What is the Paleo diet and why is everyone talking about it?
It's a hot trend, but what do the health experts say?
The Paleo diet is a hot diet trend that advocates eating like humans did in the Palaeolithic era, claiming that our genetics are mismatched with our modern diet. Also called the caveman or Stone Age diet, Paleo emphasises lean meats and plant foods while eliminating grains, dairy products and legumes. It claims to not only induce weight loss but also help control glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol.
So is the Paleo diet all it’s cracked up to be? At nib, we’re not just your insurer, we’re your health partner and we work with the experts to get the tips and programs to help you live healthier than ever. So, we spoke with Bayley Houston, accredited practising Dietitian and Allied Health Coach at Honeysuckle Health to find out everything you need to know about eating Paleo-style.
Does Paleo help with weight loss?
“There have been some small studies that support the claims about weight loss, but currently there is no strong evidence to back these claims or about the long-term effects of the Paleo diet,” says Bayley. “We currently can’t make any scientifically backed claims about its benefits.”
While you may initially lose weight on the Paleo diet, its restrictive nature can make it hard to follow in the long term. “The evidence suggests that most of the weight loss from dieting is regained following the completion of the diet,” says Bayley.
A typical day’s Paleo meal plan
“The Paleo diet encourages the consumption of lean meats, oily fish, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts,” says Bayley. “Yet it restricts the intake of core foods like grains, legumes and dairy which play an important role in bodily functions, muscle and bone strength, bowel health, blood cholesterol control and glycaemic control.”
Some variations of the Paleo diet include a small amount of gluten-free grains such as rice and oats, but Bayley doesn’t believe these versions are any more nutritionally sound. “There has been no evidence to suggest a gluten-free diet improves health in people who aren’t coeliac or gluten intolerant,” he says.
“There also isn’t any evidence that including a small serving of grains improves health more than meeting the recommendation of five servings of grain foods per day.”
A typical day on the Paleo diet might look like this:
Breakfast: Almond-milk smoothie with avocado, kale, banana and apple
Lunch: Fried fish fillet with mixed salad leaves, pumpkin seeds and an olive oil dressing
Dinner: Roast chicken with a stuffing of carrots, onions and rosemary
Paleo food list
Not quite sure what the Paleo diet entails? Here’s a list of foods it includes and a list of foods that it suggests you avoid (although remember to chat to your health professional before trying a diet like this to give you personalised advice).
Foods to eat on the Paleo diet
Lean meats (especially grass-fed meats)
Fish and seafood
Nuts and seeds
Healthy oils (olive, avocado, and canola)
Foods to avoid on the Paleo diet
Grain (cereal) foods (wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, millet, quinoa and corn)
Legumes (including peanuts)
Overly salty foods
Refined vegetable oils
The bottom line
While Bayley doesn’t believe there is enough evidence to support the Paleo diet, he recommends seeking the help of a professional if you want to try it. “As a dietitian, I'm against recommending restrictive diets unless there is strong evidence behind their therapeutic effects,” he says. “But if you still want to follow a Paleo diet, seeing an accredited practising dietitian for assistance is the safest way to do so.”
The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any
advice you have been given by your medical practitioner.
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Bayley Houston is an accredited practising dietitian at Honeysuckle Health, where his
roles include nutrition counselling around the prevention of cardiovascular disease, and prevention and treatment of diabetes. He’s passionate about combatting stigma and misinformation around nutrition, and supporting and educating people to help them take control of their own health. Bayley’s perfect day would be snowboarding in the morning, eating tacos for lunch, followed by playing Dungeons and Dragons with his friends.