You may be aware of an approach to food known as the Paleo Diet. At it’s core, it is designed to be a diet that eliminates the products of modern agriculture and returns us to what our ancient ancestors ate (Paleo…paleolithic, caveman – get it?)
The argument for Paleo.
The Paleolithic era was a period lasting around 2.5 million years that ended about 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture and domestication of animals. The argument is that humans evolved nutritional needs specific to the foods available at that time, and that the human metabolism has been unable to adapt fast enough to handle many of the foods that have become available since then.
Thus, modern humans are said to be maladapted to eating foods such as grain, legumes (peanuts), and dairy from domesticated animals. In particular, the high-calorie processed foods that are such a big part of modern diets are a problem. When was the last time you heard of a remote population adopting a North American diet and being healthier? Yeah…never.
Proponents of Paleo claim that the inability to properly metabolize these comparatively new types of food has led to modern-day problems such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. They claim that followers of the Paleolithic diet may enjoy a longer, healthier, more active life.
Paleo has it’s critics.
Some say we don’t know exactly what was eaten in the Paleolithic period, humans are nutritionally very flexible (looking at the range of diets around the world), that the hypothesis that Paleolithic humans were genetically adapted to specific local diets remains to be proven, and that the Paleolithic period was extremely long (2.5 million years) with changing diets.
However, regardless of opinion on Paleo, we can’t argue that the North American diet is the right approach. Rates of obesity, diabetes and other diseases are skyrocketing and it’s not all due to too much sitting down or video games.
Here is a cheat sheet on Paleo.
You can find more details on Paleo here.
- Grass-produced meats
- Fresh fruits and veggies
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthful oils (Olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut)
- Cereal grains
- Legumes (including peanuts)
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Refined vegetable oils
Some of these recommendations can be a challenge for people. So, at the very least, when looking at your own food intake, do your best to eliminate obvious dietary offenders such as refined sugar and processed foods that come in a box or package.