3 Reasons To NOT Go Paleo

Written By: Michelle MacLean

If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried almost every diet and way of eating. I’ve been vegan, vegetarian, plant-based, raw, gluten and dairy free, ate according to my blood type, tried an Ayurvedic approach and for the last couple of years, was primarily Paleo.

What I like about the Paleo approach, or the term I prefer to use – “ancestral” – is the focus on real, whole foods. The approach builds on a foundation of vegetables, which every dietary theory agrees on. It eliminates most of the common allergens and problematic foods like gluten, dairy, soy and grains. And allows in some whole food sweeteners, while avoiding added, processed and refined sugars.

So What’s The Problem?

Caveman-DietThe main issue I have with Paleo is its focus on way too much animal protein. Many of the advocates and followers are intense athletes who can burn through all that protein. But for the average person, the emphasis on beef, pork, poultry and eggs at every meal is a bit too much.

For me, a balance somewhere in the middle of Paleo and vegan works best for my body, health needs and lifestyle. Dr. Mark Hyman has recently coined the term “Pegan,” which is a combination of the two and I think it nicely captures the best of both nutrition worlds.

Pegan focuses mainly on veggies and fruit that are local and in season, avoids pesticides, antibiotics and hormones, GMO’s, additives and preservatives. It’s high in good quality fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut and olive oil. And includes good quality protein from both plant and animal based sources.

What I know for sure is there is no “one perfect diet” for everyone. I’ve been experimenting with ways of eating for the last 25 years and feel like I’m finally getting it right. But who knows what I’ll be eating in five years from now! Nutritional research and science is very confusing and easy to manipulate, cherry pick and it becomes very hard for us to know what to believe.

Experimenting and using your own body as a gauge, is how I recommend figuring out what you should eat on a daily basis. If you’re considering going Paleo, here are my three reasons to think again:

1. Too much animal protein – Paleo advocates animal protein at every meal and fairly large amounts of it. But if you eat more protein than your body needs, or can use up, it’s stored as fat. You can’t store the extra protein for later use. A good rule of thumb is about 1/2 a gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. For most people, this adds up to 40 to 70 grams of protein a day. Plus, animal protein can be expensive and sometimes hard to find local. Quality does matter so when you buy, make sure you’re opting for products that are 100% grass-fed, organic, free range and wild-caught.

2. No dairy – You’ve been led to believe you need dairy for calcium. But you can’t actually absorb and assimilate the calcium from dairy. Your better bet is getting it from dark leafy greens. And with links to cancer, mucous production and inflammation, for many, dairy simply isn’t a good option. The exceptions (for those that can tolerate it) are fermented dairy products. Full fat organic yogurt or kefir are great ways to get those good bacteria into your gut to boost immunity and digestion.

3. No legumes – Legumes are seeds that are grown in pods. They include beans, lentils, peas and peanuts. The Paleo purists avoid these plant based sources of protein because they contain some anti-nutrients, called lectins and are a high source of carbohydrate, which can spike insulin. Generally, if your system tolerates them, I think beans and lentils are a decent quality source of plant-based protein. They are high in amino acids, have little fat and no cholesterol. Plus, they are relatively cheap.

The best eating plan for you should give you energy, smooth digestion, a clear head and skin, balanced blood sugar, freedom from cravings and mood swings, your set-point weight and a good night’s sleep. If these aren’t working well for you, then maybe something in your nutrition is off.

Following one specific diet or way of eating might not be right for you. I recommend experimenting and using your own body as a gauge. Maybe a combination of a couple different approaches is the best plan for you!


Michelle Maclean

Michelle Maclean

Wellness Coach and Nutrition Consultant at The Sugar Shift
Michelle MacLean is a Wellness Coach and Nutrition Consultant who works primarily with women who are struggling with the negative effects of sugar. She helps her clients reclaim their inner sweetness and let go of refined sugar for good in her 8-week Sugar Shift Intensive. She also offers individual coaching. Michelle doesn’t focus on diets, but instead helps create a total transformation, focusing on the relationship with food and self-love.

Download Michelle’s Sugar-Free Breakfast E-book with nine healthy recipes to rev your metabolism and energize you for the day.
Michelle Maclean

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