I was asked about my thoughts on the “Paleo” diet this weekend….honestly, I had never heard about it, but I have looked into and wanted to give people an overview, it is an interesting theory!!
Paleo is a simple dietary lifestyle that is based on foods being either “in” or “out”. “In” are the Paleolithic Era foods that we ate prior to agriculture and animal husbandry (meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruit, berries, mushrooms, etc.). “Out” are Neolithic era foods that result from agriculture or animal husbandry (grains, dairy, beans/legumes, potatoes, sugar and processed AKA “fake” foods).
Optimal Foraging Theory says our ancestors mostly ate foods that were easiest to hunt or gather in specific areas. As nomads we would have adapted to various mixes of foods. Under the paleo concept the quantities consumed of each “in” food is up to the individual. You can make it meat heavy if you want, or more fruit and veggies if you prefer, as long as the foods you eat are paleo. Fruits in the Paleolithic would have been tart and smaller, and the various hybrid fruits that we now have would not be a part of the diet.
Acceptable oils should be restricted to those from fruits (olive, palm, avocado) or tree nuts (coconut, walnut, almond, hazelnut, pecan, macadamia). No high-tech industrial seed oils could have existed back then. Wild game meat would be the ideal, but grass-fed meat is used as a practical substitute. The grass-fed meat is needed to get the proper balance of Omega 3 (from green plants) and Omega 6(from seeds) fatty acids. Organ meats and bone marrow are very paleo. No processed meats (RIP bacon). Fish should be wild-caught. For everything else organic is preferred, as it is the closest food free of modern pollutants and with the original micronutrients.
Apparently, the effort to collect most seeds would not be as optimal as collecting other foods (it must have been hard to be a cave-person). Some meaty seeds, like sunflower, may have been a food. To protect their reproductive cycle, plants put anti-nutrients in seed coverings to discourage animal consumption (phytic acid, lectin, and enzyme inhibitors). Fruit seeds are not supposed to be digested, but to pass through and still be viable, thus would never have been a food (sidebar: this makes not a whole lot of sense to me- how do you avoid eating, for example squash, watermelon, zucchini seeds??)
The Paleo diet encourages followers to eat the greatest variety of foods possible. Bush hunters killed whatever they find moving. Foragers note that there are more than 300 edible plants that our ancestors would have known about. Many are leafy greens and a wide range of herbs and spices is encouraged.
Salt should not be added to food. Sadly, cave people did not have salt shakers.
The only beverage that is truly paleo is water. You need to drink only when you are thirsty. The best is spring water that has been certified to be free of pharmaceuticals, with no chlorine or fluoride added. If you want caffeine, organic green tea is considered the most paleo, despite the fact that I don’t see most cave people brewing teat leaves, I guess this is one modernization!! Coffee is a seed inside a fruit and is not edible raw. The only paleo sweetener is raw honey, and only in limited quantities. Another possible sweetner is coconut palm sugar. But it is really encouraged to get all sweets out of your diet.
The only paleo high would have been eating cannabis leaves or drinking spontaneously fermented cider from apples.
Paleo foods are nutrient dense. Supplementation would not be needed, and would not be paleo. There is one exception: Vitamin D. At least it should be supplemented for those of us that don’t live outside year round, and don’t eat liver regularly. Food should be eaten when hungry – not at set times of the day as cave people hunted and gathered foods in anticipation of, or in response to, hunger pangs.
So, this all being said, I think it is a SUPER HARD diet to eat in the modern world. I think it is good as far as ancourgaing non-processed foods and encouraging local fresh fruits, veg, grass-fed meat, etc BUT unless you never leave your home, or all of your friends are paleo, it would e really hard to live by! Also it can be super dangerous: I cannot tell you how many people I have taken care of in spontaneous liver failure from eating wild mushrooms that they thought were safe. You would need to be a botonist, basically! I don’t think that I would discourage people from this diet, but it is a MAJOR lifestyle change, and I know that I would not be able to sustain it, but I do think that there are positive take aways, as noted above (increase fresh fruit/veg, grass fed meats, eating and supporting local agriculture) but for a lot of people it is impossible to eat as soon as they feel hungry; we have jobs, and cant just drop everything to grab a bunch of dandelions to munch on from the parking lot!! IF any of you guys follow this diet, let me know how it works for you, I don’t think it is unhealthy at all, just it doesn’t translate well to modern living!!
Yours in Good Health!