Is a Paleo Diet Nutritionally Complete?

nutrition Dec 15, 2014

The Paleo Diet has gained a lot of traction over the past few years, and with that, comes critics. In this article, I’m going to address one objection you might here about the paleo diet.

A common objection to the Paleo diet is that it is not nutritionally complete. This is due to the fact that paleo excludes all grains, legumes, and most dairy. It also eliminates all processed and refined foods.

This statement of nutritional deficiency is completely unfounded. In fact, the Paleo diet is one of the most nutrient dense diets out there and has been shown in several randomized clinical trials to be superior to the Mediterranean Diet. The diet is extremely nutrient deficient is the Standard American Diet which most of our society is living on. 

The typical paleo diet meets or exceeds the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for all important nutrients. This includes vitamins A, B6, B12, folate, E, magnesium, and iron. The only mineral that does not meet the RDA is calcium. This, however, is an easy fix. First, you can get calcium from bone-in fish and bone broth. Additionally studies show that we require less calcium when our magnesium levels sufficient, and a paleo diet provides high levels of magnesium. The majority of Americans are deficient in magnesium due to the limited nutrients in the Standard American Diet. However, with a Paleo diet, you can consume adequate amounts of magnesium which lessens your need for as much calcium.

As far as nutrient density is concerned, paleo foods are right at the top. Here are a few of the most nutrient dense foods.

paleo dietNutrient Density Scale

  • organ meats
  • herbs/spices
  • pre-soaked nuts/seeds
  • cacao
  • fish/seafood
  • beef
  • lamb/ wild game
  • vegetables (raw)
  • pork
  • eggs/dairy
  • poultry

You’ll see that grains and legumes are not on this list. They are farther down at the bottom. And sugar and processed foods are definitely at the bottom.

One question that’s often asked is “What about grains?” Many of us are under the impression that we need grains in our diet. Actually, there is nothing in grains that we can’t get from paleo foods in a much more bioavailable way.

Many nutrients in grains are not bioavailable because grains contain phytic acid which prevents absorption. Grains are also lacking many vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids. Whole grains are very low on the nutrient density scale.

We also must consider that 80% of the grains consumed in the US are processed or refined which puts them at the very bottom of the nutrient density scale.

Bottom line – grains are not required for human consumption. Does that mean you should NEVER consume grains again? Not necessarily. However, they shouldn’t comprise the majority of your diet.

Modified versions of the Paleo Diet have proven extremely beneficial in healing digestive problems, autoimmune conditions, and chronic health issues.

The Paleo Diet is also perfect for you if you’re simply looking to get healthy, achieve a healthy weight, increase your energy, improve your mood, and feel better.



Chris Kresser

Robb Wolf


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