The Truth About the Paleo Diet

By Erin DeMito, R.D., L.D.N.

According to a recent report released by the U.S. News & World Report, the Paleo diet might not be as amazing as some think.

Every year, the U.S. News & World Report ranks the best diets based on a number of factors, including how easy it is to follow, its nutritional value, its contribution to weight loss and its ability to help protect against diabetes and heart disease.

How did it rank?

ckhs-stock-images-30The Paleo diet, which has developed a massive following over the last couple of years, particularly among the CrossFit crowd, promotes clean and healthy eating. But does it live up to its hype? Unfortunately for its fans, the Paleo diet ranked last on the list.

For those unfamiliar with the popular diet, it’s all about eating like the hunters-and-gathers of the Paleolithic era (between 2.6 million and 10,000 years ago). This means your diet should only consist of fruits, vegetables and animal protein. Foods you can’t eat include anything with sugar, grains, or legumes—all products from the agricultural era.

As it turns out, there are some great benefits to eating like one of your ancestors. Those who follow the Paleo diet consume more protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals than the average individual. At the same time, you’ll eat less carbohydrates, sodium, unhealthy fats and foods that generally have a high glycemic index (which pass through the body quickly and can spike blood sugar levels).

Why did it rank last?

731630_95870917According to the report, the Paleo diet is too restricting for most people to stick with for the long-term. It also limits essential nutrients found in grains and legumes. Additionally, the report authors write that it’s too difficult to tell if the diet contributes to weight loss and if it prevents or controls diabetes or cardiovascular issues. If anything, consuming such a high quantity of meat (if its not lean) can contribute to heart problems.

While this doesn’t mean the diet is unhealthy—there are some diets that didn’t even rank at all—it does raise concern over how effective it really is.

Which diet plans made the top spots?

ckhs-stock-images-172The Mediterranean Diet ranked number four, followed by the Mayo Clinic Diet and the TLC diet. The number one spot–for the fourth year in a row–went to the DASH diet plan. DASH’s nutritional completeness, overall safety, focus on cardiovascular health, ability to prevent or control diabetes and its weight loss benefits have made it a consistent favorite among experts.

If you’re following a diet plan, how can you be sure it’s not only safe, but provides you with all the essential nutrients? First and foremost, be cautious about any diets that are severely restrictive or remove entire food groups. Instead, choose a plan that focuses on eating all whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains and lean proteins. If you have questions or are looking for more personalized guidance, considering meeting with a Registered Dietitian, as they have the education and training to provide quality nutritional advice. In addition, if you’re following any diet plan, remember to regularly check-in with your doctor to ensure you’re getting all the nutrition you need.

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