What is the Paleo Diet?

Like with any new diet theory, there are pros and cons to this way of eating

Healthy Food

Question: People keep raving to me about the Paleo Diet. I’ve done a little research and have found studies both for and somewhat against this diet. Is this another fad diet or is it legitimate?                  -Jake

Answer: The Paleo Diet is certainly making waves in the health, nutrition, and foodie worlds. It all started when Dr. Loren Cordain, professor at Colorado State University, first published The Paleo Diet in 2002. He proposed we eat like our ancestors did over 10,000 years ago in order to decrease risks of modern-era, Westernized illnesses, like heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, while also improving overall health and athletic performance. This means eating anything hunter-gatherers would have found or caught back then: game meats and other grass-fed meats, fish and seafood, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and certain oils (olive, avocado, coconut, and others). It also means eliminating grains, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), dairy products, potatoes, salt, refined sugar, processed vegetable oils, and other processed foods.

Like with any new diet theory, there are pros and cons to this way of eating:


  • Fruits and vegetables are encouraged—and these food groups offer many health benefits, including great amounts of fiber, to keep you full and your digestive system running smoothly, and potassium, for blood pressure control.
  • Added sugars and sodium are greatly reduced or eliminated, following recommendations from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which help to reduce risk of weight gain, heart disease, and hypertension.
  • Exercise is encouraged, as our prehistoric ancestors were regularly active hunting and gathering.


  • Whole grains, legumes, and dairy products are eliminated, reducing the availability of fiber and other healthful nutrients from whole grains and beans, along with calcium and vitamin D, important for bone health, from dairy—making vitamin/mineral supplementation necessary to prevent deficiencies.
  • The diet is likely hard to sustain and pricey, as so much of our food supply consists of grains, legumes, processed fruits and vegetables, and meats not necessarily from grass-fed animals.
  • This diet cannot be altered to fit a vegetarian diet, which can be a healthful diet choice, if properly planned.
  • Only small, limited studies have been conducted on this diet, so there is no proof yet whether this diet does, in fact, promote weight loss or reduce the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and/or other chronic diseases.

Overall, there are things to be learned from the Paleo Diet, like focusing on unprocessed, whole foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for optimal nutritional value without extra salt, sodium, or other additives. Lean meats can certainly be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet, though red meat consumption should be limited to 18 oz. per week and fish should be consumed at least twice weekly. Unlike the Paleo Diet recommends, however, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and legumes should be included in your daily diet to meet nutrient needs and promote optimal health.