Mountain and stream

The Paleo Diet: Is it for me?

Dr Sasha Fluss, ND at NatureMed Boulder/Denver


Its January, the holiday buzz has faded, replaced with new years resolutions and those few extra pounds that seem to have appeared. Now that the dinners and parties are over many people are looking for a way to cleanse and lose weight after over indulging during the holidays. Diets and weightloss supplements are everywhere but by far the biggest buzz word in the last while has been the Paleo Craze. Even Whole Foods seems to have jumped on the band wagon (they now serve Paleo Coffee and a whole host of Paleo friendly foods in their hot bar).

So What is this Paleo thing? And Should you be a Part of it?

The Paleo diet essentially follows what our Paleolithic ancestors ate on the premise that our genes have changed very little since these times. Our digestive systems are not evolved to digest modern foods introduced during the advent of farming 10,000 years ago. The diet supports health with the premise that:

refined and processed foods such as flours, sugars and unhealthy fats are at the root of chronic inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

The Paleo Diet in a Nutshell:

  1. Eat a relatively high amount of animal protein.
Eat lots of carbohydrates from vegetables and some from fruits. NOT from grains, starchy root vegetables (potatoes, yams) and refined sugars
  3. Eat a large amount of fiber from non starchy vegetables and fruits
Eat a moderate amount of healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and no bad fats (trans and certain saturated fats).
Eat foods rich in plant phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Eat This:

  • Grass fed Meats
  • Fish/Seafood
  • Fresh Veggies and Fruits
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Healthy Oils (Olive, Walnut, Flax, Coconut, Avocado)
  • Eggs

Not That

  • Cereal Grains (wheat, barley, ryw, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, rice)
  • Dairy (butter, yogurt, milk and cheese)
  • Refined Sugar (Stevia ok)
  • Potatoes
  • Processed Foods (canned/frozen included)
  • Refined Vegetable Oils (corn, peanut)

*For athletes or those patients doing a lot of endurance activities I like to add in small amounts of starchy root veggies (such as yams or sweet potatoes), quinoa or brown rice. 

Who could benefit from this diet?

Research is always on the search for the “perfect” diet. But what does that mean? In Naturopathic Medicine we look at each person individually. No 1 diet works for all bodies however the Paleo Die has been shown to benefit certain conditions in the research. Those people wanting to lose weight, curb hunger and decrease sugar craving would benefit from this diet. In addition to being a Low Glycemic Diet it also eliminates many common food allergens to aid in weight loss. The diet has been shown to not only help with weight  but also with improving lipid status, cholesterol and insulin levels. A large body of research is focusing on the benefits of a low carbohydrate, higher protein diet (Paleo) and the benefits for Diabetes. Cordain, (2002) notes:

The typical Paleolithic diet compared with the average modern American diet contained 2 to 3 times more fiber, 1.5 to 2.0 times more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, 4 times more Omega 3 fats, but 60% to 70% less saturated fat. Protein intake was 2 to 3 times higher, and potassium intake was 3 to 4 times higher; however, sodium intake was 4 to 5 times lower. Finally, the Paleolithic diet contained no refined grains and sugars (except for seasonally available honey). Clearly, the ongoing epidemic of cardiovascular diseases is at least in part due to these striking discrepancies between the diet we are designed to eat and what we eat today.

Even a short-term consumption of a paleolithic type diet was found to improve blood pressure and glucose tolerance, decreases insulin secretion, increases insulin sensitivity and improve lipid profiles (Lindeberg, T. Jönsson, Y. Granfeldt et al, 2007).

The paleo diet also includes a large recommendation of fiber rich foods which is shown to be protective against colon cancers and help with blood sugar dysregulation. Many people at first cant imagine cutting carbohydrates like rice, potatoes and pasta from their diet. Wont I be hungry!? The combination of the higher fat diet, the fiber rich veggies and plenty of protein works well to decrease cravings and hunger. You should feel fuller, longer and be more satisfied.

More Info/Resources

There is a very interesting Ted Talk with Dr Terry Wahls on how she mediated many of her symptoms of MS with a vegetable rich Paleo Diet.  Find it here:

Minding Your Mitochondria
 – great recipes and paleo friendly blog – more recipes, videos, paleo inspiration and even restaurant reviews.


Almond-Meal Blueberry Pancakes (NomNom Paleo):


2 cups almond meal

½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

3 eggs

1 cup coconut milk

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 apple, grated

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

3 tbsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together. 
Using ¼ cup scoops, cook the pancakes on a super hot griddle or in a frying pan greased with coconut oil.  Cook for about 4 min/side, making sure the pancakes are brown & crisp before flipping
Serve with more blueberries on top & a sprinkle of cinnamon

Serves: 5

Coconut Cauliflower Rice (NomNom Paleo:

1 head cauliflower, stem removed, roughly chopped

1/3 cup coconut milk

¼ cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp raw honey (optional)

Pinch of salt

Add chopped cauliflower to food processor to ‘shred’ into ‘rice’.  Place in a large pot with the coconut oil & a pinch of salt.  Cook covered over medium heat to steam (mix occasionally)
After cauliflower cooked, add coconut milk & shredded coconut.  Cook for 5-8 minutes until coconut milk has evaporated (stir occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn.


O’Keefe, J. & Cordain, L. (2004). Cardiovascular disease resulting from a diet and lifestyle at ods with our Paleolithic genome: How to become a 21st century hunter-gatherer.

Lindeberg, S, Jönsson, T, Granfeldt, Y, Borgstrand, E, Soffman, J, Sjöström, K, and Ahrén, B. A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia, 2007;  In press:

Flegal, KM, Carroll, MD, Ogden, CL, and Johnson, CL. Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999-2000. JAMA. 2002; 288: 1723–1727

Vasan, RS, Beiser, A, Seshadri, S et al. Residual lifetime risk for developing hypertension in middle-aged women and men: the Framingham Heart Study. JAMA. 2002; 287: 1003–1010

Eaton, SB, Konner, M, and Shostak, M. Stone agers in the fast lane: chronic degenerative diseases in evolutionary perspective. Am J Med. 1988; 84: 739–749

Hu, FB and Willett, WC. Optimal diets for prevention of coronary heart disease. JAMA. 2002; 288: 2569–2578

Joshipura, KJ, Hu, FB, Mason, JE et al. The effect of fruit and vegetable intake on risk for coronary heart disease. Ann Intern Med. 2001; 134: 1106–1114

Curtis, BM and O’Keefe, JH Jr. Understanding the Mediterranean diet: could this be the new “gold standard” for heart disease prevention?. Postgrad Med. 2002; 112: 38 (41-45.)

Brehm, BJ, Seeley, RJ, Daniels, SR, and D’Alessio, DA. A randomized trial comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie restricted low fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003; 88: 1617–1623

Bravata, DM, Sanders, L, Huang, J et al. Efficacy and safety of low-carbohydrate diets: a systematic review. JAMA. 2003; 289: 1837–1850

O’Keefe, JH Jr and Harris, WS. From Inuit to implementation: omega-3 fatty acids come of age. Mayo Clin Proc. 2000; 75: 607–614

Cordain, L, Eaton, SB, Miller, JB, Mann, N, and Hill, K. The paradoxical nature of hunter-gatherer diets: meat-based, yet non-atherogenic. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002; 56: S42–S52

Ascherio, A. Epidemiologic studies on dietary fats and coronary heart disease. Am J Med. 2002; 113: 9S–12S

Cordain, L, Eades, MR, and Eades, MD. Hyperinsulinemic diseases of civilization: more than just Syndrome X. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2003; 136: 95–112

Leeds, AR. Glycemic index and heart disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002; 76: 286S–289S

Ludwig, DS. The glycemic index: physiological mechanisms relating to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. JAMA. 2002; 287: 2414–2423

Liu, S and Willett, WC. Dietary glycemic load and atherothrombotic risk. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2002; 4: 454–461

Wolfe, BM and Piche, LA. Replacement of carbohydrate by protein in a conventional-fat diet reduces cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations in healthy normolipidemic subjects. Clin Invest Med. 1999; 22: 140–148

Parker, B, Noakes, M, Luscombe, N, and Clifton, P. Effect of a high-protein, high-monounsaturated fat weight loss diet on glycemic control and lipid levels in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2002; 25: 425–430

Wolfe, BM and Giovannetti, PM. Short-term effects of substituting protein for carbohydrate in the diets of moderately hypercholesterolemic human subjects. Metabolism. 1991; 40: 338–343

Layman, DK, Boileau, RA, Erickson, DJ et al. A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr. 2003; 133: 411–417


Long, SJ, Jeffcoat, AR, and Millward, DJ. Effect of habitual dietary-protein intake on appetite and satiety. Appetite. 2000; 35: 79–88

Piatti, PM, Monti, F, Fermo, I et al. Hypocaloric high-protein diet improves glucose oxidation and spares lean body mass: comparison to hypocaloric high-carbohydrate diet. Metabolism. 1994; 43: 1481–1487

Layman, DK, Shiue, H, Sather, C, Erickson, DJ, and Baum, J. Increased dietary protein modifies glucose and insulin homeostasis in adult women during weight loss. J Nutr. 2003; 133: 405–410

Baba, NH, Sawaya, S, Torbay, N, Habbal, Z, Azar, S, and Hashim, SA. High protein vs high carbohydrate hypoenergetic diet for the treatment of obese hyperinsulinemic subjects. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1999; 23: 1202–1206