Why is the Paleo diet getting such a bad rap?

The Paleo diet, or “Caveman’s diet”, is a diet that focusses on plenty of lean animal-based protein, healthy saturated fats, nuts and fresh vegetables. Basically, what it comes down to is that we should eat like our Neolithic ancestors did. Consequently, the Paleo diet is also exceptionally low in carbohydrates, sugar and dairy.

Let’s face it, once you start cutting down on your sugar and carbohydrate-heavy junk foods, you are already doing your health a massive favour.

In fact, the health benefits of the Paleo diet have been proven time and again. It’s great for maintaining your ideal weight, it aids in combatting diabetes and obesity while also boosting your heart health.

But there’s a caveat: The Paleo diet is in conflict with many mainstream dietary guidelines, like the very common low-fat recommendations. (We all know that to improve the taste of those low-fat products sugar is added.)

So, it came as no surprise when I read about a study, published in The Quarterly Review of Biology, which says there no such thing as a “true” Paleo diet.

According to the researchers, early humans were most likely dietary “jacks-of-all-trades”. They added that there is very little evidence that our ancestors followed specialised diets or that there were specific food categories that seemed particularly important to them.

It’s quite clear that the authors of this study were not in favour of the Paleo diet. Or let me rather say, the Paleo philosophy of eating fresh, seasonal and organic food did not sit well with them.

But, I wholeheartedly agree with them on all those points: As hunter-gatherers, our ancestors certainly did not have any special dietary needs because they ate what they could find. So, while they did not purposefully stick to a particular (and specialised) diet, they still followed one – even if it was as a result of their environment and circumstances. They weren’t exactly spoiled for choice like we are today.

In short, they ate a healthy, organic and wholefood diet because that was all that was available to them.

One researcher also said: “Everyone would agree that ancestral diets didn’t include Twinkies, but I’m sure our ancestors would have eaten them if they grew on trees.”

What a silly thing to say. Twinkies on trees?

The truth is, the “advances” of modern civilisation like preservatives, genetically modified foods, and the mountains of added and hidden sugar found in almost every form of packaged food have not done us any favours. For one, the incidence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer has been on the rise since WWII – exactly the same time when humans started to eat more manufactured food.

So while we can forever debate about what types of foods early humans ate, one thing is certain: They ate fewer carbohydrates, added sugar and no manufactured “low-fat” foods.

And like I’ve said earlier, the benefits of matching these eating habits have been proven by numerous studies showing that people who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat – even saturated fat – lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow low-fat, high-carb-heavy diets.

To a healthier life,

Thomas Smith