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Ask the RD

Question: What is the Paleo Diet, and is it considered a healthy eating plan?

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Answer: The Paleo Diet suggests that we should model our way of eating on the hunting and gathering techniques of the Paleolithic period. The diet recommends sticking with animal protein, fruits and vegetables, while staying away from dairy, grains, legumes, high-glycemic fruits and veggies, salty foods and refined sugar. It is a high-protein, lower-carb diet that is also promoted to athletes as a way to enhance performance.

The Paleo Diet was recently criticized by U.S. News & World Report in its evaluation of the top 25 diets. Reviewed by a panel of 22 national health experts, this diet was ranked last, along with the Dukan diet, and garnered just 2 of a possible 5 stars. It did not make the cut for a balanced diet because two entire nutrient-rich food groups—grains and dairy—are eliminated. Diets that eliminate food groups are hard to follow and may be missing some vitamins and minerals. Additionally, the few studies that have been done on the Paleo Diet are small and short.

To earn the highest rankings from the U.S News & World Report panel, diets had to be nutritious, easy to follow, safe, and effective for weight loss and disease prevention. The top five diets named as manageable in modern times were DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes), Mayo Clinic, Mediterranean and Weight Watchers®. The DASH diet is an eating pattern that closely resembles the new MyPlate. It emphasizes vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy and low sodium, and includes whole grains and lean protein.

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