COLUMBIA - The Paleo diet is one of the newer diets on the market, consisting of only meat, fruits and vegetables while cutting out all dairy, grains and refined sugars.
Commonly referred to as "the caveman diet" or "hunter and gatherer diet," paleolithic ways of eating are gaining in popularity as more people are trying the Paleo diet.
Nutritionists and dieticians say there are both pros and cons to this kind of palate. The diet promotes fresh fruits and vegetables, something Americans have always consumed less of, and also gets rid of sugary, calorie-filled foods that are high in saturated fat.
Kristy Lang is a registered and lisenced dietician with Boone Hospital. She has been affiliated with Boone for four years and studied nutrition at the University of Missouri. She said the Paleo diet is the way our ancestors have always been eating and reverts back to a more fundamental diet, saying we don't need a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast to survive, for example.
"They are all good foods, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, nuts are all really wholesome foods whereas the more processed stuff we've brought into our diet because they're convenient, they taste good," Lang said.
Even though fruits, veggies and meats are healthy, the Paleo diet essentially eliminates the other half of the food pyramid. Gastroenterologist Matthew Bechtold with the University of Missouri Hospital thinks it's almost too restrictive. He said the diet isn't meant to be long term, and when you start introducing dairy to your body again, it can pose possible digestive issues.
"If you stop taking in dairy for a long period of time, your enzymes in your body to break down dairy could become less active, so when you start taking dairy again you can have more of a lactose intolerance syndrome," Bechtold said.
Dietitian Ashley Ritzo, also with University Hospital, worries the Paleo diet can cause "yoyo" dieting since it's meant only for a limited time. While it can help people lose weight, she doesn't think it's that effective for keeping off the weight once you start eating dairy and grains again.
Since the Paleo diet is highly restrictive, supplementation can be necessary in other ways to make sure you are still getting essential vitamins and minerals.
"Calcium, vitamin D, especially from the grains and from dairy, and so if you don't have those in your diet regularly, that means supplementation from other sources," said Jessica Lang, a nutritionist with Hyvee.
Experts said since the Paleo diet is healthy yet extreme, it may not be for everyone. Nutritionists said to consult your doctor before starting this regime, as some can become too tired and feel lethargic on the eating plan. They also advise if you are wanting to try the Paleo diet, a healthy, more flexible approach could be 80/20 - eating 80 percent meat, fruits and vegetables and the other 20 percent being small amounts of dairy and carbohydrates.