Paleo Diet Pros and Cons – A Simple Guide

Parul Dube

August 10, 2022

In this evolving world, the vast majority have been suffering from various severe health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, due to the modern way of eating. Therefore, a nutritious and balanced diet is the key to maintaining ideal weight and optimal health.

The premise behind the paleo diet is to replace the current Western diet with what hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. The paleo diet is one of the popular diets nowadays that needs commitment, planning, and preparation from one’s side, to attain the desired result. If you’re a beginner, there is a brief guide to following the paleo diet. 

Paleo Diet: An Introduction

Paleo or Palaeolithic diet often called the ‘caveman diet’, is a diet modelled on what our ancestors used to eat. It resembles how our ancestors ate thousands of years ago, during the Palaeolithic period. It was first developed by Loren Cardian, a PhD researcher at Colorado State University, in the 1970s.

The diet plan focuses on removing foods from your plate that cause poor digestion, including dairy products and processed sugars, present in the modern era.

The primary objective of the paleo diet is to take people back to the old healthy ways of living and combat lifestyle disorders, including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.

Paleo Diet: Foods to Eat

The following foods are allowed on the paleo diet:

  • Fresh vegetables: Bell peppers, Broccoli, carrots, garlic, onions, sweet potatoes
  • Fruits: Avocados, apples, berries, bananas, lemons, limes, melons
  • Animal-based products: Grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, seafood, eggs
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, pine nuts, pistachios
  • Healthy oils: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, balsamic vinegar, macadamia oil
  • Drinks: Almond milk, coconut milk, tea, freshly made fruit juice
  • Spices: Basil, Garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, unsweetened coconut flakes, dark chocolate

The HealthifyMe Note

The paleo focuses on increasing the intake of whole foods, fruits and vegetables, proteins and healthy fats. So, naturally, it includes most of the meat and seafood. However, the paleo diet aims to have more sustainably-caught seafood and grass-fed beef. 

Paleo Diet: Foods to Avoid

The paleo could be a significant step for those who want to take a sensible approach to losing weight. However, it is also required to eliminate certain good groups. Paleo critics point out that legumes are not allowed because of their high lectin and phytic acid content. A strict paleo diet eliminates dairy products. However, some paleo eaters choose dairy products with lower content of lactose and casein. 

The foods to avoid in the paleo diet include:

  • Grains and glutens include wheat, cereals, oats, corn, rice, and barley.
  • Processed, baked, junk, and pre-packaged foods
  • Dairy products
  • Legumes such as beans, lentils, and peanuts
  • Refined sugars and carb-rich foods, including pasta, bread, cookies, soft drinks, and energy drinks

Pros of the Paleo Diet

Eating like people who lived thousands of years ago sounds healthy and promises an active lifestyle, in contrast to the modern era. Here are some pros that make a reasonable determination on the true potential of the diet.

Aids in Weight Loss

The paleo diet comprises nutrient-rich whole foods and excludes processed food items. Research has unveiled that the paleo diet functions by eliminating the high-fat and processed foods with a low nutritional profile and a lot of calories. Instead, the diet emphasises consuming more fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre, providing high satiety value and helping the weight loss process.

The paleo diet focuses on consuming rich protein food sources, including meats, which help lower the hunger hormone known as ghrelin. It will, in turn, keep you feeling satiated for a prolonged time, ultimately supporting your weight loss process.

Lower Inflammation in Body

Inflammation increases the risk of developing potential health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary disease. The paleo diet is all about eating low carbs and low glycaemic index food sources that aid in preventing excess inflammation of the body. 

Improves Blood Sugar and Glucose Tolerance

A study shows that the paleo diet improves glucose tolerance more than the Mediterranean diet. Furthermore, the results from another study perceive the paleo diet healthy regarding its effect on fasting glucose and insulin concentrations.

Plus, the composition of the diet is likely to be an essential factor in the beneficial effects on blood sugar and insulin levels.

Gluten and Dairy Free

Individuals who prefer to consume gluten and dairy-free sources can opt for the paleo diet. The overall diet plan ensures improved health by delivering balanced and complete nutrition; by eliminating the most processed and refined foods.

In addition, people have reported feeling better after following paleo since it does not include common allergic foods such as gluten and dairy products.

Promotes Gut Health

Another primary benefit of a paleo diet is that it helps enhance gut health. In general, this diet in its strictest form must have only natural sources of food that have the presence of natural enzymes and are free from pesticides or Genetically Modified processes. This approach prevents gastric ulcers and inflammation of the gut. 

Muscle Building

A study shows that a high animal protein diet plays a significant role in muscle development. Including lean meat in the paleo diet helps you gain a healthy body and increase antioxidants through nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits.

The HealthifyMe Note

The paleo diet is a clean and holistic approach to life. It helps one eliminate unwanted fat and toxins, enhance your health, sharpen your mind and get in touch with the ancient aspects. When considered from a dietary perspective, the diet focuses on whole foods with fewer calories rather than processed ones. 

Cons of the Paleo Diet

High in saturated fat

Eating high amounts of fish, nuts, and eggs can increase saturated fat intake, eventually leading to kidney damage and might cause adverse consequences to the heart. In addition, the extensive reliance on meat in the paleo diet can contribute to a higher saturated fat intake. 

Restrictive and Difficult to follow

The paleo diet is challenging to stick to for a long time due to its restrictive nature, requiring utmost commitment and proper planning. Moreover, most people on this diet have shown symptoms of low energy and digestive issues, which also counts as a complicated diet. The diet also costs more than other options, making it quite expensive.

Not suitable for vegans

The paleo diet is not for vegans or vegetarians as it includes many animal-based products and does not include legumes, a critical protein source for vegans. 

Lack of Certain Vitamins and Minerals

Eliminating specific food groups from the diet leads to the deficiency of certain nutrients and vitamins, including magnesium, manganese, and selenium. In addition, the calcium and vitamin D from dairy is also limited. Whole grains and legumes, which the paleo diet does not permit, are a source of essential fibre and nutrients. 

Possible Side Effects of the Paleo Diet

The principle of the paleo diet sounds great, but in practice, it has its challenges. Human diet pattern has evolved over the years. However, relying too much on animal-sourced protein while following the paleo diet can result in poor health outcomes. 

According to the Dietary Guidelines of Americans, the recommended protein intake per day is between 10% to 35%. People on the paleo diet might exceed this level, resulting in chronic kidney diseases.

A massive reduction in carbs in daily diet will result in ketosis, the condition where the body uses more fat content for energy, leading to lower blood pressure, nutrient deficiencies, kidney stones, and constipation. Moreover, it also compromises the sports and training performance of athletes.

Despite its role in helping you to lose weight, remember the people of the Palaeolithic era had to eat in that way due to their lack of ability to travel to places and idea to store food. Omitting entire primary food groups from your daily diet, including vitamin D and calcium, will increase bone and tooth density risk.

Paleo Diet: How Healthy is it?

It depends on the individual’s health and priority. While this diet removes many food groups that contribute to obesity, it is expensive and lacks some critical nutrients.

It makes the paleo diet not a practical diet option to be followed in the long term. Moreover, ultra-restrictive diets like paleo rarely last. It can lead to yo-yo dieting and poor overall health. 

The paleo diet is currently under-researched yet over-hyped by people. Unlike other diet plans, the paleo diet consists of different ranges from super strict to a relatively relaxed state. It is because no one knows precisely what route to follow that mimics the eating pattern of the caveman. 

The HealthifyMe Note

Most nutritionists do not recommend the paleo diet because no one maintains restrictive eating over a long period. Instead of embarking on such a restrictive diet, everyone should try to eat more vegetables, fewer carbohydrates (refined carbs), less sugar, and buy grass-fed meats and poultry. Moreover, the paleo community appears split on the dairy issue. While some people eat raw milk products, others suggest avoiding all dairy. 

Essential Tips to Remember When on a Paleo Diet

The primary idea behind the paleo diet is to advocate that the human body is better suited to the diet of our ancestors. However, plate balance is the key.

Here are some tips and rules for following the paleo diet:

  • The first step in following the paleo diet is to decide whether you can handle its rules.
  • Decide what foods you should include and what to avoid. This great deal of planning will help you embrace the long-term diet.
  • Make a slow transition and avoid directly jumping on it since removing the entire group of foods from your plate will be challenging.
  • Give some time for your body to adapt to the changes.


The success of the paleo diet depends on how or whether you can adhere to it. Despite people claiming it is a great way to shed some pounds, others consider the paleo diet a fantasy diet that is not sustainable in the long run. Therefore, it is also essential to include key food groups, including grains, cereals, and other nutritious sources necessary for good health.

Remember, not following a restrictive diet is the mantra for leading a healthy life. It is all about eating clean along with practising some regular exercises. In the end, even though the caveman’s diet lays the ground rule for healthy eating, make sure that it fits your lifestyle, daily nutrition requirements, and priorities, which is beneficial for overall well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Why is the paleo diet controversial?

A.The paleo diet continues to attract people and critics with its gaining popularity. The diet includes grass-fed, pasture-grown animals, organic fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Alternatively, the diet does not include legumes, grains, and dairy products, which lays the foundation for debate. 

Expert nutritionists consider it impossible to eat the way of Palaeolithic people since modern-day food is different. Nevertheless, it may be beneficial in managing weight but needs further research to know the apparent side effects, especially the higher risk of osteoporosis due to inadequate vitamin D and calcium levels.

Q. Is paleo healthier than keto?

A. Paleo and keto diets are popular and are followed by many people to lose weight and maintain their overall health. The most significant difference between the paleo and keto diets is the types of foods permitted and avoided. The keto emphasises consuming a specific part of macronutrients to burn calories and aid in weight loss. At the same time, paleo focuses on eating foods that belong to the Stone Age to eliminate processed foods. However, compared to keto, paleo is simple to follow due to its balanced and moderate approach. A person should decide between these two, depending on their health condition, how they can manage the authoritarian state of the diet, and their health goals.

Q. Do doctors recommend a paleo diet?

A. Paleo diet is a popular name among people that can help with weight loss, reduce hypertension, and maintain optimal blood sugar levels in the short term. However, expert healthcare professionals and researchers revealed that it might not be a perfect option that benefits an individual’s overall health in the long run. It means there are no long-term clinical studies that reveal the benefits and side effects of the plan.

Because of its negligence to certain foods, including carbohydrates and restrictive nature, people can experience some side effects, including diarrhoea, constipation, fatigue, and other health problems resulting from nutritional deficiencies.

Q. Do you lose weight on a paleo diet?

A. Yes, one can lose weight by following a paleo diet since they are high in protein, low in carbs, and reduce appetite. Unlike other diet options, paleo doesn’t focus on counting calories but doesn’t allow certain food groups. The diet motivates people to consume nutrient-rich whole foods, neglecting processed and refined foods with high calories. Nevertheless, experts also suggest people practise regular exercise with the paleo diet to reduce their weight effectively. 

Q. Is the paleo diet safe long term?

A. According to dieticians and nutritionists, the paleo diet is not a safe option because the long-term plan tends to be associated with potential issues. For example, it can lower the intake of resistant starch, the composition of various gut microbes, increase serum cholesterol concentrations, and more. Moreover, eating animal-based products for a long-time will increase the blood cholesterol level, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Q. Can you eat potatoes on paleo?

A. In general, you can include unprocessed types of potatoes on the paleo diet when you are transitioning to this diet. However, sweet potatoes are a better option to include on your plate when compared with white potatoes since the former has a lower glycaemic index, which has less impact on the blood sugar, meeting its core objective.

Q. Is paleo good for your skin?

A. Yes, a paleo diet can keep your skin healthier and younger. Paleo defines the lifestyle that drives the principles of following our palaeolithic-aged ancestors. By consuming highly nutrient-rich foods with increased antioxidant levels, such as fish, avocados, coconut, olive oil, and eggs, the paleo diet supports one to achieve healthier skin, hair, and nails.

Q. Is paleo still a thing?

A. In 2013, the paleo diet was the most searched diet plan on Google and has escalated in popularity in the last few years, with countless people following it. The ancestral eating movement’s primary aim is not designing the food to feed your body. Instead, it is about providing the body with the foods intended for it. 

Q. What foods can I eat on paleo?

A. The paleo diet promotes the consumption of whole and unprocessed food items, including meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, etc. Nonetheless, a diet that includes whole foods is a better choice for an individual’s weight loss and overall well-being. 

Q. Is there a science behind paleo?

A. Some studies have revealed that following the paleo diet can result in significant weight loss and potential health improvements. Other researchers have found that individuals who follow the diet have less mortality rate from lower oxidative stress, cancer, and heart diseases. However, no authentic scientific evidence clearly explains the health benefits and side effects. 

Some advocates say that the diet can reduce the risk of current health issues, indicating that ancestors don’t develop these diseases due to their food choices, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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