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Diets Deconstructed: Paleo Diet

Paleo, Keto, Low Carb. The types of diets are endless and new ones seem to pop up every day. So what are the differences, and which ones are worth my time? We go to the experts in our series Diets Deconstructed.

Below, OhioHealth dietitian Jenalee Richner, RD, LDN, provides the scoop on the Paleo Diet so you can decide if Paleo is right for you.

Diet Theory

The Paleo Diet™ is centered around the idea of eating the way our ancestors did thousands of years ago. That means foods that could be hunted and gathered and do not require processing. The theory is that you don’t have to count calories or limit how much you eat if you’re eating the right types of food.

Expected Outcomes

The Paleo Diet claims you’ll burn more fat, lose excess weight, have more energy and not feel hungry.

Encouraged Foods

This diet is high in fats, moderate in protein and low to moderate in certain carbs. Food choices include:

  • Avocados
  • Butter
  • Fish (wild-caught fish and shellfish are best)
  • Oils (extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil; do not use for cooking, just drizzle over foods)
  • Meat (lean cut; ideally pasture raised, grass fed and organic)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Vegetables (cooked or raw)
  • Fruit (small amounts; berries are best)
  • Nuts (small amounts; not peanuts)

 Discouraged Foods

You’ll need to eliminate:

  • Added sugar (soft drinks, juices, cookies, etc.)
  • Dairy
  • Grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, brown rice, etc.)
  • Legumes/beans (soy, peanuts, beans, peas, lentils)
  • Processed foods (if it’s in a box, you probably shouldn’t eat it)
  • Hydrogenated and partly-hydrogenated oils (including margarine, soybean oil, corn oil, etc.)

Dietitian’s Take

Who It’s For

The Paleo Diet is for anyone who wants to eat more naturally and maybe lose weight in the process.

Ease of Use

You don’t have to count calories. The rules are easy to understand. The only difficult part is that with eliminating processed foods, you need to make all your food from scratch. No pulling out a protein bar when you’re on the go!


It can be difficult to give up entire food groups, like dairy and grains, for the long haul.


No supplements are required. But since you’re eliminating food groups, you may want to take a multivitamin to make up for any nutrients you might be missing.


Exercise is recommended.

Bottom Line

Overall this diet recommends eating nutritious foods like lean meats, seeds/nuts and plenty of veggies and fruits — which is great! However, studies show health benefits from including low-fat dairy products, beans/legumes and whole grains in our diet. By eliminating entire food groups, you may lose out on some potential health benefits. I’d also like to caution that butter and coconut oil are saturated (unhealthy) fats. I recommend eating unsaturated (healthy) fats, such as avocados and olive oil.

Looking to improve your nutrition? Contact us at the McConnell Heart Health Center, we’re ready to support you!