Friend or Fad: Are These Trendy Diets Good for You?
Registered dietitian Lisa Muras weighs in on the pros and cons of five popular food regimens.
The Paleo Diet
What is it?
A diet based on foods that were supposedly consumed by humans in the Paleolithic age, Paleo puts a heavy emphasis on meat, fish and plants while cutting out dairy, grains, legumes and processed foods.
This diet includes reducing processed foods and refined sugar, which are associated with obesity, heart disease, elevated blood glucose and other chronic conditions. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommend that Americans consume less than 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugar. Following an eating pattern such as Paleo would help reduce these unnecessary calories.
Any diet that eliminates entire food groups—in this case, dairy and most carbohydrates—is suspect. Many people find it difficult to adhere to such restrictions long term, and omitting those foods can lead to nutritional deficiencies such as a lack of B vitamins (for example, folate, niacin and riboflavin), fiber, calcium and vitamin D. This diet demonizes all grains, even though current research indicates whole grains are associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cancers, respiratory and infectious diseases and diabetes, and have been shown to help reduce inflammation. It also forbids legumes, including beans, lentils and peas, which are associated with a reduced risk of obesity and chronic diseases. Whole grains and legumes also promote bowel regularity, increased satiety and more variety in eating patterns.
In today’s society it is not possible to eat exactly as our ancestors ate (and who knows what they really ate?). A much more sedentary lifestyle, a high-tech food supply and lack of wild game further complicate this notion. Pick and choose some elements of this diet, such as adding more fruits and vegetables, but ignore unfounded claims regarding complex carbohydrates.