As I talked about in my last post, the holistic practitioner that has been working with me lately suggested that I move toward the Paleo Diet in order to regain my health. That caused me to smile. Not only because I didn't expect her to say that, but because after spending 5 years on a strict, whole-foods low-carb diet of just meats, eggs, vegetables, berries, and healthy fats, I was no closer to health than I was before I started.
That's the naked truth.
Foundation Claims of the Paleo Diet
I decided to look into the Paleo Diet anyway because I was relatively familiar with the program. I started with Lorin Cordain's website since he was the founder of the Paleo movement. I thought I would get a clearer picture of what the diet was all about if I went to the source.
What I understood after the hours I spent reading there was that Paleo is based on mimicking the foods our ancient ancestors ate before the Agricultural Revolution because those are the foods our bodies are genetically adapted to eat. This is done by using modern day equivalents.
The claim is that scientific research has looked into the types and amounts of food our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, so emulating those foods is no problem. All we have to do to go back to our roots is to eat a high protein, high fruits, and high vegetable diet with a moderate to higher fat content -- and we're golden.
What People on the Paleo Diet Eat
From what I read, the Paleo Diet consists of grass-produced meats, fish and seafood, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils such as olive oil, walnut or macadamia oils, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, or coconut oil. They don't eat peanuts because peanuts are a bean, not a nut. They don't eat dairy because dairy products were not available to our ancestors. They also do not use salt.
After arming myself with a good Paleo foods background, I took a trip to one of the blogs located on the first page of Google search results for the Paleo Diet. I was a bit surprised at what I found. The blog I went to offered "The Beginner's Guide to the Paleo Diet," which I thought was a fantastic idea. But the article quickly got itself into trouble.
The article's motto was "If a caveman couldn't eat it, neither can you."
Then that outlaws almost every Paleo food on the list. The only foods that fit the Caveman criteria are the wild animals we go out and hunt down for ourselves, or pay someone else to. In my area that would limit me to wild deer and elk. I've been told that there are a few wild patches of asparagus around, but I haven't seen one yet. We have fruit trees here, but modern man has planted those himself, so they are off limits if we cannot eat anything a Caveman couldn't.
Problems I Have With the Paleo Diet
The holistic practitioner told me I could find plenty of Paleo recipes on the web, so I was expecting to find creative ways of roasting meats and vegetables. Instead, I found tons of blogs trying to imitate a modern-day SAD diet by using legal Paleo foods. Foods that our ancient ancestors didn't eat. They didn't eat chicken stir-fry, paleo spaghetti, or bread made with coconut flour and almond flour. They had no way to make the flour.
Neither did they use healthy oils. There was no such thing!
The whole foundation for the diet quickly crumbled for me. It just all feels like another gimmick. Now, I'm not opposing the diet's health claims, although some of those claims such as the ones they make for the Glycemic Index are not true. What I am opposing is how the diet is advertised to people who don't know any better.
Modern foods are not the foods our ancestors ate. Other than the wild deer and elk we have running around here, there isn't one single food in my area that any of my ancient ancestors ate. Vegetables and fruits today are not the vegetables and fruits they had then. We wouldn't even recognize their fruits and vegetables if we were to see them, and probably wouldn't enjoy them at all because they had way less sugar and far more fiber than our modern produce has today.
Plus, the Cavemen were limited to what was available in their own area. That means everyone did not eat all of the foods that the Paleo Diet allows. Their diet was extremely limited, and individualized. It was not varied. Fruits and vegetables would have been extremely scarce, and not eaten in the huge quantities that the Paleo Diet recommends.
The Ultimate Questions
The foundational claim for the Paleo Diet is that the foods it allows are the foods we are genetically adapted to eat. The whole adaption theory is confusing to me, however. It doesn't make any sense. If the list of Paleo foods is truly what our ancestors ate, then there was no genetic adaption necessary.
However, the ultimate questions I have are these:
- How do we know that we actually descended from the Cave Man?
- How do we know that we were not just dropped off here on this planet, or crashed here, or whatever, and the Cave Man was already here?
- How do we know that our ancient ancestors were hunger-gatherers?
- How do we know that our ancient ancestors were not those who began the Agricultural Revolution because they brought seeds with them?
We don't. And that's where the Paleo Theory crashes for me.