Toying with the idea of swapping clean eating for paleo? We turn to the experts for the low-down on the paleo diet. 

What the experts say about the paleo diet - Women's Health and Fitness Magazine

 

When gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin published his book The Stone Age Diet, in 1975 he praised the food habits of our Palaeolithic ancestors and the health benefits of eating that way. Over the next few decades, more authors published paleo-praising books and papers until 2002, when The Paleo Diet book by Loren Cordain was released and the paleo movement gained momentum. Followers who swear by paleo health benefits eat mostly protein, fats, nuts and non-starchy vegetables and don’t touch dairy, grains and sugar. Though some experts say nature designed our bodies to eat paleo style, other experts disagree, saying that paleo man ate wild, lean meat only once every few weeks and mostly lived in a half-starved state, dying around the age of 25. 

So what do the experts say?

Perks: On the plus side, the paleo diet encourages people to avoid junk food, sugar, salt and alcohol, which is a win-win for health. “Followers also eat more protein, which can help you feel full for longer, so it may aid short-term weight loss,” says Melbourne-based accredited practising dietitian Melanie McGrice. “However, the rapid weight loss is often due to eating lower carbs, which helps you burn glycogen stores, so you quickly lose fluid. The trouble is that most people find it difficult to stay off grains and tend to regain the weight when they return to less restricted eating.”

Potential Problems: Studies show that a higher intake of foods such as bacon and red meat, both eaten by many paleo followers, can increase the risk of bowel cancer. “Paleo eaters should also ensure they don’t eat too much red meat or over-consume foods such as coconut milk/oils, as they are high in saturated fats, which have been linked to heart disease and stroke if over-consumed,” says McGrice. 

Cutting out dairy foods could contribute to the development of osteoporosis (brittle bones) down the track. A grain and legume amnesty could also backfire as low-carb diets have been linked with low mood. Carbohydrates clear a path for the precursors to serotonin and dopamine to cross the blood-brain barrier, which explains reductions in wellbeing reported in some studies. A dearth of grain foods, which are key sources of fibre in a balanced diet, may also cause constipation, McGrice warns. “Long term, it can increase risks of bowel cancer, heart disease and diabetes.” For this reason, paleo eaters should prioritise vegetables over meat. “Not just green vegetables, but those high in soluble fibre, such as starchy foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes and bananas. Their soluble fibre binds to cholesterol and helps remove it from the body.”

Want to know more about vegan, paleo and gluten free diets? We chat to nutrition influencers in the July 2016 edition of Women's Health and Fitness Magazine for all their tips and experiences. Get your hands on a copy today.