cave painting of prehistoric man chasing large animal with a club

Debunking Another Fad: Paleo Diets

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.


Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few years, you’ve probably heard about the latest fad diet – eating like a caveman. Proponents say following a paleo plan is the answer to all that ails us about the typical Western diet: it can lower blood pressure, markers of inflammation that lead to cancer, and the risk for heart disease.

Even better, since all paleo diets are based on only eating foods you can hunt, gather or catch, you’ll never have to worry about obesity or diabetes, either!

Miracle or a Mirage?

The Paleolithic era is defined as a span of about 2.5 million years that ended with the development of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Knowing how to plant seeds and wait for them to yield food led to the establishment of permanent settlements with a secure food supply. Having enough food and free time

led to the rest of the advances of modern civilization.

The crops that provided the best yields to feed small tribes of people and their domesticated animals were grains. Yet grains are the curse of the paleo diet crowd. They believe we should go back to our pre-agriculture menu.

Imagine a diet made up of whatever wild animals, rodents, reptiles, fish, and birds you can catch with a rock or a stick. Now add to that whatever eggs, tree nuts, roots, leaves, fruits and berries you can gather.

Forget about eating anything that must be planted from seed and cultivated, such as rice, wheat and corn, or the many foods that can be made from these grains once ground into flour. There are no processed foods, like bread, in the caveman world.

There also is no milk or any products made from milk since that would require having a domesticated mammal that would stand still long enough for you to milk it. At this point in history, all animals are either predators or prey to you.

As a hunter-gatherer, you’d have to live without potatoes, beans and garden variety vegetables and the oils obtained by pressing olives and seeds. Who has time to squeeze olives anyway when you have to catch a fish with your bare hands?

If you were clever enough you could steal some honey from a bee hive. It’s just not clear what you would put it in since there’d be no coffee, iced tea or lemonade?

Getting Your Fill of Fad Diets

The paleo diet plans being touted in books today do not expect you to literally hunt for and gather all your food in the wild. But it may feel just as hard since they exclude so many commonly eaten foods. That’s the telltale sign of a fad diet. You’re expected to give up traditional, familiar and widely available foods. You may start out strong following the rules, but you are doomed to fail in the long run.

Human beings have evolved on the seven continents with different geographies, climates, and food supplies for thousands of years. Our diets have never been the same, yet people all over the world have very similar nutritional needs.

Learning to adapt to the menu is a survival skill. Once you figure that out you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Posted in Eating Right, Fad Diets, Food Groups, HEALTH GOES STRONG, Healthy Lifestyle, Nutritional Needs, Obesity, Weight Control and tagged , , , , .

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