When it was recently reported that the term "Paleo" was the most searched diet term of 2013, we decided to take a harder look at what comprises this diet. Ostensibly featuring what a Paleolithic man and woman, i.e., hunter gatherers, would have eaten about 10,000 B.C, before the Agrarian Revolution, the Paleo is akin to Atkins but with ample produce.
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One reason for its popularity is its relative simplicity: Dos include grass-produced meats, fish and seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts and seeds, healthy oils (olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut). Don'ts include any processed food, grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, salt and vegetable oil. Another reason is that dieters are likely to see pretty fast results as processed foods are eliminated and the high protein and fiber keeps people satiated longer.
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Given its popularity, we wondered, how healthy and how sustainable is the diet? Kelly Pritchett, PhD, RD, CSSD, an assistant professor in sports nutrition at the University of Georgia, and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, gave us her opinion: "Paleo is based on some basic principles that may teach us to eat healthier, but let's face it--there are too many nutrient dense foods that are 'not allowed.'" She points to potatoes, beans/legumes, oats, barley, peanuts, and dairy as foods she thinks should be part of a healthy daily diet, in moderation, of course. As for whether it's appropriate for younger people or more active adults, Pritchett worries there aren't enough carbohydrates or calcium.
But, the proof may be in the high-calorie pudding: Adherents should know that the typical Paleo was not super model thin, weighing on average 160 pounds and standing 5'3".