Paleolithic diets necessarily included things that most Americans (who are the primary consumers of this woo) wouldn't touch with a 10-foot squeamish pole. Next time you meet a paleo, ask him or her if they eat:
Small game - really small game - like rats, mice and squirrels.
Unpleasant plants, pre-selective breeding. Sour and bitter tastes existed in many plant foods before human interference. Although paleolithic man probably would avoid downright foul-tasting (and likely poisonous) food, the plants that they ate were hardly nice, friendly spinach or carrots. Many modern vegetables are more pleasant mutations of less pleasant or even poisonous plants such as the genuses solanum (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers) and prunus (almonds, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries). Safe varieties were likely discovered by just eating them and hoping it didn't kill anybody. In addition, paleolithic people are known to have eaten woody stems, stripped bark, and pith: things suspiciously absent from the modern paleo diet that probably contributed to the extreme wear and tear on their teeth observed in fossil individuals.
Organ meat - a critical part of paleolithic man's diet. Does the average paleo dieter eat brains, tongues, stomach, eyes, liver, or kidneys? All of these brought important nutrition to our "healthy" ancestors that doesn't exist in white meat and cuts of grazing beef.
Insects, especially grubs and large beetles, including roaches.
Lizards, newts, frogs, turtles and anything else that had meat on its bones.
Grains and other starches such as sorghum, wild corn (in both North and South American), potatoes (South America), and a large variety of seeds. Evidence for consumption of legumes such as wild lentils has also been found, along with stone tools associated with processing them.
What do paleo dieters eat?
As with any fad diet, the paleo diet comes in many flavours and many ranges of extremity.
In general, though, the following tenets should hold true:
Naturally lean (i.e., not fattened before slaughter) meat, especially birds, wild caught fish, and grass fed ruminants.
The offal of the animals listed above.
Large amounts of vegetables.
Sweet potatoes, and other plant storage organs. Potatoes are generally excluded from the more "pop fad" followers, though a new trend accepts potatoes as part of the diet.
Butter, lard, coconut oil, and other fats and oils not made from grains or seeds.
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir.
Nothing with added sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup. No grains or legumes, though some argue that soaking and/or fermenting them makes them acceptable.
Milk is avoided by some.
So the question is this - Except for offal are we truly eating a paleo diet and are we getting too far into the weeds in trying to decide whether a food is paleo or not?
The point about the vegetables has to be stressed: the veggies people on the Paleo diet are eating are nothing like those eaten by actual paleolithic humans. Vegetables have been through, in many cases, millennia of selective breeding and agricultural manipulation. The veggies eaten by Paleo enthusiasts, even those that emerge from local organic farms, simply are not like those eaten by cavemen. Neither are the meats, again, even if they???re coming from organic farms; cows, chickens, and pigs have been selectively bred for centuries upon centuries, and the taste and nutritious value of their meat simply isn???t the same as that which we once hunted for.
asked byAgingHippie (614)
Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!
on June 17, 2012
at 06:28 PM
Who truly knows exactly what they ate. Stuff that might not even exist anymore? I'll tell you what they didn't eat: Processed foods.
on June 17, 2012
at 06:25 PM
Not this sh again...
Before I line-by-line the entire post, let me just be the 4-thousandth person to say "Paleo is not a reenactment".
Small Game - I have, and do eat small game. I have (and will continue) to eat squirrel and rabbits.
Unpleasant plants - I have, and do eat crabapples, wild onions, foraged food often and enjoy it quite a bit. Wild oranges as well as wild grapefruit foraged in the woods of Florida quite often. By the way, the "Paleolithic" was prior to 10,000 years ago - so for most of humanity those solanum plants weren't available (as they are new-world foods, and the earliest record of man being in the Americas is sometime less than 13000 years ago - so that portion of the article is bullsh...).
Organ meats - Yes, yes, yes.
Insects - Yes, I eat bugs. And I enjoy them quite a bit. Chaupulenes (sp) specifically (roasted crickets).
Lizards (nope), newts (nope), frogs (yes, although I don't care for them), turtles (yes).
Grains and other starches - in the case of sorghum, absolutely not true - grains take too much time to collect in the quantities that we eat today (and thus may have been eaten, but absolutely not as the basis of a diet). Wild corn? See my argument above about new-world vs. old world foods. Potatoes? Same (New World food). Wild lentils? Same argument as grains - certainly they would have been eaten, but without agriculture they would not have been able to harvest enough to eat them daily, or even to get a substantial amount of calories from them.
The article smacks of elitist bullsh... is very misinformed as far as a basic understanding of the Paleolithic, and also makes the downright ignorant assumption that this diet is based on vanity, fad-ism, and reenactment.
It really wasn't even worth my time for a rebuttal, or even worth the electricity that it took to deliver it to my monitor. But I'm feeling scrappy after a big Father's Day breakfast of eggs and steak. Cavemen probably didn't have Father's Day either, so according to the author I'm a "me-too" fad-ist as well.
on June 17, 2012
at 09:01 PM
I really don't care. It would have varied greatly depending on their location....I eat what comes natural to and works for me..and I avoid processed crap.
on November 09, 2012
at 02:50 PM
For a site that I'm guessing is trying to be factually correct, there are quite a few errors in this article. For example:
For some purists, even things like tomatoes are off-limits despite being something that can be "gathered", because they were not known to be consumed by paleolithic man.
My understanding is that the reason tomatoes are off-limits for some people is because many people with autoimmune disorders and/or pain disorders found them and other nightshades problematic. So when people remove tomatoes from their diet, it's normally as a test to see if it improves their autoimmune-type symptoms.
A simple example, is that while Paleo 1.0 would reject cream as a novel food-stuff, Paleo 2.0 would tend to embrace it as a close analogue of animal fat
And here, I thought that the paleo 2.0 thing was about the addition of starches (or more correctly, being macronutrient agnostic), as more carb-tolerant people came on-board.
In its original form, the paleo diet was a combination of two popular fad diets: the low-carb diet and the gluten-free diet.
Again, I don't think this is correct. I remember reading about the paleo diet sometime around 1998 to 2000, and it emphasized lean meats, nuts, fruit, and veggies. It didn't seem that the low-carb potential or gluten-free aspect of the diet were emphasized until later. That could be my own perspective though: I haven't studied the history of the movement.
I haven't seen any polls of what paleo-adherents think of the diet, but for me personally, it's about eating local, seasonal, pesticide-free produce and biodynamically-raised or wild animals. It's about eating unprocessed food, little or no extra sugar or refined flours or highly processed oils. And lastly, it seems to be about using the basic template (no grains, legumes, dairy, maybe light on the nuts and nightshades) as a starting point, then playing around with things and seeing what works for you as an individual.
on November 09, 2012
at 01:24 AM
An important question, once you can get by the typical this-is-paleo-critical-so-I-must-attack reflex.
I don't believe the OP is proposing re-enactment but rather a more rational approach to the selection of modern foods that functionally provide the benefits of an ancestral way of eating.
For example, the OP mentions the paleo consumption of meat from animals that have been fattened before slaughter. Such animals would obviously not have existed in ancestral times and the type and quantity of fat that is part and parcel of the flesh of these animals is definitely not paleo.
Therefore, whilst strict re-enactment is as impractical and it is near impossible to implement, functional re-enactment is achievable and in providing a more 'authentic' paleo diet also provide better health outcomes.
on May 26, 2013
at 11:13 AM
Nobody else seemed to mention that paleo man ate bones, here's a link: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2012/10/shrew-eating-scientists-show-humans-can-digest-bone/ .
on August 22, 2013
at 03:09 AM
Eat what works for you, that's fine.
But don't go saying it is because of what our paleo-ancestors ate, unless you know what they actually ate.
There is absolutely hard evidence that paleos ate proto-wheat and barley, quantities of cereal grains, and high numbers of grass seeds as well.
So,it is not true to say we should be gluten-free because our ancestors were. They weren't.
As to blood type? Anthropologists can point to evidence that all four blood types existed back in the hunter/gatherer Paleolithic era
on March 29, 2013
at 10:48 PM
I don't think it matters how it differs from the real thing. After suffering with digestive and stomach problems for 40 years, along with bronchial congestion and muscle pains: I have been experimenting with the affects of food on the problems. I looked at the Blood Type food regime which explains which period of ancient history our particular blood type belongs to. Mine belongs to the Paleolithic period. Researching the Paleo diet after confirming that eating meat, fish, certain veg and certain fruits along with occasional portions of cream and goats cheese made me feel well. I cannot tolerate sugar,cows products and citrus fruits nor any grains. I lose fat on this regime and have higher energy with a better tolerance to any viruses that come along. Body inflammation has calmed down. If I feel I want carbs I eat root veg and make almond flour patties made with eggs and honey and nut or a little goat milk. Doctors in the UK have no idea about how food can heal so I have learned to trust my instincts and listen to my body. Not relying on the food industries brain washing and other people to know my body has changed my life and kept me looking amazingly young for my age. Paleo shmalleo, take only what you need from everything you read and experiment. Try the Blood Type way to find out where your blood type originated from. It might help, if not try food that doesn't give you pain and makes you feel well. Good luck all.
on November 08, 2012
at 10:40 PM
@Joshua - if the Paleo diet (assuming you mean the form packaged by Dr. Courdain) isn't an attempted reenactment, what is it?
on November 11, 2014
at 04:15 AM
One point that I think is often overlooked. IN GENERAL... MEANING NOT EVERYONE BUT GENERALLY SPEAKING... I don't know any other diet group that is more intent on the science of diet and health than Paleo people are.
So, NO, as a general rule we don't try to reenact the paleo diet... we're not that stupid... but we TRY to UNDERSTAND what paleolithic man ate in order to use that knowledge as a TEMPLET for a modern day diet.
In that spirit... Joshua... where can I buy me some crickets??? :-D
on April 12, 2013
at 05:22 PM
I will pick only one of the points, about bugs, which are in a sense super-paleo. Actually, in two senses: first, they predate ruminants as a staple, when we were living in the tropical canopy and our diet consisted almost exclusively of insects, fruits and leaves (The paleo staples are ruminants and roots). Plus some mini-game, smaller monkeys, which are probably similar in nutrient content to rabbits (very lean, high micronutrients). (I was blessed to have my mother raise me on rabbits - which she raised - and brains, which could be bought back then.). They are part of what we were for tens of millions of years. Not only 80% of the countries of the world have entomophagy, it is well known that Native Americans would make their winter pemmican by mixing dried larvae, and crushed grains and berries, from the windrows of insects washing ashore at a number of large lakes.
Second, because insects will beat any piece of ruminant on a variety of nutrient indicators. Iron first and foremost, but vitamins B and lauric acid, which as far as I know is present only in insect larvae amongst animal foods, very nice to have if you are in a place where palms do not grow.
There is also the angle of sustainability. A paleo dieter will use 1+ acres of arable land, a vegan 1/8 of that. Paleos use a disproportionate fraction of the seafood resources. I would not want to cut down forests, or invade Brazil, so that all americans could be paleo. Insects will allow people to be paleo (or superpaleo) with a fixed (or even shrinking, since larvae produce fertilizer) footprint.
I have not had the opportunity to raise insects, my only experience has been with Sardinian casu marzu, which is delicious. But I can see myself setting up a fly larvae facility in my garage, fed with grass fed, no herbicide cow manure of course, as soon as the orchard is finished. I don't understand the aversion to self-purged insects, I used to have an aversion to fat strips in steaks and marrow which has completely reversed now, surely some larvae sauteed in tallow with sweet potato sticks are going to taste delicious.
on April 12, 2013
at 12:27 PM
In the 12 answers, question and linked article seafood hasn't been mentioned. How did we miss the most important of all foods, and one which you can still collect that hasn't been tampered with? The article is pretty good and not really anti-paleo. I just don't like the presumption that everything has to come from a farm. There are a lot of things I would eat in preference to bugs and lizards, and that doesn't necessarily mean they're farmed and processed foods like bacon and kale.
on April 12, 2013
at 03:58 AM
Any of you paleo dudes out there that don't drink coffee? lol, you know cave brewed...
on September 18, 2012
at 03:11 PM
Holy shit! I had not idea.
Where is my extra-bready Mac and Cheese sandwich.
Thank you for arguing so eloquently against stupid ideas like "Eat veggies, fruits and tubers".
What the F**K was I thinking?
Feeeeel soooooooooooo stupid.
on September 18, 2012
at 11:10 AM
Thank you, this helped me with my school project!!
on September 04, 2012
at 12:59 AM
This is a fantastic article. Thank you! I've begun transitioning into veggies and found my intestinal issues coming back. After reading your article I will make the approriate changes as i was entirely eating the wrong ones.
Thank you soooo much for publishing this. The hardest part for someone in the transition is choosing nutrition over taste.
Everyone caters to taste based on the flavor buds on our tounge which differ for everyone based on genetics. Women respond to Sweet more than men therefore i want the sweeter tasting food selections. Which explains poor choices.
Thank you thank you thank you! This article was the first one i found on this site!