Metabolic Health

Paleo Diet and Metabolic Health: Does it Help?

Lienna May

October 19, 2022

Metabolic health refers to the effective functioning of body processes by having optimal serum glucose levels, cholesterol, insulin concentrations, lipid profiles, and blood pressure. The five metabolic health markers are: blood sugar, triglycerides levels, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and waist circumference. Metabolic health helps maintain a sustainable life, prevents the risk of metabolic diseases, and improves the quality of life. 

Recently, there has been a sudden spike in metabolic health disorders such as metabolic syndrome, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and fatty liver diseases. Factors responsible for the sudden increase of metabolic disorders are associated with people’s diet, behaviour, lack of physical exercise, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, age, and gender. 

Foods high in saturated fats and carbohydrates, sweetened beverages, and highly processed foods can lead to obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and insulin resistance. A diet containing high saturated fat and carbohydrate content with low fibre content can be detrimental to your health. In addition, increased consumption of sweetened beverages, carbonated drinks, and processed and high sodium foods.

It can alter metabolic responses leading to abdominal obesity and insulin resistance. In addition, a high intake of refined and processed foods can lead to increased metabolic abnormalities. Therefore, the best way to stay healthy is by implementing new, healthy habits. 

Calorie counting is a compelling method to cut down on weight. However, it is essential to consume nutrient-dense foods. In addition, when you lose a few kilos, you can easily gain it back if you don’t change your eating habits. Usually, it piles up the lost weight by eating more. Therefore, diet plans do not lead to long-term weight loss.

How to Know if Your Metabolic Health is at Optimum Level?

Eating nutrient-dense foods can provide your body’s nutrients to thrive and stay healthy. In addition, eating a balanced meal will help you balance your blood sugar and avoid huge spikes. Now, if we eat mindfully and pay attention to how we feel after every meal or physical activity we undertake, we will be able to identify specific foods that make us feel too tired and full. 

A simple way to understand your body’s response to blood glucose levels and metabolic health is to check your current weight. If you are outside the healthy range, you might have metabolic dysfunction. In that case, one can subscribe to a HealthifyPRO 2.0. You’ll have a consultation with a health and fitness coach and will be able to share your current health goals. Your coaches will assess your blood work reports, including over 80 metabolic markers, to help determine which foods and lifestyle factors you should implement. In addition, you will wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) for 14 days to determine the best foods for your metabolic health. Finally, your health coach would be able to create a personalised meal plan based on your glucose levels.

Improving Your Weight Loss Effort and Metabolic Health

Proper nutrition helps combat insulin resistance, obesity, liver diseases, PCOS, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other metabolic disorders.  

The Paleo diet is a diet plan based on the foods commonly eaten in the stone age. In other words, it is a modern interpretation of humans’ diet during the Palaeolithic era. It is also known as the caveman diet, hunter-gatherer diet, or stone-age diet. The diet consists of high protein, moderate fat, low carbohydrates (limiting high glycemic index carbohydrates), high fibre, and low sodium and refined sugar. Furthermore, the diet contains many monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as DHA and EPA. 

The Mediterranean diet, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop hypertension), and Nordic diet include fruits, plants, whole grains, dairy, vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. They help reduce the individual markers of metabolic syndrome.

A plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, along with a moderate intake of fish and dairy products, is considered the best to improve metabolic health. A fibre-rich diet may help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, a high intake of fibre-rich foods nourishes your gut bacteria.

Fruits and vegetables contain biologically active phytochemicals such as polyphenols. They exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. Also, these phytochemicals may help combat systemic oxidative stress, a crucial factor in obesity and metabolic syndrome. 

The HealthifyMe Note

A healthy weight loss and metabolic health depend significantly on your eating habits and exercise routines. The paleolithic diet focuses on eating lean meats and seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds. In addition, it is a high protein, low-carb diet that may improve your metabolic health and aids in weight loss. However, before following any diet, it is best to consult a nutritionist to understand the diet’s potential effect on your body.

Benefits of Good Metabolic Health

  • Stable and sustained energy throughout the day
  • Sharp memory and learning ability
  • Sustained exercise endurance
  • Increased basal metabolic rate (fast fat-burning ability and healthy weight)
  • Improved mental health (stable mood, decreased anxiety, depression)
  • Delays the progression of ageing signs (wrinkles, fine lines) and improves skin quality
  • Enhances fertility and sexual health
  • A high-functioning immune system
  • Lower risk of chronic metabolic diseases

Palaeolithic Diet

The palaeolithic diet emphasises increased consumption of lean meat, fish, shellfish, fruit, vegetables, eggs, nuts, and seeds. It excludes grains, legumes, cereals, dairy, ultra-processed foods, refined sugar and grains. Instead, it includes various vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, unprocessed meat, seafood, and fish. It emphasises eating local and seasonal foods with beverages such as water, herbal tea, coffee and smoothies. The paleo diet is relatively high in vitamin B-complex, D, E, K, coenzyme Q10, alpha-lipoic acid, polyphenols, carotenoids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and minerals such as selenium, magnesium and zinc.

The Paleo diet typically resembles a low carbohydrate diet. The average energy intake in the palaeolithic diet varies from 1344 ±521 kcal to 2079 kcal. A typical palaeolithic diet gets 35% of its energy from fats, 35% energy from carbohydrates, and 30% energy from protein. This diet provides more fibre, up to 45-100 g, than a regular diet. Dieticians do not emphasise calorie counting and portion sizes in this diet.

Association between Paleo Diet and Metabolic Health

Palaeolithic diet shows favourable changes in risk factors of metabolic health such as weight, waist circumference, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c), blood pressure, glucose tolerance, insulin secretion, insulin sensitivity, and lipid profiles.

A study suggests that the paleolithic diet effectively improved waist circumference, triglycerides, blood pressure (systolic and diastolic), HDL cholesterol, and fasting blood sugar. The paleolithic diet is more effective than the other randomised-controlled diet. It reduces waist circumference, triglyceride levels, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and fasting blood sugar. Furthermore, the study showed a more significant reduction in fasting blood sugar. In addition, there was an increase in HDL cholesterol levels, indicating a decreased metabolic disease risk. The palaeolithic diet may effectively help reduce body weight and metabolic disease risk.

Another study found that a paleolithic diet decreased lipogenesis-promoting factors, improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced triglycerides levels. It reduces the risk of all-cause mortality and oxidative stress in people with metabolic health conditions. 

A study suggests that in short-term conditions, the paleo diet can improve fat mass, insulin sensitivity, glycemic control, and leptin levels in patients who have type-2 diabetes. 

Foods to Eat

  • Fresh and frozen fruits: berries (blackberries, blueberries, strawberries), olives, apples, melon, grapes, banana, citrus fruits, peaches, and plums 
  • Vegetables, root vegetables (sweet potatoes, cassava), mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, kale, and spinach
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pine nuts, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds
  • Lean meats, especially grass-fed and sustainably sourced meat or wild game
  • Wild-caught fish and shellfish, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel, and albacore tuna
  • Eggs, seafood, and organ meat such as liver
  • Oils from fruits and nuts, such as olive oil, walnut oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and rapeseed oil
  • Herbs supplements, algae, yeast, chocolate
  • Coffee and tea with some plant-based unsweetened nut milk or raw honey and maple syrup
  • Fresh and dried spices

Consume the Following Foods in Moderation

  • Dried fruits
  • Salted seafood
  • Fat meat (red meat)
  • Potatoes
  • Cured meats
  • Red wine

Foods to Avoid

  • Whole grains and cereals such as wheat, oats, maise, rice, and barley
  • Legumes, such as beans, lentils, peanuts, and peas
  • Milk and dairy products 
  • Refined grains and sugar 
  • Refined sugar and salt
  • Canned foods
  • Candies, ice cream, sorbet, soft drinks, juices, and syrups
  • Highly processed foods
  • Alcohol
  • Refined vegetable oil such as canola oil, soybean oil, grapeseed oil, and cottonseed oil
  • Artificial sweeteners and flavouring agents

Potential Benefits of The Paleo Diet

  • The Paleo diet encourages a high intake of fruits and vegetables that reduce blood pressure, LDL cholesterol levels, and the risk of congestive heart disease and stroke. 
  • High consumption of fruits and vegetables can provide many essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Moreover, it improves the immune system and repairs cellular damage because of the antioxidant properties found in micronutrients.
  • This diet limits sodium intake and restricts the intake of refined carbohydrates. As a result, it helps lower blood pressure. In addition, it may help reduce the risk of developing metabolic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disorders. 
  • It may help decrease the inflammation markers and oxidative stress affecting mortality and morbidity in people. Eating fruits and vegetables in a paleo diet increases phytochemical levels and reduces inflammation. 
  • Study indicates that a palaeolithic diet lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, type-2 diabetes, cancer, acne vulgaris, and myopia. 
  • Weight management: A palaeolithic diet can support healthy weight loss. Incorporating the paleo diet can help improve the free leptin index, significantly reducing waist circumference. Weight management is effective in this diet because of the high intake of fibres and low intake of dairy products and refined sugars. 

A study shows that the paleo diet increases the secretion of incretin and anorectic gut hormones that help suppress the appetite. The dietary pattern of this diet improves satiety levels and causes lower energy intake aids in weight loss. The energy density is low because of the high intake of fruits, vegetables, and protein-rich foods. Also, it emphasises water intake, which also helps boost metabolism. Furthermore, this diet limits refined sugar intake, further preventing constant cravings leading to weight management and enhancing metabolic functioning. Low-fat dairy decreases waist circumference and BMI, which helps reduce the risk of developing metabolic diseases. 

Body weight reduction significantly decreases fasting insulin concentrations. Thus, body weight is an essential factor affecting fasting insulin levels. Insulin resistance is dependent on fasting glucose and insulin levels. Insulin resistance is associated with obesity, altered lipid profile, hypertension, cancer, and autoimmune disease. Studies show that a dietary pattern focusing mainly on meat, fish, egg, vegetables, fruits, berries, and nuts effectively improves insulin resistance predictors. 

Safety Concerns Regarding Paleo Diet

Various concerns regarding the palaeolithic diet are as follows:

  • It may increase the risk of deficiencies such as calcium and some vitamins if you do not eat these nutrients consistently from the allowed foods or a vitamin supplement. For example, one small, short-term intervention study of healthy participants showed a 53% decrease from baseline calcium intake after following a Paleo diet for three weeks. The calcium levels are below the recommended dietary intake in people adapting to the paleo diet. In addition, high protein further reduces calcium levels by increasing its loss in urine. 
  • Low calcium levels increase the risk of bone mineralisation, osteoporosis, osteopenia, and other bone-related disorders. 
  • The diet focuses on fresh foods and consistent planning, preparing, and cooking the meals. It can be challenging for people with busy lifestyles and less cooking experience. 
  • Fresh foods such as meat, fish, and seafood are costly compared to processed food sources. Therefore, it is not feasible for everyone to purchase these foods. You can primarily obtain the protein content in this diet from meat intake. However, a high intake of red meat can increase certain health risks, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. High protein intake can also increase the risk of developing kidney-related disorders. 
  • The exclusion of whole grains and legumes in the paleo diet can reduce the consumption of fibre and can increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. It can also lead to bloating and constipation. 
  • The paleo diet limits salt intake and dairy, increasing the risk of developing iodine deficiency. 

The HealthifyMe Note

The paleo diet discourages the intake of legumes, whole grains, and dairy, which provides excellent health benefits. Hence, it increases the risk of essential nutrient deficiencies such as fibre, vitamin D, calcium, thiamin, riboflavin, and iron deficiency. 

Preventive measures to follow while on a Paleo Diet

In the palaeolithic period, our ancestors emphasised eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, seafood, fish, and meat while excluding whole grains, legumes, dairy products, and processed foods. As a result, our bodies have adapted with time. The notable adaptations are amylase and lactase mutations. Amylase is the enzyme used to digest the starch from grain. At the same time, lactase is an enzyme that breaks down milk and dairy products into simple energy forms, i.e. glucose and galactose. 

The long-term intervention of a paleo diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies such as calcium and vitamin D, leading to osteoporosis, osteopenia, rickets, and bone mineralisation. Therefore, modifying the palaeolithic diet according to our body’s needs is essential to prevent potential nutrient deficiencies and possible metabolic health risks. 

Calcium and vitamin D dietary supplements are essential if you limit your dietary intake of dairy products and other calcium sources. Supplements of calcium and vitamin D help maintain bone mineral density and improve bone strength and other metabolic processes. 

The palaeolithic diet contains high saturated fat due to increased protein intake from animal food sources. It can later increase cholesterol levels, enhancing the risk of cardiovascular disorders. Eating protein and fats, especially saturated fats, above recommended levels can increase the risk of kidney, heart disorders, and cancer. 

Modifying the paleo diet by adding whole grains, lentils, legumes, beans, and low or non-fat dairy products has several health benefits, such as preventing nutritional deficiencies. Focus on the quality of the food product instead of quantity.

The paleo diet focuses on local, sustainable, organic, non-GMO foods and grass-fed meat options. However, it may not be accessible and feasible for every individual. Therefore, it is essential to find alternatives to those food options and modify them according to the needs of an individual. 


The palaeolithic diet can be considered an initial stage of a healthy dietary regimen. It regulates the markers responsible for optimal metabolic health. Finding balance in the dietary plan is essential for the body’s normal functioning. Also, the Paleo diet allows the intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, and fish products. On the other hand, it restricts the intake of dairy, whole grains and legumes. Avoiding their intake can lead to various nutritional deficiencies such as calcium and vitamin D. 

The limiting nature of this diet can be challenging to follow for long-term interventions. Healthy planning is the key to a balanced intake of nutrients and preventing nutrient deficiencies and other health risks. It is essential to consult a professional before adding a paleo diet to your dietary regime to understand its do’s and don’t, merits and demerits.

About the Author

Received Master’s Degree in Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport - one of the most advanced scientific and evidence-based nutrition programs in the US. Lienna is also board-certified in Clinical Nutrition (CNS) by the American Nutrition Association and a licensed clinical dietician/nutritionist in the State of Florida. She is also certified by Yale University in 'The Science of Well-Being.' "I help my clients uncover the root causes behind their symptoms, understand their motivations, and help them break down big goals into manageable steps! My passion is to share the power of food and lifestyle as a form of medicine."

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