The Issue with Going Paleo

In a nutshell, the Paleo diet (a.k.a the caveman diet) allows you to only eat what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would’ve had access to; so if the cavemen couldn’t have it then neither can you. Proponents of the paleo diet assert that with the discovery of agriculture, we humans have added crops into our diet that our bodies haven’t fully adjusted to consuming namely grains and certain sugars.They also attribute obesity to our increasing dependence on cereals, rice, bread, pasta, and so on as part of our staple diet and aim to correct the issue by modifying our diets. Paleo proponents believe that by eliminating grains, sugars and processed foods from your diet that you can improve overall health.  


The individuals behind the paleo diet create a compelling argument that our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t include “new foods” like grains into their diet and that we haven’t adapted to doing so either yet the evidence says something much different.In fact, recent studies in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have discovered that ancient humans may have begun eating grasses and cereals about three to four million years ago. In addition, while there are studies that suggest a relationship between gastric inflammation and grain consumption this trend seems to affect individuals with a sensitivity to gluten and those individuals compose a small fraction of the population. So we know that unless you have a gluten allergy that your gut can most likely handle a little grain and that our some of our ancestors included it in their own diet, but what else our Paleolithic ancestors eat? Well, that depends.


Paleolithic people sustained themselves on a wide variety of foods that were dependent on what was available to them. But what specifically did their diet look like? And seeing as our ancestors are pretty dead, and can’t ask them ourselves how would we know? Well, there are people alive today that live pretty similarly to the way our ancestors did so we can assume that their diets are also fairly similar. For example, the diet the Inuits consists mainly of fish and other meats due to the scarcity of flora and lack of arable land, while tribes like the Hadza in Africa have a more varied diet consisting of milk, cornmeal, roots, fruits, veggies and considerably fewer meats. And even though some studies suggest that living like the Hadza could make us healthier this could also be attributed to the fact that contemporary hunter-gatherers are very active when compared to their more sedentary western counterparts. Moreover, although modern hunter-gatherers give us a window into the lifestyle of our ancestors they are by no means living fossils. In fact, no modern human is a perfect model of our ancestors because we are constantly evolving along with the foods that we eat. Grains, fruit, and even the animals we eat now look very dissimilar to their ancestral/wild counterparts so really there is no way to perfectly imitate the diet of paleolithic man.  

But the main premise of the paleo diet isn’t an emphasis on eating like our ancestors as it is focusing on having a balanced diet. Many paleo eaters assert that the diet was never meant to be a perfect imitation of the eating habits of our ancient ancestors, and in fact, the diet is infamous for its emphasis on a diet high in protein, moderate to high fat intake and low carb intake. In fact, restricting your diet seems to have its perks; many who are on the paleo diet mark weight lost as one of the many health benefits that come with going paleo. The diet’s well-known stance against excess sodium consumption and its movement away from processed foods is agreed upon by professionals as a positive step toward wellness. For the few things that the paleo diet gets wrong the diet’s emphasis on a well-balanced diet is something everybody can get behind. All this to say that trying this diet out for yourself may not be a total waste of time.