The Paleo Diet's Biggest Problem & How to Fix It

The Paleo Diet continues to grow in popularity, but skipping out on certain food groups may mean "caveman" dieters are missing out on vitamins and nutrients essential for overall health.

April 11, 2014
steak dinner

When it comes to fad diets, the Paleo Diet is about as popular as they come. Not just because A-listers like Uma Thurman, Jessica Biel, and Jack Osbourne have had their names tied to the caveman way of eating, but because generally speaking -- it works. A 2009 study found that adhering to a Paleolithic diet may improve blood pressure, increase good cholesterol, and shave off pounds. The foundation? Eat meat, fish, fruits, veggies, nuts, and roots (essentially the present-day equivalents of foods that cavemen ate). Processed foods, grains, dairy, and legumes? Out of the question.

But Paleo Diet fans, beware. There are a few things you should know before jumping into a sea of medium-rare steaks and scrambled eggs. Eliminating such a vast array of foods from your diet means you’re also ridding your diet of certain important nutrients.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

“Completely eliminating a specific food group from your diet may lead to weight loss,” says Jessica Cox, RD, and Culinary Nutritionist at Birmingham-based meal-planning service eMeals. “But the reason is often because you're consuming fewer total calories."

More from Fitbie: Easy Food Swaps to Lighten Your Carb Load

Still want to join the Paleo craze? Tackle the caveman way of eating without missing out on some essential must-haves for your health. Registered dietitians Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames, authors of The Nutrition Twins' Veggie Cure, helped us debunk the caveman diet by revealing 3 potential Paleo Diet deficiencies, and how to correct them:

1. Since you’re avoiding dairy, you’ll need calcium.
Daily recommended intake: 1000 mg
Beneficial to diet because: Crucial in growing new bone and maintaining bone strength
Ways to get it: Bone up on canned fish with bones, like sardines and salmon (181 mg/ 3oz salmon) and calcium rich vegetables like collard greens (266 mg/ cup), spinach (245 mg/cup [boiled]), kale (179 mg/ cup), and broccoli (63 mg/ cup).
Serving suggestion: Toss your greens and canned salmon in your omelet at breakfast, or if you’re feeling adventurous – make this delectable cedar-plank salmon recipe from Guy Gourmet. Hello, chef extraordinaire! 

2. Since you’re avoiding grains, quinoa, and potatoes, you’ll need complex carbohydrates
Daily recommended intake: 310 g (this includes complex and simple)
Beneficial to diet because: Main source of energy that fuels the body, brain, and muscles. Also boasts fiber for regularity and satiety.
Ways to Get It: Boost serotonin and fiber by eating fruits at each meal and including foods packed with “happy” nutrients like vitamin D and omega 3.
Serving suggestion: Amp up your salads by topping with fruits, eggs, and walnuts or fish. Craving starch? Add frozen bananas to a protein shake or opt for a baked yam or sweet potato topped with turkey meatballs. 

More from Fitbie: The Truth About the Paleo Diet

3. Since you’re avoiding legumes including beans and peanuts, you’ll need fiber
Daily recommended intake: 15 g Beneficial to diet because: The two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, have different functions. Soluble fiber makes you feel full as it slows digestion, letting the body absorb more nutrients from food. As for insoluble fiber, Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, author of The F-Factor Diet puts it best: "Think of insoluble fiber as a broom. Basically, it speeds up the passage of material through your digestive tract and sweeps out all the toxins in your body." In layman’s terms? See ya later, constipation.
Ways to get it: A lot of your favorite vegetables boast loads of fiber, including leafy greens like kale and spinach, as well as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and butternut squash.
Serving suggestion: Brussels and bacon, anyone? Roasting sprouts with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then tossing with crumbled bacon will satisfy even the most-stubborn veggie-phobe.