The Benefits and Drawbacks of Eating a Paleo Diet

Jul 31, 2023

A Paleo diet food display

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Editor’s note: Special thanks to friend of the site Alea Chappell of Trendgredient for her excellent contribution!

In the ever-changing world of trendy fad diets and weight loss schemes, some diets have proven their staying power. One of these diets is the Paleo diet. 

What is Paleo?

Believe it or not, the Paleolithic diet (Paleo diet, for short) was first introduced in the 1970s. However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the diet began to gain traction in popular culture. 

The basic principle of the Paleo diet is to eat the food that humans ate during the Paleolithic Era, which spanned from “roughly 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 B.C.”. The common catchphrase associated with the Paleo diet is to “eat like the cavemen did,” which refers to the lack of processed foods and emphasis on the whole food diet of our hunter/gatherer ancestors.

What Foods Are Allowed and Prohibited in a Paleo Diet?

The foods that are encouraged in a Paleo diet are whole foods, such as grass-fed lean meats and fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, herbs, spices, and plant-based oils, like olive oil. Grains, dairy, and legumes, such as beans and tofu, are strictly limited and in a strict Paleo diet, eliminated altogether. The Paleo diet also avoids all processed foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and anything with trans fats. 

In this article, we will examine eight benefits and eight drawbacks of eating a Paleo diet. We will discuss why some choose to follow the diet and why others are leery of it. 

This article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical consultation. As always, please consult a physician before beginning a new diet plan.

A plate of sliced meats and vegetables

8 Benefits of Eating a Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet has many health and lifestyle benefits. Here are eight ways a Paleo diet may benefit you.

Weight Loss

The first proposed benefit of eating a Paleo diet is weight loss. Because the diet is focused on whole (not processed) foods, dieters often see weight loss. They generally experience increased satiety from these nutrient-dense foods, which results in reduced caloric intake. 

Improved Blood Sugar Control

The next benefit of eating a Paleo diet is an improvement in blood sugar control. Processed carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats, and refined sugars wreak havoc on the body’s endocrine system. These foods can cause blood sugar spikes/drops. Eating too much of these foods can contribute to the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. 

A Paleo diet prohibits all processed foods and as a result, dieters often experience more regulated blood sugar levels. These stable blood sugar levels could also benefit those with insulin resistance or diabetes.

Enhanced Nutrient Intake

Paleo dieters often see some big health benefits because Paleo food is rich in nutrients. The emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can really increase someone’s overall nutrient intake, especially in essential vitamins and minerals. 

Some of the essential vitamins and minerals abundant in a Paleo diet include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus. 

Reduced Inflammation

Another benefit to eating a Paleo diet is reduced inflammation. Paleo dieters often see reduced inflammation because the diet restricts many inflammatory foods. The most common inflammatory foods are red meat, processed meats, refined grains, white sugar, fried foods, alcohol, soda, hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and some types of dairy. Most of these foods are completely restricted.

Better Digestion

Many individuals on the Paleo diet experience better digestion. This is because many of the foods that are known to negatively impact the digestive system are prohibited. Examples of these digestion-unfriendly foods are sugar, dairy, legumes, and gluten. All these foods are excluded from the diet, so the result is better digestion.

Increased Energy Levels

The Paleo diet is often associated with an increase in energy levels. Foods that are high in protein and healthy fat provide long-lasting satiety and energy. Instead of using sugar and carbohydrates for fuel, the Paleo body uses protein and fat for energy. Protein and fat provide a much more long-lasting and stable form of energy for the body. Sugar and carbs are notorious for providing short-term energy with a big crash afterwards. 

Enhanced Athletic Performance

Piggybacking on the point above, the increased energy levels experienced by Paleo dieters can result in enhanced athletic performance. The foods in the Paleo diet fall in line with what is considered an ideal diet for an athlete: high protein, healthy fats, and nutrients, and low sugar and carbs. Athletes following a Paleo diet often report improved performance and faster recovery times, likely due to the focus on whole foods.

Sustainable Eating Habits

Many find that Paleo is more of a lifestyle than a diet. Paleo provides the building blocks to create a sustainable lifestyle that encourages mindful food choices. People who are fully committed to practicing a long-term Paleo lifestyle often find success. 

Thick-sliced meat displayed fancifully

8 Drawbacks of Eating a Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet has drawn some criticism over the years, from concerns regarding how nutritious it really is, to questions regarding its practicality. Below are eight reasons why it may not be the best choice for you.

Limited Food Choices

The guidelines of are strict and finite. Because the diet excludes entire food groups, what one can eat is limited. Furthermore, in order to follow the diet strictly, one must know how to cook, so they can be sure they use only the limited ingredients with which they are allowed to cook. 

Nutrient Deficiencies

A Paleo diet requires careful planning in order to avoid experiencing nutrient deficiencies. Although the diet is replete with many vitamins and nutrients, it severely lacks others. The primary nutrients that are not commonly found in this diet are calcium and vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D are important for the health of bones. Adding vitamin supplements is a way to avoid these nutrient deficiencies. 

Higher Cost

There has been no time in history when food prices have been higher than they are today. And the prices keep going up! Not only that, but the foods in the Paleo diet are some of the most expensive foods at the supermarket. Since Paleo emphasizes grass-fed meats and organic produce, the cost of following this lifestyle is staggering and impractical for many.

Difficulty Dining Out

Dining out has such importance in the American culture. We dine out for special occasions, weekends, and sometimes just because we don’t want to cook! This makes dining out challenging because there are few restaurants that offer Paleo-friendly options. In fact, even if someone orders a menu item that appears to be Paleo, it is likely cooked with butter or some other banned ingredient. 

Social Isolation

Unless they are part of a Paleo-specific social group of some kind, dieters may experience social isolation after adopting this lifestyle. Suddenly, social gatherings become trickier. Is there a Paleo option for food? Will there be beverages other than alcohol available? The Paleo dieter may feel like the odd person out if all their friends are partaking in non-Paleo food and drinks. These moments of being the “odd person out” may lead to deeper feelings of isolation or exclusion from social groups.

Lack of Long-Term Studies

Because the diet didn’t take off until the early 2000s, there isn’t a lot of long-term scientific study on the effect of a Paleo diet on one’s health. It is hard to find good information on the internet regarding the diet, because there is a lack of long-term research regarding whether the diet is beneficial or detrimental to overall health. Much like this list suggests, there are definite pros and cons of a Paleo diet, but not a lot of these claims are backed up with actual scientific research.

Potential for Overeating

Another drawback is the potential for overeating. The diet is focused on the foods that are allowed and prohibited. It is not as focused on portion control. Although in theory, the foods that are allowed on the diet tend to improve satiety and combat hunger, that does not mean that people aren’t overeating at mealtimes. Portion control is important for anyone following a Paleo diet.

Sustainability Concerns

The final drawback of the Paleo diet is the fact that this diet is not one of convenience. One must be very committed to the lifestyle. There are no “cheat days” and there is no flexibility in what you can and cannot eat on this diet. Many move away from the Paleo diet because it is simply too hard to sustain. A firm commitment is necessary if someone wants to achieve success with this diet.

Conclusion – Is Paleo Right for You?

The Paleo diet has some very positive features and some very concerning drawbacks. Is this diet right for you? Ultimately, the only person who can answer the question (with the guidance of your healthcare provider) is you. Many have seen success with the Paleo diet. The most important thing is that you look at this list of pros and cons and decide if you are ready to embark on this journey. Regardless, you are already on the right track! You are looking at your options for living a healthy lifestyle and THAT is what is important. 

Featured Author Bio

Alea Chappell is the owner of Trendgredient, a collection of easy, delicious, and fun recipes that marry comfort food with no-fuss sophistication. 

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.