Keeping it healthy

Paleo - Part 1: What I like and Issues to be aware of.

The Paleolithic diet has had such a huge following over the last few years. I as well as several of my friends have experimented with this diet. Reading the blurb about what the paleo diet entails, it is easy to see why so many people like it so much. The paleo diet as described by The Paleo Way website says: "Paleo lays the foundations for a healthy diet – whole unprocessed foods, leafy greens, fresh pesticide-free vegetables, nuts, fruits on occasion, grass-fed meat, pastured free-range poultry and wild-caught fish – and lifestyle – moving your body every day and being mindful; a holistic approach to achieving a healthier and happier life and becoming the best version of you."[1]

What is not in the paleo diet are refined sugars, vegetable oil, alcohol, caffeine, grains, legumes and dairy.

The Paleo diet looks great from a glance, but delving into it a bit deeper reveals the good the bad and the ugly. I would like to talk about this diet from a position of once being a “believer” in it, but with the knowledge I have gained in training to be a dietitian, now seeing that it is not as great as it appears on the surface. Having said that, it does have some good points which I will discuss before we will look at the areas that should not be blindly adhered to.

What I Like about Paleo:
  1. Fresh Vegetables

What I find exciting about the paleo diet is the one area that I think is often overlooked. That is, the focus on returning to fresh, unprocessed vegetables. By just switching as much as possible to a diet that is rich in vegetables you can gain many, well documented, health benefits. All the vegetarians shout AMEN to that!

Vegetables have been recognised as helping people to maintain a healthy weight when eaten in sufficient quantities as well as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke [2]. They have also been implicated in helping to reduce the risk of cancer according to the World Cancer Research Fund [3].

As many of us know it can be quite challenging getting those veggies into our diet, not to mention, encouraging our kids to "eat their greens" as well. Unfortunately, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2014-2015, only around 7% of adult Australians were meeting the recommended requirements for vegetable consumption [4]. So a diet that encourages us to increase intake of fresh vegetables is great!

2. Reducing intake of Processed Foods

Processed foods are one thing that I have tried to reduce since the kids were young. (Funny how it's all about the kids!) The paleo diet promotes avoiding processed foods which are often high in salt. Salt is important in our diets, but an excess is harmful to our heart. In addition, processed meats are well documented as being harmful to our health often due to the high saturated fat content as well as the salt content [5].

Another concern that has recently come to light regarding processed meats is that it has been proven to causes colorectal cancer. The evidence behind this is very convincing [6]

So the Paleo diet gets a big tick here for this bit of advice.

3. Nuts

The journey to health can be hard, and pitfalls can often CASHEW off guard. But do NUT give up on it! (sorry for those terrible puns!!!)

Who would have thought nuts could be so good for you, let alone versatile! Nuts are a great source of protein, fibre and unsaturated fats. As well as this, they contain folate, magnesium, selenium and vitamin E. They are thought to help reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease [7] . Their inclusion is another great benefit of this diet.

4. Pesticide Free Vegetables

The American Academy of Paediatrics policy statement says that children “have unique susceptibilities to their (pesticides) potential toxicity. Acute poisoning risks are clear, and understanding of chronic health implications from both acute and chronic exposure are emerging. Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems.” [8].

I would suggest that unless you are living near a farm that uses pesticides that this is not something to panic about. If you can afford to purchase pesticide free vegetables however, then this is the better option for your children. Otherwise, very careful washing of the vegetable is recommended to help to reduce exposure.

The risks for adults are not as clear cut. A lot of research has been done on this topic with conflicting results. So, once again, if you are concerned and can afford pesticide free produce, then this is a great option. Otherwise, homegrown could be another possible solution, or wash those vegies really well before consuming them!

Stay tuned for Paleo Part 2 coming soon!

[1] The Paleo Way. (2016). So what is paleo. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from The Paleo Way:

[2] Eat For Health. (2015, March 27). Australian Dietary Guidelines 1-5. Retrieved July 31, 2016, from

[3] WCRF. (n.d.). Plant Foods. Retrieved July 23, 2016, from World Cancer Research Fund:

[4] ABS. (2016, March 22). National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15. Retrieved July 23, 2016, from Australian Bureau Of Statistics:

[5] NHMRC. (2013). Eat for Health - Australian Dietary Guidelines. Retrieved July 23, 2016, from Australian Government:

[6] WHO. (2015, October). Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. Retrieved November 10, 2016, from World Health Organisation:

[7] Manach, C., Scalbert, A., Morand, C., Rémésy, C., & Jiménez, L. (2004, May). Polyphenols: food sources and bioavailability 1, 2. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79(5), 727-747.

[8] American Academy of Paediatrics. (2012, December). Pesticide Exposure in Children. Pediatrics, 130(6), e1757-e1763 doi:10.1542/peds.2012-2757.

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