Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Looking for a way to entice your guests (or yourself) to eat more vegetables? Here is a round-up of the most beautiful fruit and vegetable platters from around the web. And if you’re looking for healthy dips to compliment your fruit and veggie trays, check here.

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Arrange veggies and dips in various glassware. Image via Cocoa and Fig

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Serve dip in a hollowed-out head of lettuce. Click here for step-by-step instructions. Image via Eddie Ross

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Or try bell peppers! Image via Pinterest (original source unknown)

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Portion individual servings of vibrant veggies and hummus into stemware. Image via Pinterest (original source unknown)

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

If you don’t have stemware, drinking glasses also work. Image via Add a Pinch

Not Your Average Fruit Tray

This concept also works for fruit. Image via Hostess with the Mostess

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Individual glasses of salad are a great way to offer guests tastes of produce. Image via My Baking Addiction

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

“Salad on a Stick” is a kid-friendly take on this idea. Image via Sweet Potato Chronicles

Not Your Average Vegetable Platter

Bouquets of artichokes, ornamental kale, and brussels sprouts are a great way to dress up a fruit and vegetable display. Image via Project Wedding

Not Your Average Fruit Tray

Tiered platters work great to display individual cups of mixed fruit (or vegetables). Image via Pinterest (original source unknown)

– Kelly

 

Lentil Love

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This post has been a long time coming. I seem to find myself talking about lentils more and more these days. In fact, I even did an in-depth commodity report on lentils for one of my gastronomy courses. Lentils are my favorite plant based protein source, not just because they are cheap and shelf stable, but because they are so gosh darn versatile! What else makes lentils so special?

  • Unlike other dried legumes, dried lentils DO NOT require an overnight soak. Simply bring lentils and water to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • Lentils have tons of protein! According to the USDA food and nutrient database, 1/2 cup of cooked lentils has 9g of protein and 115 calories. Compare that to 7.5g of protein and 114 calories for black beans, 7.5g of protein and 112 calories for red kidney beans, and 8.5g of protein and 95 calories for edamame (all for 1/2 cup cooked).

When I catch myself talking about lentils, I am often surprised at how few people I meet actually have experience cooking with them. People often ask me for lentil recipes, so below, I compiled of a list of my 3 favorites (all healthy, of course!). If you have visited me for an extended period of time, chances are, I have made at least one of these recipes for you. Note that I always buy green lentils, but I hope to experiment with red and black one day soon!

Simple Stuffed Sweet Potato with Lentils

1. Lentil Stuffed Sweet Potato: I created this recipe on a day that my cupboards were particularly bare, and it has since become one of my favorite meals. See here for the recipe.

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2. Lentil Chili: This recipe from Whole Foods Market is incredibly easy and versatile! I always add a can (or 2 ears) of corn for a little bit of sweetness. My finishing touch is a dollop of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt.

sloppy joe

3. Lentil Sloppy Joes: Image and Recipe from Edible Perspective. This vegan recipe from the Edible Perspective is so perfect, that I follow it exactly as it’s written every time. No additions or substitutions necessary. And did I mention that it’s made completely in the slow cooker? Too easy!

Have you caught lentil fever yet? What are some of your favorite lentil recipes?

– Kelly

P.S. I’m not the only one that’s gaga for lentils. Check out this NPR article to learn more about my favorite plant based protein.

True Food Kitchen: This RD approves!

This summer I spent a week in Phoenix, Arizona with my family. Not only was I able to read, swim, and spend some much-needed quality time with my family, but I was also able to finally eat at True Food Kitchen!

True Food Kitchen

^^The airy, trendy atmosphere was definitely a seller. Image via Fox Restaurant Concepts.

True Food Kitchen serves up “globally inspired cuisine” at its 6 different locations (all in the Southwestern United States). The basis of the menu is Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet, but don’t let that scare you off. From Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Fresh Mozzerella, Organic Tomatoes, and Zucchini to Grass Fed Steak Street Tacos with Avocado, Cojita Cheese, Tomotillo Salsa, Sour Cream and Anasazi Beans, these menu items are nothing short of spectacular.

True Food Kitchen

^^ Watermelon & Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Basil, Cashews, and Olive Oil. Quite possibly my very favorite item on the menu!

Restaurants are usually a minefield of hidden fat and calories, devoid of nutrient rich fruits and vegetables. While True Food Kitchen does not post nutrition information (and some dishes do seem to be calorically dense), there is no doubt that the menu items available are extremely nutrient rich. I also love that vegetables are considered to be the main event, rather than an afterthought.

True Food Kitchen

^^ Tuscan Kale Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, Breadcrumbs, and Grilled Steelhead Salmon

Over the course of my trip, I went to True Food Kitchen 3 different times, and let me just say that 3 times was not nearly enough! Between my family and I, I got to sample:

  • Quinoa Johnny Cakes with Blueberries, Greek Yogurt, and Maple Syrup
  • Street Tacos with Grass Fed Steak
  • Tuscan Kale Salad with Grilled Steelhead Salmon
  • Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Fresh Mozzerella, Organic Tomatoes, and Zucchini
  • Red Chili Shrimp with Sesame Noodles
  • Heirloom Tomato & Watermelon Salad
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Nectarine and Blueberry Tart with Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

YUM!

cookbook

Don’t live in the Southwestern United States? No problem! Lately I have been getting my True Food fix at home, courtesy of the True Food Cookbook (pictured above). This cookbook is filled with seasonal recipes from the restaurant, as well as the most gorgeous photography I have ever seen.

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^^ My rendition of the Chicken and Farro salad, via Instagram

Have you ever been to True Food Kitchen? Do you know of similar restaurants on the east coast? Do tell!

– Kelly

Ask the Dietitian: Are snacks healthy?

Snacks can be some of our greatest allies, but they can also be the source of our undoing. My rule for snacking is as follows:

Snacking is healthy, so long as you don’t eat “snack foods”.

We all know that chips, candy, and sodas are unhealthy choices, but my principle also applies to “healthy” diet snack products. While a 100 calorie pack of cookies may only do 100 calories worth of damage, there is absolutely nothing nourishing or healthy inside of that package.

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During my early foray into “healthy eating” (and before my nutrition education took off) you would find my dorm room well stocked with 100 calorie packs of peppermint patty bars. (Side note- an actual Peppermint Patty only has 70 calories. Thus is the twisted logic of the food industry). I used to jokingly refer to these snacks as “700 calorie packs”, because you had to use every bit of willpower not to devour the entire tasty box. But I digress…

Snack foods on the market today are pure junk. Desserts in disguise. Salty, fatty treats carefully engineered to keep you coming back for more. A few foods warrant careful consideration, such as Greek yogurt and granola, but one must remember that even these “health foods” are littered with excess sugar. So what are you to snack on if not “snack foods”? Nature’s original snack foods- fruits and vegetables!

Healthy snacks

For more healthy snack ideas, see this post

I know, I know. It gets tiring hearing the same old song and dance about nature’s bounty. But come on… you can’t be that sick of them. As a nation, we hardly even eat any! Fresh, in season fruits are so delicious, that they hardly need any accompaniment. However, vegetables can be a tougher sell. Pair them with homemade hummus or 100% nut butter to boost the nutrition content, and add that fatty mouthfeel that we all crave. Or, if you’re a weirdo like me, oven roast some veggies and call that a snack. There is hardly a salty craving that a warm, crispy, oven roasted Brussels sprout can’t cure. At least in my opinion.

Occasionally (0kay, pretty frequently), I will relent, and a few Chocolate Peppermint Stick Luna Bars or organic Greek yogurt cups will make their way into my grocery cart. But I make a solid effort to enjoy my Luna Bars how anything called “Chocolate Peppermint Stick” should be enjoyed: with an ice cold glass of milk (fat free and organic, nonetheless) and on a dessert plate. Not to mention, a Luna Bar is hardly a Hostess Cupcake. But the principle remains.

The main problem I have with snacking is that it never ends. As Marion Nestle so accurately explains, “it is now socially acceptable to eat more food, more often, in more places…These are recent changes… just since the 1980’s—exactly in parallel with rising rates of obesity” (Nestle, 2006, p. 13). Snacking can indeed be healthy, so long as you pick something that nourishes you, rather than the processed garbage sold everywhere. But let’s bring back an old adage… don’t spoil your dinner! 🙂

– Kelly

Why nutrition?

Kelly's Food & Nutrition picks

One question that I often get asked is about how I got interested in my field. Why nutrition?

Growing up, I always enjoyed reading the “health” sections of newspapers and magazines. I loved the idea that I could take control of my health by eating a nutritious, balanced diet.

When choosing a major for college, I wanted to choose a degree that would provide me with useful knowledge, no matter where my career might take me. Regardless of where I worked (or even if I became a stay-at-home-mom), I knew that the information I learned about how to eat healthy would be beneficial for the rest of my life. It’s just good life knowledge. And if I could make a career out of it… even better!

I also knew that I wanted a career that helps people (and preferably, helps the planet as well). While doctors, nurses, and trainers all work to make people healthier, nutrition seems more, well… fun. After all, food is fun! And in this blog, I try to show that eating healthy can be enjoyable.

For more about my journey and professional experience, see the “Meet Kelly” page.

How did you choose your career path? Are you interested in nutrition?

– Kelly

P.S. Kinda obsessed with bookcase styling. See here.

Ask the Dietitian: What is the healthiest food?

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Over a recent dinner with new acquaintances, the topic turned to my career in nutrition. “So tell me,” someone asked, “what is the healthiest food?”

Ugh. I hate this question. There is a perception outside of the field that Dietitians take a reductionist view of nutrition, and that they know some secret, ideal nutrient combination for health and longevity. While individual nutrients can be very important in specific disease states, such as carbohydrates in diabetics, or Vitamin K in blood clots, that is not the gist of the field. I am a Dietitian. I work with diets. My preferred tools are not supplements or protein powders- just good old fashioned fruits and vegetables.

I tried my best to explain that it can be dangerous to place emphasis on a particular food, rather than the diet as a whole. While certain foods such as, kale or pomegranate, are high in trendy antioxidants, we need a wide range of nutrients from a wide range of foods. No single “superfood” will make up for the sins of an unbalanced diet. Eating acai berries every morning does not compensate for frequent indulgences in greasy, nutrient poor foods. Actions don’t cancel each other out. Rather, they build up over time.

I went on to explain that nutrition science is very young, and that plants have so many important components that we don’t even know about. I tried my best to paraphrase Michael Pollan’s explanation of this (from In Defense of Food)… That we thought we had it figured out when we discovered the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. And then we thought we had it figured out again when we discovered vitamins and minerals. And now we are discovering antioxidants and phytochemicals. There is so much about plants that we haven’t discovered yet, that it is silly to put a specific food on a pedestal for being a rich source of the nutrient of the month. We need variety.

While this probably wasn’t the answer that my companions were looking for, hopefully they came away with a better understanding of good nutrition. I won’t speculate on what the healthiest food is, but I can help speculate on the healthiest diet.

The healthiest diet is rich in minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and carefully raised animal products. The healthiest diet is low in processed junk foods and deep fried concoctions. The healthiest diet allows for indulgent and seemingly non-nutritious foods, but understands that indulgences are not an everyday treat, and are meant to be enjoyed thoughtfully, rather than mindlessly scarfed down. The healthiest diet is balanced, varied, and moderate. And most important of all, the healthiest diet is nourishing, sustainable, and pleasurable.

Thoughts?

– Kelly

Taking Food out of the Context of the Diet

I work in University dining, so for National Nutrition Month (March, in case you missed it), I had an “Ask the Dietitian” table for students. Most questions had to do with the sustainability of the foods served or how to navigate the dining halls with a particular allergy. But one question really stuck with me. A boy (holding a greasy plate of pizza, might I add) asked “What are pineapples good for?”

These are the kinds of questions that really irk me as a Dietitian, because they miss the point of nutrition. Sure, pineapples are filled with antioxidants such as Vitamin C and caroteniods (which give them their beautiful yellow color). And sure, these antioxidants are great at preventing cancer and allowing us to live healthy lives. But in order to get the cancer fighting benefits of fruits and vegetables (such as pineapple), you have to eat a diet rich in these foods. Eating a few pineapple slices now and then isn’t going to save you from cancer if you eat a diet rich in greasy, processed foods.

To quote one of my favorite nutrition professionals, Marion Nestle, “The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient nutrition science… is that it takes the nutrient out of the context of the food, the food out of the context of the diet, and the diet out of the context of the lifestyle.”

Indeed, many food system activists such as Michael Pollan and Julie Guthman have critiqued the reductionist tendencies of nutrition science. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As a Dietitian, I find it very important to help clients place their food choices in the context of their overall diet, and I hope that other nutrition professionals do the same.

In my opinion, trying to figure out which fruits and vegetables are the healthiest is a waste of time. Here is a secret: they are all healthy! Instead, let’s focus on how to get more servings of fruits and vegetables. Let’s focus on how to make produce the star of our plates. And let’s work on getting a variety of healthy foods, rather than supplementing our diets with one or two “superfoods”.

– Kelly

Protein: How much do we really need?

Eating a vegetarian diet has had me thinking about protein lately. Am I really getting enough? It’s been said that most Americans eat more than enough protein, but is that really true of vegetarians? And how much do we actually need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8g protein/kg body weight. The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for protein is 10-35% of calories. This means that for me personally, my protein RDA is about 40g/day, while my protein AMDR is anywhere from about 40-150g/day. That’s a huge range! Why are they so different? And which one of the recommendations should we go by?

The RDAs were developed in 1941 (during World War II) because food was scarce at the time, and the government wanted to know the minimum level of nutrients that Americans needed without experiencing negative health consequences. Therefore, it is important to remember that the RDAs were developed as the baseline amount to prevent deficiency, not as a goal number for optimal health. Years later, the AMDRs were developed as a range of intake for promoting optimal health. So while it’s definitely true that most Americans eat enough protein, the AMDR range is pretty large, and I would argue that few Americans actually eat too much.

As far as I’m concerned, RDAs are outdated and old news. The AMDR is a much more current number with an identifiable high end and low end. As with most nutrients, it is important to spread protein intake evenly throughout the day to receive maximum health benefits. So try to have at least 1 protein source at each meal, whether or not you are vegetarian. Looking for ideas? See the amount of protein in various foods below.

Carnivorous Protein Sources:

  • 2 oz sliced deli turkey: 13g
  • 3 oz light canned tuna: 16g
  • 4 oz grilled chicken breast: 24g
  • 6 oz grilled salmon fillet: 34g
  • 6 oz filet mignon: 40g

Vegetarian Protein Sources:

  • 1 whole large egg: 6g
  • 1 large egg white: 3.5g
  • 12 oz skim milk: 12g
  • 1 Greek yogurt cup: 14g
  • 1 string cheese (part skim mozzarella) 7g
  • 1 Luna Bar (chocolate peppermint stick) 8g

Vegan Protein Sources:

  • 12 oz plain soy milk 9g
  • 12 oz unsweetened almond milk 1.5g
  • ½ cup cooked black beans 7.5g
  • ½ cup cooked lentils 9g
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter: 8g
  • 2 tablespoons hummus: 3g

Note: Protein levels above were calculated using the USDA Food and Nutrient Database, as well as reading nutrition labels from foods at my house. Also remember that the RDAs and AMDRs are designed with the average healthy adult in mind. Everyone has a different body with unique needs, and your physician or dietitian may recommend otherwise based on your individual circumstances. For a personalized health plan, see your physician or dietitian.

– Kelly

Dietitians vs Nutritionists: The New RDN Credential

There is already significant public confusion over the difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist, but now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is throwing another term into the mix. Effective immediately, Registered Dietitians (RD) are able to identify themselves as Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN). This new title is optional, and there is no difference between the practice, experience or skill set of an RD vs an RDN. According to the Academy, the change is meant to remind the public that “All Dietitians are Nutritionists, but not all Nutritionists are Dietitians”. But lets back up first…

What is the difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

I have covered this before, but here’s a quick recap. Registered Dietitians (RDs) are experts in the field of nutrition that have met the requirements in order to hold the legal title of “RD”.  Although some RDs may consider themselves nutritionists, do not assume that all nutritionists are RDs. In many states, almost anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist”, regardless of education or experience. Requirements to become an RD include:

  • a Bachelors degree in nutrition, dietetics, or a related field
  • Completion of 1200 supervised practice hours through an accredited program
  • Passing the registration exam given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration
  • RDs must then keep up with continuing education requirements in order to maintain their certification.

How does the RDN fit into this puzzle?

Personally, I think that “Nutritionist” is a much better description of nutrition practice, but because it is so unregulated, I prefer to be called a Dietitian. I worked hard to become a Dietitian, not just a Nutritionist, and I’m glad that my title reflects that. I don’t have strong opinions one way or another on the new title, but by making it optional, I believe that the Academy is creating divisions where such divisions don’t exist.

What about Licensure?

Licensure is an entirely different can of worms. Licensure is state regulated, so by becoming licensed, Dietitians are identified as state regulated nutrition professionals. Licensed Dietitians are identified by having “LD” or “LDN” following the RD (or RDN) in their title (example: Jane Doe, RD, LDN). There is no difference in meaning between LD and LDN. Some states (such as Texas) use LD, while other states (such as Massachusetts) use LDN. Many employers request that Dietitians become licensed, because licensed Dietitians qualify as providers by insurance companies, are recognized by JCAHO, meet the criteria for Medical Nutrition Therapy, and are the only professionals that can provide nutrition counseling.

So what’s all of the controversy about? Even though many states have licensure in place, recent persecution of a nonlicensed blogger providing nutrition counseling has sparked the debate that licensure is just a tool for the Academy to limit competition for RDs. On the other hand, the Academy sees licensure as protecting public health and setting a minimum standard for education and experience. As a recent article so eloquently put it, “just as there are licensed physicians and dentists, whose license ensures they’ve met a rigorous set of standards, so should there be licensed dietitians”.

For those that would like to learn more:

– Kelly

Nutritional Risks and Benefits of the Paleo Diet

A friend recently asked for my professional opinion on the “Paleo Diet”. Because this diet is still fairly popular, I thought I would share my research of the nutritional risks and benefits with a wider audience.

Introduction

What is the “Paleo diet”?

The Paleo Diet, or Hunter Gatherer diet, refers to a way of eating that is meant to mimic the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors. Although there are several variations of this diet, the typical Paleo diet derives over 50% of energy from animal products, and is high in protein (19-35% of calories) and fat (25-58%) and low in carbohydrates (22-40%)1. The main food sources are foods that were hunted and gathered, including wild game, fish, shellfish, eggs, nuts, fruit, and vegetables. Restricted foods are those that were not widely available during this era, and include grains, dairy, alcohol, processed foods, sucrose and legumes1.

The Science Behind the Paleo diet

Paleo diet foods were selected for their prominence in a preagriculture Paleolithic civilization. These food choices are thought to benefit health due to their high nutrient density and soluble fiber content, low glycemic load, favorable sodium to potassium ratio, acid base balance, and low content of bioactive substances and antinutrients1. The Paleolithic era is thought to be nutritionally superior to our current era because our Paleolithic ancestors did not suffer from the chronic diseases that plague western cultures1. However, chronic diseases tend to occur later in life and Paleolithic peoples did not live as long as we do today. And although it has been noted that extant hunter-gatherer cultures have more years of good health and less chronic disease than people in Western civilizations, the standard American diet is known for its link to chronic disease1.

Note that there are other, non-dietary aspects of the paleo diet that include physical activity, regular sun exposure, adequate sleep and a lack of chronic stress and pollutants1. The purpose of this review is to narrow in on the nutrition regulations of the Paleo diet in order to evaluate the various risks and benefits of this eating pattern.

Nutrition Risks of the Paleo Diet

Restriction of Grains

One of the most controversial aspects of the Paleo diet is the elimination of grains. Without grains, followers of this diet are unable to benefit from the various health effects associated with whole grain consumption, including a decreased risk for type 2 diabetesC, cardiovascular disease, and cancers of the colon and rectum, as well as well as decreased plasma concentration of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol4.

Grains are primarily a source of carbohydrate, and by eliminating grains, the Paleo diet has a carbohydrate level of only 22-40% of calories. Low carbohydrate diets have been cycling in and out of the media over the years masked as The Atkins Diet, the Zone Diet, and now the Paleo Diet. Low carbohydrate diets work to deplete liver and muscle of glycogen stores. However, in order to maintain blood sugar, both fat and muscles are broken down into ketones to be used for energy in a process known as ketosis. Converting fat to energy through ketosis does promote weight loss, although muscle is broken down for an energy source as well. Once a normal diet is resumed the body no longer has to resort to ketosis, so the weight eventually returns rendering the fad diet as unsuccessful. Studies also show that after one year, the weight loss from a low carbohydrate diet is no more than the weight loss from a low fat diet3.

Low carbohydrate diets also pose a risk for kidney disease. Although proponents of the Paleo diet are quick to point out that the diet does not seem to pose a threat to people without preexisting kidney disease1, recent research suggests that the negative health effects of low carbohydrate diets are not always consistent with serum biochemical markers for kidney function, therefore masking underlying organ and tissue damage3.

High in animal proteins and fats

Animal based diets are linked to chronic disease including cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease5. Because the paleo diet is relatively high in animal proteins and fats, followers of this diet may be at an increased risk of chronic disease. Diets high in meat, particularly red meat, also tend to be high in saturated fat.  Saturated fat has long been associated with an increased risk for heart disease. Supporters of the Paleo diet point out that replacing saturated fats with refined carbohydrates actually increases heart disease risk1. However, this research does not indicate replacing whole grain carbohydrates with animal fat. A more heart healthy alternative would perhaps be to replace saturated fat laden meats with lower fat cuts of meat or even photochemical rich plant protein sources. There is also controversial research regarding the positive effects of certain types of saturated fat found in coconut oil1. However, coconut oil is a plant source of saturated fat, so high consumptions of animal fat do not appear to have any of these health benefits.

On the other hand, plant based, vegetarian diets are linked to lower body mass indexes, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure, as well as decreased incidence of hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer5. These plant based, vegetarian diets tend to be high in “fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, legumes, nuts, and various soy products”. Legumes are beneficial sources of protein because they contain slow release carbohydrates as well as soluble fiber5. Legumes can also protect against stomach, colon, and prostate cancer5. In contrast, the Paleo excludes grains, legumes, and soy products while promoting meat consumption.

Low in Calcium

Calcium is an extremely important mineral for bone health and is one of the essential nutrients required for normal body functioning. Because the Paleo diet excludes dairy products, one of the greatest sources of highly bioavailable calcium5, followers of this diet are at an increased risk of calcium deficiency. Some Paleo diet researchers believe dairy products to net acid yielding and therefore damaging to the kidneys1, yet, as mentioned previously, research suggests that it is the restriction of carbohydrates that saturates the blood stream with acidic ketones that can pose a threat to kidney health3.

Nutritional Benefits of the Paleo Diet

High in fruits and vegetables

High consumption of fruits and vegetables has numerous documented health benefits, and there have been a number of campaigns in America that have worked to increase produce consumption. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of soluble fiber, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals. In fact, fruits and vegetables have a higher micronutrient density than other food groups, including grains and dairy1.

Choosing nutrient dense foods over energy dense foods also lends itself to weight loss and weight maintenance, because nutrient dense foods have much less calories. In addition, the soluble fiber found in these foods helps promote satiety and movement through the digestive tract, and it also aids with glycemic control1. Various fruits and vegetables have been shown to exhibit a protection against various cancers, including prostate, lung, colon, stomach, and esophagus5. Because the Paleo diet encourages a high consumption of fruits and vegetables, followers may benefit from these health effects.

Animal Products that are Free Range and Grass Fed

There is an increasing amount of research being done on the health benefits of animal products that are free range and grass fed (rather than caged and grain fed). Because wild game and other animals hunted during the Paleolithic era weren’t fed grain, caged up, or pumped full of antibiotics and other additives, grass fed and free range cuts of meat and eggs are recommended in the Paleo diet. Eggs and meats from grass fed animals tend to have a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, which is thought to be favorable for heart health1.

Limiting Refined Sugars

Refined sugars are essentially empty calories, and they are hidden almost everywhere in the Western diet. Refined sugars are packed full of energy and flavor, but unlike fruit juice and other unrefined sweeteners, completely devoid of micronutrients and soluble fiber1. High intake of refined sugars, including high fructose corn syrup, has been linked to “obesity, dyslipedemia, gout, hypertension, kidney disease, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease”1. Because refined sugars were not consumed during the Paleolithic era it is restricted in the Paleo diet. Therefore, followers of the Paleo diet may not be subject to the harmful effects associated with refined sugar consumption.

Discussion

While there is little argument the standard American diet is less than ideal, the current dietary guidelines for Americans reflect the latest in evidence-based research2. The Paleo diet encourages a very natural way of eating and a diet high in produce and low in food additive and refined sugars is a step in the right direction. However, as with most fad diets, anytime a food group is restricted one should proceed with caution. Eliminating whole grains from the diet could potentially lead to long-term health effects such as kidney damage, as well an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or colon or rectal cancer4. The Paleo diet does not appear to be harmful to short-term health, especially when carbohydrate levels do not fall below the low range of the spectrum and when lean protein sources are chosen over fatty red meats. However, there is not enough evidence to warrant recommending this diet to patients over a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins2.

Resources:

  1. Carrera-Bastos P, Fontes Villabla M, O’Keefe JH, Lindeberg S, Cordain L. The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civiliazation. Res Rep Clin Cardiol 2011; 2: 215-235.
  2. “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” Your Portal to Health Information from the U.S. Government. Web. 05 Apr. 2012. <http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/Default.asp&gt;.
  3. Frigolet ME, Raymos Barragon VE, Tamez Gonzalez M. Low-carbohydrate diets: a matter of love or hate. Ann Nutr Metab. 2011 Oct;58(4):320-34.
  4. Montonen J, Boeing H, Fritsche A, Schleicher E, Joost HG, Schulze MB, Steffen A, Pischon T. Consumption of red meat and whole-grain bread in relation to biomarkers of obesity, inflammation, glucose metabolism and oxidative stress. Eur J Ntr. 2012 Mar 18. [Epub ahead of print]
  5. Winston, John C. Nutrition Concerns and Health Effects of Vegetarian Diets. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010 Dec;25(6):613-20.

– Kelly