Expert: Keri Gans, RDN, certified yoga teacher and author of The Small Change Diet (Gallery, 2011)

What it means: “The premise of the paleo diet is that we should eat like our ancestors did during the Paleolithic era as hunters and gatherers,” says Gans. This diet allows meat, poultry, fish, eggs, fruit, vegetables and healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, olive and coconut oils and avocado, while prohibiting all pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas), grains, dairy, added sugars and processed foods with artificial ingredients.

Why it’s a thing: Why people choose a paleo lifestyle varies. Some are attracted to the no-processed-food focus, while others like the trendy low-carb eating pattern. Gans recognizes that some may choose it for health reasons. The paleo diet discourages added sugars, so someone with diabetes may try it to stabilize blood sugar levels.

What it takes: “The pros of the diet are that it focuses on foods minimally or totally nonprocessed and encourages eating plenty of fruits and vegetables,” says Gans. “The con, though, is that it completely eliminates food groups that typically provide important nutrients.”

For example, eliminating dairy may make it harder to meet your calcium and vitamin D needs. In addition, if you’re not eating a lot of fruits and vegetables or you limit the amount of seafood on your plate, Gans says the diet might be too low in fiber and omega-3 fats, which are important for reducing heart disease risk.

If the takeaway message is to “eat plenty of meat,” Gans says, then the diet could be high in saturated fat, which may increase risk for heart disease and certain cancers.

“This diet is restrictive, and for many people the elimination of foods they love—especially bread, pasta, potatoes and rice—makes it almost impossible to stick to,” she adds.

What's my ideal diet? Jump to: 

Gluten free Paleo
Mediterranean Plant-based
Intermittent fasting DASH