Take shiny elements of diets in moderation

By Chelsey Lindahl, RD, CD, wellness dietitian

The Paleo Diet has been steadily gaining traction in the health and fitness world for the past several years.

It recently ranked last on the U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Diets Overall” list for 2014 and has garnered attention from supporters and naysayers alike.

The big question that people often ask: Is the controversial Paleo Diet a healthful one?

Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer. The tricky piece around “diets” in general is that there is a lot of information to digest and that information is always open to interpretation. When examining a diet, it’s important to look at the big picture and not be swept away by smoke and mirrors.

Let’s take a closer look at Paleo.

The central focus of the Paleo Diet revolves around eating the way our ancestral hunter-gatherers did. Key components of the diet include the elimination of processed foods, grains, dairy, legumes and added sugars. In addition, emphasis is placed on the increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, meat, fish and poultry.

Benefits of the Paleo Diet are believed to include improved GI health, improved energy, improved mood and decreased risk for chronic disease. Unfortunately, there is currently limited science-based evidence to support benefits of the Paleo Diet, as the diet has not yet become focus of major research. However, with the diets increasing popularity, it’s likely we’ll learn more in coming years.

Supporters of the Paleo Diet, such as Diane Sanfillipino, Rob Wolff and Chris Kresser, believe that the Paleo Diet paves the way to optimal health.

However, the diet has faced criticism over concerns regarding potential nutritional deficiencies due to the elimination of grains and dairy. The diet has also faced criticism for its potentially high quantity of saturated fat, which has been shown to increases our risk for heart disease in past research.

Since there’s not much research to date, it’s hard to recommend Paleo for a client. It is also hard to say how the Paleo Diet stacks up in comparison to other popular diets like the Mediterranean Diet, which has long been revered for is heart-healthy benefits.

However, if you’re looking to improve your health, there are some great concepts that everyone can adopt from the Paleo Diet without jumping in head first.

These great concepts are the same principles I recommend to my clients on a regular basis. The include decreased consumption of processed foods and added sugars, and increased emphasis on a whole-foods based diet.

Be sure not to get caught up in some of the more “shiny” elements of the diet (including Paleo’s crowd pleasing dedication to bacon) and remember that key staples of the diet focus on the consumption of leafy greens, nuts, seeds and minimally processed, protein sources (e.g. grass-fed beef).

With any steps you take towards a healthier lifestyle, don’t forget the importance of moderation, balance and physical activity to round out your journey toward improved health.

The MultiCare Center for Healthy Living offers nutrition services for general wellness, sports, and weight management. Our registered dietitians are here to provide you with tools to help you reach your goals on your journey towards better health. For more information, visit


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