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Tara’s Friday Bite – Exploring the Paleo Diet

Unless you are actually living in a cave, you have probably heard of the Paleo Diet – a.k.a. the Caveman Diet, Hunter-Gatherer Diet, Primal Diet, etc. The basic concept behind this way of eating is to mimic the food our hunter and gatherer ancestors ate. The idea is that many of the diseases that we are currently experiencing in our culture are enhanced by the relatively new introduction of grains, beans, dairy, and processed carbohydrates.

Here’s a look at what you would be eating on the Paleo Diet:

Can Eat

Can’t Eat

MeatChickenFishFruitVegetables (not including potatoes)Nuts (except for peanuts and cashews) GrainsBeansPotatoesDairySugarSalt 

This diet may seem quite restricting to some, and to others it’s the cleanest way to eat. Let’s explore the Pros and Cons:

Pros:  When followed correctly, the Paleo Diet can be extremely healthy. Although you are cutting out many food groups that have become mainstream in our culture, you can still get all of the important nutrients from what is found in the “Can Eat” food groups. By removing the grains and processed food from your diet, you are almost guaranteed to lose body fat as well as reduce the risk and symptoms associated with diabetes and high blood pressure.This diet may seem quite restricting to some, and to others it’s the cleanest way to eat. Let’s explore the Pros and Cons:

Cons:  The majority of the cons revolve around logistics. Let’s face it, we are very much a starchy carbohydrate-based culture (which isn’t necessarily a good thing), so the burden is going to be on you to prepare and think ahead. People also tend to focus more on the protein portion of this diet than the vegetables, which can lower their fiber intake. Remember, our ancestors spent much more of their time gathering than hunting!

Recommendations:  As I said earlier, the Paleo Diet can be an extremely healthy way of eating, so if you are interested, give it a try! Here are a few suggestions to make your experiment easier:

Make sure you are eating enough! When we eliminate any food group from our diet, we usually don’t replace it and tend to eat less. This may seem like a good thing, but if you go too low in calories you are going to start to have cravings and end up falling off the wagon. Make sure to set yourself up for success by eating enough!

Plan ahead. Always make sure to have a snack that fits your Paleo plan on you. This way if you find yourself in a situation where there isn’t anything on your diet available to eat or you’re just plain hungry, you can get something into you before your hunger takes control!

A special note for endurance athletes and fitness enthusiasts:

Although there are some elite athletes who have excelled on this type of a plan, many have a tough time ensuring their bodies are properly fueled for endurance activity. If you are training for an event, I suggest adding in whole grains, beans or potatoes ONLY to your post-workout meal. This will refuel your short-term energy stores and increase your recovery time.

I also suggest if you are sweating a lot that you add a little sodium to your diet. The typical Paleo Diet is around 700mg of sodium, which may be too low if you are losing a lot of sodium during your workouts. As long as you don’t have high blood pressure, don’t be afraid to add a little salt to your meals on intense training days!

Have questions about the Paelo Diet and if it’s right for you? Leave a Reply below and Tara will answer your question.


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Tara Coleman

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist in San Diego, CA. She blogs twice a month with “Tara’s Friday Bite.” Leave us your comments with ideas for future topics or email Tara directly

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