Questions and Thoughts About the Paleo Diet


Grass Fed White Cow
Is the Paleo Diet really what our ancestors ate? 
How do you know?

The holistic practitioner that has been working with me lately suggested that I move toward the Paleo Diet to regain my health.

This 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 -- a low-carb Paleo Diet -- I was no closer to health than I was before I started.

That's the naked truth.


What are the Claims of the Paleo Diet?


I decided to look into the Paleo Diet because I was relatively familiar with the program, but wondering if there was something to it that I was missing.

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 the information available at that website was that Paleo is based on mimicking the foods our ancient ancestors ate before the Agricultural Revolution. 

Apparently, the foods allowed on Paleo are the foods our bodies are genetically adapted to eat. This is done by using modern day equivalents, which Paleo advocates claim is close enough.

The claim is that scientific research has looked into the types and amounts of food our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, so emulating those foods today is no problem.

All we have to do to go back to our roots is to eat a high protein, high fruit, 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, including tubers
  • eggs
  • nuts and seeds
  • 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 more than a little 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."

Really?

If true, then this outlaws almost every Paleo food on the above 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 hunt for us.

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 planted those himself, so they are off limits if we can't 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 Paleo foods -- foods that our ancient ancestors didn't eat, by the way.

They didn't eat:
  • chicken stir-fry
  • paleo spaghetti
  • 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 Paleo diet quickly crumbled for me. It just all feels like another dieting 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 particular area. This means everyone did not eat all of the foods that the Paleo Diet recommends. Their diet was extremely limited, and individualized.

It was not varied. It was quite repetitive.

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. But the whole adaption theory is confusing to me. 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 our ancestors didn't come here from another planet and the Cave Man was already here?
  • How do we know that our ancient ancestors were hunter-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.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, archaeologists have discovered that many Paleo communities actually ate grains, so the whole no-grain diet is a myth, as well.


Comments

  1. I'm sorry but I cannot follow this blog anymore... These 4 questions at the end are so idiotic that I can no longer take any other post you write seriously and will be unsubscribing. The theory of evolution answers all of your questions.

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  2. David,
    The definition of the word "theory" is - something that the majority believes, but cannot be proven to be true. So, no. The THEORY of evolution does not answer any of my questions. I was hoping that someone could and would help me understand the theory of the Paleo Diet, but I guess no one was up to the task. Thanks for your comment.

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  3. While I'm quite sure we didn't descend from alien invaders from mars, I still think there is validity in your question: Until recently (geologically speaking) we didn't travel and intermarry like we do today. Was my genetic code established during my ancestors' centuries of hunting and gathering in Africa? South America? Northern Europe? Asia? Am I descended from people who thrived on fish? Sheep? Game? Oats? Corn? As you note, early humans did not have equal access to all foods on the planet, only those in their geographic range. That's where paleo theology starts to break down for me.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your nice reply. I really appreciate it. I was so frustrated with my Paleo doc when I wrote this in 2013, and it didn't help that she wanted to send me to an expensive nutritionist for my thyroid issues. That was in addition to paying her office 80 a month for vitamin supplementation. While I understand the merits of what the Paleo folks are doing, they are not eating what our ancestors ate.

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