I know this is going to ruffle some feathers. But before you get angry at me and tell me I am an idiot, blah, blah, blah, just sit back and listen for a minute. Try to have a bit of an open mind for just the next 5 minutes of your life.
I watched last week’s episode of Shark Tank (cool business TV show for those who don’t know) and was moderately enraged by a woman on the show who is now selling Paleo Diet Bars. She is a dental hygienist by trade and is a hobby a fitness instructor. So yes, obviously she is qualified to be creating food products to improve people’s health. Alas, that is a topic for another day and I already seem to be digressing.
Let me open by saying if you follow the ‘Paleo Diet’ and the whole ‘Paleo’ movement, you are not doing any harm.
Overall it is a good diet. I mean, it isn’t the BEST diet and it cuts out a lot of stuff you really don’t have to cut out based on some quackery false as fuck pseudoscience, but overall Mr. Cordain at least isn’t recommending anything that is dangerous. And at least he has some credentials as opposed to Quack Oz and his trusty sidekick, the Food Babe.
According to the Paleo website you should eat grass-produced meats, fish/seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts and seeds, healthy oils. You SHOULD NOT eat cereal grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt, refined vegetable oils.
All in all that is some healthy food. If you follow the To Eat foods, yes, you will feel like a million bucks and probably change your health for the better. Not to mention you will be eating better than 90% of those around you!
But really, no cereal grains at all? No legumes? No dairy? No potatoes? (FYI – potatoes are a fucking vegetable. They won’t kill you,in fact they can have a great place in your diet!). When you dig into the actual archaeological data, humans have been consuming cereal grains and dairy for 10,000 years-ish. Without the domestication of animals and the advent of farming and agriculture we wouldn’t all be here today living in urban centres and reading shit on the internet.
This is where I have issues with the ‘Paleo” diet.
Here are some honest truths for you:
-No one knows what the ‘paleo’ diet was. We have some good ideas and some great guess and detective work but it is still open to interpretation.
-The paleolithic era stretched from around 2.2 million years ago until around 10,000 years ago. That means it is an era 2.1 MILLION years long, from which we have found a few fossils. It is not much of a stretch to think that just MAYBE the diet of humanities ancestors changed a few times throughout this period. 2.1 million years. Rome was at the height of its power 2100 years ago. Think how much we have changed in the last 2100 years – and that’s only 0.1% of the total time of the Palaeolithic era. If we have changed this much since the time of the Roman Empire, think how much things changed during the other 2.1 MILLION years.
-The food eaten by Paleo Diet advocates is NOT what humans ate tens of thousands of years ago (more on that later).
-Without refrigeration or food preservations techniques, such as salting, you ate what was available when it was available. Banana’s and berries in Europe in February? Where the fuck do you think those came from?
-Different parts of the world: different diets. Yeah, that’s right. There wasn’t a Whole Foods 20,000 years ago with a selection of food from anywhere in the world that you could pick and choose from at any time of year. You ate what you were close to. Live in Northern Europe? You ate animal fat and root veggies. Live in South America? Plants and fruits. Asia? Fish and plants. The point? There is NO ONE diet.
Those are a few hard truths that people need to understand. The people walking around preaching this asinine ‘I am paleo, I only eat like a caveman’ bullshit are misinformed assholes. Sorry, sometimes the truth hurts.
I mean, even the fact that people say, ‘eat like a caveman,’ shows their complete lack of knowledge and ignorance of actual facts. Cavemen? Do you even know when people lived in caves? Which people did? Did you know a lot of people over the last 2 million years DIDN’T live in caves? They lived in all sorts of different environments and structures. If anyone uses the term ‘caveman’ you can instantly disregard the rest of what they are saying because it is just shit they are reciting from other misinformed people.
If our Palaeolithic ancestors followed todays ‘paleo’ diet that is making the rounds today – they would all die. They wouldn’t have access to most of the food most of the time, as what they have access to, of course depends on where in the world they lived. And the foods in the ‘paleo’ diet are not the most calorie and nutrient dense. 10,000 years ago you needed all the nutrients you could get.
Let’s look at what someone in this Palaeolithic era MIGHT have eaten based on surveys and studies by actual anthropologists. For the sake of this article we are going to assume a European ancestry. African or Asian ancestry will be different than this. Why? Because they didn’t have shipping and trucking to get food moved around the world to share with each other.
So you are living in Europe 20,000 years ago. You are hungry. WTF do you do?
Well, you could kill some large animal to get at the delicious juicy lean meats. But that is a shit-ton of work – days in fact. And you can get really hurt as well, so there is a big risk. Plus the energy to actually find and kill it is an enormous expense and lack of a kill could leave you in a pretty energy depleted state.
Most likely you will turn to a way better and easier to get at protein source: bugs and insects. Uh-huh. True story.
Add in some delicious roots and plants for fiber and carbs. Say it’s late summer so maybe you can scrounge up some berries. Enjoy them though because you will only have access to berries about, oh, 1 month out of the year.
That is a more typical diet. For shits and giggles, though, let’s say you do get a big elk or some other larger mammal killed. Awesome! Look at all the wicked nutrition. Here is what would actually happen:
-The LAST thing you would ever eat is the LEAN meat. What a waste of your time. You need calories, nutrition, vitamins and minerals. You only get big game every once in a while, so don’t waste it!
-First you drink the blood. Seriously. Minerals, vitamins, calories, everything about it is great for you!
-Next you need to eat the organs because that is where the most nutrition is after the blood. And while sharing liver with your grandpa as a kid seemed gross but you think you could handle it, that isn’t what we are talking about. You need to get at the brain, eyes, tongue, liver, heart, and other fatty organs. Maximize that nutrition!
-After that: the fat. Highest calorie counts in there and 20,000 years ago you needed the most calories possible all the time.
-Now once that is all done you can get to the fatty meat cuts and then onto the lean meat cuts. It is all about energy maximization.
And THAT my friends, is how most Palaeolithic people in Europe would eat.
Berries and fruit in February? Lean meat when the higher calorie nutrient dense organs are right there? I think not.
What about dairy? Well, pigs, cows, and goats have been domesticated since around 8,000 BCE – so that is for the last 10,000 years and there is strong evidence that humans have made use of the AMAZING and easy to get at energy from their milk since that time. We have been adapted to drinking milk from other animals for 10,000 years.
Now, what is the point of all of this?
I HATE self-righteous people who have read a book or a website and then feel like they know what the fuck they are talking about. Even worse, they start teaching this misinformed rhetoric to other people. Learn your facts before becoming an advocate. And especially before you go espousing the virtues of this diet to other people.
The ‘paleo’ diet in its current form is a mass marketing machine that is designed to sell products. For something that is supposed to be all natural and ‘just like our ancestors’ there sure seems to be a lot of packaged products you can purchase to help fit into your diet.
LMAO. Because Paleolithic people had some wicked protein powders and packaged bars.
No, it is a marketing machine. Designed to make money. Period.
If you follow the guidelines, for sure it can be a really healthy diet. Much better than what the majority of people are eating now. So go forth and ‘eat paleo.’
But don’t for a second believe that you are eating in a more natural way that your body is designed for based on ancient genetics. That is simply a bunch of bullshit.