complex carbohydrates. Also, vegetarians may find the diet difficult to follow as they don’t have a good number of plant-based options to meet their protein needs,” says Aman Puri, nutrition expert and founder of Nutrition Daily.
“The paleo diet is not sustainable as a lifestyle. Whole grains and legumes are definitely required for optimal functioning of the body. Their nutritive value is essential for a healthy lifestyle,” remarks chef Raveena Taurani, founder of Yogisattva, a plant-based cafe.
Usually more costly and time consuming
As the paleo diet includes foods such as lean meats and fish, this diet is typically costly. Furthermore, the diet is also time consuming due to the time and effort required to constantly check which foods to eat and which ones to avoid.