Is the Paleo Diet Healthy?

The paleo diet is one of the most popular diets people use to lose weight and stay healthy, but just how healthy is it?


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Updated 4 January 2022
Is the Paleo Diet Healthy?
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The paleo diet is healthy.

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Since the paleo diet encourages eating unprocessed meats, fruits, and vegetables, it is generally considered healthy. However, it can lead to some health issues if you don't ensure you receive all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you need. For example, cutting out dairy can lead to calcium and vitamin D deficiencies.

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Sections on this page
  1. What is the Paleo Diet? 
  2. Benefits and Downsides of the Paleo Diet 
  3. Is the Paleo Diet Healthy and Effective for Weight Loss?
  4. Example of a Typical Paleo Diet
  5. Is the Paleo Diet Healthy Compared to Other Diets?

The paleo diet is one of the most popular diets people use to lose weight and stay healthy, but just how healthy is it?

Initially invented in the '70s by gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin, many believe the paleo diet (short for the Paleolithic diet) has significant health benefits. These include reducing the risk of diabetes, obesity, and indigestion issues. 

The paleo diet is also known as the Stone Age diet, hunter-gatherer diet, and caveman diet.

What is the Paleo Diet? 

The premise is simple—eat things that those in the paleolithic era would have eaten. This means no grains and processed foods. Of course, it's important to eat in moderation and drink plenty of water. 

If you love fresh produce and tend to forgo processed carbohydrates like bread and pasta, then the paleo diet might be pretty easy for you. 

Paleo diet pyramid.

Foods Allowed on the Paleo Diet

  • Lean meats, such as:
    • Pork
    • Chicken
    • Beef
    • Lamb
  • Fish
  • <liVegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Herbs
  • Spices
  • Healthy fats and oils, such as:
    • Olive oil
    • Walnut oil
    • Avocados
  • Honey

Foods Not Allowed on the Paleo Diet

  • Processed foods
  • Sugar
  • Soft drinks
  • Potatoes
  • Grains, including:
    • Bread
    • Pasta
  • Most dairy products
  • Legumes, such as:
    • Lentils
    • Peas
    • Chickpeas
    • Beans
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Vegetable oils
  • Margarine and trans fats

Benefits and Downsides of the Paleo Diet 

As with any diet, there are pros and cons to consider before starting the paleo diet. You should always consult your doctor or nutritionist before starting a new diet, especially if you have existing health issues or other concerns.

Pros of the Paleo Diet

  • High in fiber.
  • High in potassium.
  • High in antioxidants. 
  • Low in simple carbohydrates. 
  • Low in sodium. 
  • Low in sugar. 
  • May kick start weight loss. 
  • Can improve blood sugar levels (at least in the short-term). 
  • Can encourage weight loss. 
  • Can help control blood pressure. 
  • No need to track calories.

Cons of the Paleo Diet

  • Can cause calcium deficiency due to the lack of dairy, leading to things like bone fractures and osteoporosis.
  • Can cause vitamin D deficiency due to the lack of dairy.
  • Can increase the risk of kidney disease, heart disease, and certain cancers if too many saturated fats and proteins are consumed.
  • Can be pretty restrictive, especially for those who aren't used to following a strict diet.
  • Can be expensive.
  • Can be challenging to come up with creative meal ideas.

Is the Paleo Diet Healthy and Effective for Weight Loss?

If used for weight loss, the paleo diet should be a lifestyle change, not a fad diet. If the diet is followed for a short time only, chances are, any weight you lose will be gained again once you start eating normally again. 

However, if followed long-term, you may see significant weight benefits and will be able to manage your appetite better. Although the paleo diet doesn't typically require that you track your calories or macros, you may want to if you're on the diet to lose weight. 

Of course, exercise is also a crucial part of your weight loss journey—the paleo diet isn't the only element of a successful weight loss journey.

Consult Your Doctor

Always consult your doctor before starting a new diet, including the paleo diet. You may have health issues that can mean the paleo diet is not for you.

Example of a Typical Paleo Diet

Here's an example of a typical day on the diet to get a better idea of what a paleo diet meal plan looks like. 

Breakfast ideas:

  • Scrambled eggs with vegetables (fried in olive oil) + a piece of fruit.
  • Bacon and eggs + a piece of fruit.

Lunch ideas:

  • Chicken salad with nuts and olive oil as a dressing.
  • Lettuce wrap with lean meat and fresh vegetables.

Dinner ideas:

  • Lettuce wrapped burger with vegetables. 
  • Piece of salmon with vegetables. 

Paleo Diet Snacks

The paleo diet is supposed to help you manage your appetite, which may mean you don't have the urge to snack as often as before. However, if you do feel peckish in between meals, snack options include:

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Baby carrots (no dressing)
  • Fruit
  • Nuts (not too many)
  • Beef jerky

Is the Paleo Diet Healthy Compared to Other Diets?

Generally, the paleo diet is healthier than many other diets that people use to lose weight, although in some cases may be dangerous. 

The paleo diet can be healthier than diets, such as the:

  • Atkins diet: The paleo diet is less restrictive than the Atkins diet that restricts your calories. 
  • Keto diet: The keto diet is a high-fat diet that can lead to severe health effects. 
  • Vegan diet: Those on the paleo diet may have fewer issues with protein and fats than those on a vegan diet.
  • Intermittent fasting: Fasting can cause severe health issues for those with diabetes and other conditions.

When you compare the paleo diet to other diets for weight loss and not just for overall health benefits, other factors will come into play. 

A similar diet to the paleo diet that some people believe to be as healthy, if not healthier, is the Mediterranean diet that encourages consuming meats and produce and does not allow refined grains and processed foods.

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