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The Paleo Diet Plan: What It Will (And Won’t) Do for You

Author: Nicholas Gregory, MA, CSCS

Unless you have been out foraging for wild vegetables or chasing a herd of buffalo, you have probably heard of the Paleo diet!

The Paleo diet is a form of eating that looks to take us back to the way our ancestors ate over 10,000 years ago. The Paleo diet is based on the idea that our food choices and subsequent health issues have developed in the last hundred years based on the industrialization and processing of food. As farmers and processors of grains, legumes (mainly beans), and dairy became leaders in the American food industry, Paleo diet proponents, hypothesized that our body was unable to adapt to the change in food quality and type, thus leading to an increased incidence of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Although well intentioned, we believe the Paleo diet misses the mark for sustainable change. Let’s dive into a few reasons why!

Grains and legumes and dairy, oh my!

To transport followers of the Paleo diet back to ancestral eating styles, the Paleo diet encourages followers to focus on unprocessed foods including fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, lean meat, fish, and oils. In doing so, followers of the diet are encouraged to avoid grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, potatoes, and any other highly processed foods. Although a whole food approach with limited processed foods is healthy and can be beneficial, cutting any food group out entirely can lead to negative outcomes and an unbalanced relationship with food.

Despite the restriction of food groups of the Paleo diet, there have been a number of studies looking at the efficacy and benefits that this style of eating may offer. These studies have demonstrated improvements in weight loss and satiety which may show some benefit in following a more whole food approach to eating. In reality, the Paleo diet is a more restrictive whole food diet.

It is also important to consider that even the whole foods we now eat, are not the same foods our ancestors ate. Many of the staple vegetables, fruits, and animals our paleolithic fore-fathers relied on, no longer exist. Can we eat truly paleo if we are eating different foods altogether?

True hunter-gatherer

True hunter-gatherers would strictly forage, hunt, and find the foods they ate. As you can imagine, this was sometimes a difficult task, which meant that our paleolithic ancestors may not have always had food to eat. This reality calls into question the foundation of the Paleo diet as most of us do not have to forage or hunt for our foods. Were the positive health outcomes of our paleolithic ancestors based on their food choices? Or at times, the lack of food choices?  

As humans, we adapt, evolve, and survive. The argument that our body has been unable to evolve to the current food process lacks scientific backing. The more likely culprit of our increased incidence of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease is the fact that these sugary processed foods are cheaper, faster, and typically taste better. Demonizing whole grains, potatoes, or milk can create unhealthy views on foods that in moderation can be healthy and beneficial.

Instead of cutting all of these foods out, shouldn’t we strive for a more balanced whole food approach, that also allows for some grains and starches? We don’t know about you, but we feel like our paleolithic ancestors would be about some of Noom’s Oatmeal 101 recipes.

Noom: So easy, a caveman can do it

At Noom, we understand the importance and health implications of a whole food approach to eating. We also understand the importance of balance and not demonizing a specific food group. The Paleo diet may help you lose weight or improve other health factors, but is it impossible to achieve the same outcomes while still enjoying some dairy or grains? Regardless of what our ancestors ate, any diet that cuts out complete food groups or restricts eating, can lead to all-or-nothing thinking and an unhealthy view of food.

Tired of restricting? Tired of chasing buffalo? Want to find your best approach to diet and a healthy life?
Give Noom a try! Try it risk free for 14 days and let your personalized Goal Specialist help you find balance to enjoy your favorite foods and continue working towards your goals!