Is Paleo even Paleo? And does it even matter?

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I was happy to see a new blog post by Kurt Harris over at PaleoNu yesterday. He’s one of my favorite bloggers, and he hasn’t written much over the last several months. Turns out he’s been boning up on evolutionary biology and paleoanthropology to determine what is currently knowable – and unknowable – about how our paleolithic ancestors lived and ate.

He has also been cultivating a relationship with a PaleoNu reader who happens to be a tutor in Zoology at an “institute of prominence” in the UK, with over 20 years of research and teaching in this field behind him. Preferring to remain anonymous, this fellow will be writing occasional guest articles under the pen name “Professor Gumby” (love it).

Paleo ambiguity

So what did Professor Gumby and Dr. Harris have to say in this first collaboration? In short:

  • It’s very difficult for us to know with any certainty what paleo people ate or how they lived.
  • The vast majority of studies of modern hunter-gatherers (HGs) have been ethnographic in nature, and as such are heavily influenced by the researchers own assumptions and objectives. This is a problem in all research, but it’s particularly notable in the anthropological literature.
  • Modern HGs are not analogous to paleolithic HGs. Even limited amounts of contact with modern people can have a profound impact on the diet and lifestyle of HG populations. This means we can’t simply study modern HG groups and assume that their habits reflect our distant ancestors.
  • Observer bias and influence are also issues with studies of modern HG populations. Professor Gumby (and others) have noted that the people they study will often change their dietary habits while being studied, perhaps to impress the researchers. In my family there’s a funny story about me when I was 8 years old eating a whole plate of spinach when a special guest came to visit for dinner one night. I hated spinach and wouldn’t touch it any other time. Turns out this phenomenon is common in anthropological field studies.
  • Along the same lines, modern HGs aren’t living in their traditional habitats. They’ve been displaced from their more optimal habitats by agriculturists and pastoralists. This means the diet they’re currently eating is probably atypical – “more akin to a ‘fall-back’ or ‘subsistence’ diet than an optimal one”, as Professor Gumby put it.

This last point is particularly salient. We can’t determine the optimal diet of a particular group of people simply by observing what they currently eat. As Dr. Harris points out:

It should be instructive to ask apparently healthy HGs what they prefer to eat in addition to what they have to eat. In a population that is healthy and not conditioned to a lifetime of non-foods as in the diet of a westerner with metabolic syndrome, it may have meaning to know what they prefer to eat. Not accounting for costs, how would they apportion their caloric intake from their extant food sources? I see no reason that relative food preferences could not be genetically or epigenetically influenced in addition to culturally influenced. Absent the interference of modern medicine, could a preference for the foods that make one live a healthier, more robust life be selected for and rapidly move through a population in a few generations? Do the Kitavans actually prefer yams/sweet potatoes/cassava over coconut and fish in the same ratio as the proportions they eat them in? Would Inuit happily prefer half their calories as sweet potatoes if they grew in the arctic? Or does each dietary pattern just reflect the preference to avoid starvation?

What we don’t know about paleo

The takeaway is simply this: it’s impossible to know for certain what our paleolithic ancestors ate by studying modern HG people. It’s difficult even to know what modern HG people eat when a bunch of researchers aren’t hanging around watching them.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the “paleo-sphere” about this lately. It comes up every time a fossil study is reported on, such as the most recent one that found starch on the teeth of Neaderthals, suggesting that they may have – gasp! – eaten grains on occasion. Of course these stories are pounced on by the anti-paleo set as evidence that grains have been a regular part of our diet for a long time and that proponents of the paleo diet don’t know what they’re talking about.

So on the one hand you’ve got paleo fundamentalists claiming to know exactly what paleolithic people ate, and stating with apparent certainty that grains and legumes were absolutely not included in their diets. Then you’ve got folks on the other end of the spectrum who claim that paleo is a just another “fad diet”, like the Zone or Atkins, with absolutely no basis in clinical or anthropological evidence.

They’re both wrong, of course.

It should be abundantly clear that we can’t know for certain what paleo people ate. They lived a long time ago, and we don’t have a time machine. Even if we did, and went back to study them, they’d probably pull the equivalent of me eating spinach when that special guest visited.

But this doesn’t mean we simply disregard what we do know about our paleolithic ancestors and modern HGs, nor does it mean that we can’t extrapolate that knowledge into helpful guidelines for what a species-appropriate diet might be for us humans.

What we do know about paleo

We still know, for example, that modern diseases like diabetes, obesity, cancer, autoimmunity and heart disease were rare (or even nonexistent) in paleo people and are still rare in the few HG groups around the world that have been lucky enough to preserve their traditional diet and lifestyle.

We also know that when modern foods like wheat flour, industrial seed oils and sugar are introduced in these populations, the incidence of modern diseases goes up commensurately. And, even more telling, when these groups return to their traditional ways, the modern diseases disappear again. This suggests that it wasn’t some genetic vulnerability that caused them to develop modern diseases with the introduction of modern foods.

So yes, paleo may not actually be paleo. We will probably never know exactly what our paleo relatives ate.

My response to that? I couldn’t care less.

Why? Because we know enough about ancestral diets in a general sense to suggest that they are superior to modern diets for human health. And we know enough – thanks to current clinical research – about modern foods like flour, seed oils and sugar to know that we shouldn’t be eating them.

That’s enough for me.

I really wish there was a word (other than paleo) I could use to describe a nutrient-dense, toxin-free, whole-foods based diet. Because that’s kind of a mouthful, and it leaves a lot open to interpretation. A raw-food vegan could hear me say that and think I’m talking about their diet. I’m not.

So I go on using the term “paleo” to loosely refer to a diet that emphasizes animal protein and fats, starchy & non-starchy vegetables, fermented foods, raw dairy (when tolerated) and fruit, nuts & seeds (in moderation).

I wish there was another term I could use that didn’t evoke a quasi-religious debate. But I don’t know of one, so for now, I guess I’ll just have to deal with all of the baggage that comes with “paleo”.

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Paleo Diet

Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Sheena says

    It seems to me that the evolution of the paleo diet has validated the diatary principals of the Weston Price Foundation. Principles based on what HEALTHY isolated populations ate and how they prepared their food. Who cares what paleo people ate if we don’t know how healthy they actually were.

  2. says

    “I really wish there was a word (other than paleo) I could use to describe a nutrient-dense, toxin-free, whole-foods based diet. Because that’s kind of a mouthful, and it leaves a lot open to interpretation. A raw-food vegan could hear me say that and think I’m talking about their diet. I’m not.”

    As a traditional naturopath, and from what I know about a paleo diet, I’ve always known of this way of eating as simply a “natural whole food diet”. “Natural,” and “Whole” being the operative words. “Natural” for me means cooking only when necessary (i.e. eat raw what can be eaten raw); local foods as much as possible (that’s what “nature” provided around me to eat), and eating seasonally as much as possible (that’s nature’s timing). Whole means (as much as possible)… unrefined, non-hybridised, grown by someone I know and/or connect with (ideally; i.e. farmers’ markets, self-grown), organically grown, no GMO, unprocessed, etc.

    Whether or not a person chooses to go for a vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous food selection criteria, I see that as another matter, and could be based on a lot of personal, spiritual, environmental, etc., factors.

  3. James Webb says

    The only thin a Paleo diet should restrict are any foods that would have been impossible to find:
    Crisps
    Ice cream + Frozen Yoghurt
    Yoghurt
    Supplements
    Oils

    It should also restrict ways of cooking:
    Boiling may have been difficult
    Frying would have been impossible

    Then, of course, a hunter would have to HUNT the food. In todays world, that would mean doing a few hours exercise before EACH meal, as prolonged food storage would have been difficult/impossible.

    Personally, my current diet is to eat anything I would be able to find naturally in the world. No bread. No cheese. No pasta etc. To me, it seems only logical

  4. happyandhealthy says

    We call it “Life by Design” and believe that we are all meant to be Extraordinary !! All we have to do is Eat , Move and Think the way we were designed to …very simple

  5. Paul S says

    Labels always suck. If I eat 30-28-42 I’m not in “the Zone.” It’s just stupid. Then people argue about whether X food fits Y label, and then an intelligent nutrition plan is made to look stupid to the majority of the public because its main proponents argue like children. (“Tubers are Paleo!” “Are not!” “Are too!” “No, they’re PRIMAL, not PALEO” etc etc etc. What’s sad is I’ve actually seen this, and more than once.

    Great article.

  6. says

    I imagine he deleted our comments as they have devolved a little. So lets try again. I can see where you are coming from in that there are people talking about names etc and you are saying why not throw the paleo part out the window to be more inclusive. And I do understand you are not intentionally trying to be inflammatory. This is why I reacted. Evolution as a science is backed up by every single research article ever published in biology. Never has a research article ever condtradicted the idea of Evolution. It’s a theory as much as gravity or how to get planes to fly is. Chris, I believe, is interested in how our evolutionary past has formatted the types of foods that are most healthy for us, a very sound approach, in my opinion. Myself, and many other readers are interested in reading posts like this. For anyone to come along (and I am not targeting you here as I believe this was not your intent) and ask him to not write this stuff because it offends their creationist beliefs, I feel, is a little arrogant and self entitled. Because they think that their beliefs are more important than that of the authors or other readers. For example, I wouldn’t go on to a creationist blog and ask him or her to stop mentioning god, and this is essentially what anyone is doing by asking someone to not mention evolution in a paleo blog. So my issue is that by asking to throw the paleo label out you are indirectly asking for the above. I’m not saying you are arrogant or self entitled as I believe you have good intentions, but that for me is the end result when you ask people to do that.

    And as for creationists gaining access to this information I agree it is important.But it is their decision to shun evolution despite the overwhelming evidence in it’s favour. I have met plenty of fundamentally religious people, I am talking very extreme here, who have managed to reconcile their faith and accept evolution as fact. So maybe they should be looking into this a bit more rather than just ignoring the evidence?

  7. Tara says

    I’m not sure why two comments were removed (one from myself and one from Dan), but I just wanted to say that tone and clarity can be lost and/or misconstrued online. I still believe my question is legit and in no way intending to “complain” or “accuse” anyone of anything. The question of division isn’t to blame any one person, only begs to ask the question if the label causes it. That’s all. This whole thread consists of people’s ideas of names and such. Didnt think my question and idea was any different. :)

  8. says

    I am going to stop responding now because I feel I am just running around in circles saying the same stuff over and over and it’s hitting a wall. Good day.

  9. says

    As I have already stated I agree that looking at the benefits of eating such foods is good in it’s own right and perhaps a way for creationists to move ahead. But if that was the case I would suggest they don’t base their assumptions on what is healthy through evolutionary principles and test all the foods out there since they would assume they were all created by god. I mean grains were around for a long time so why can’t we eat bread. It’s explanable through an evolutionary lense, I’m not sure how a creationist could argue it. I mean doesnt the bible say to eat bread?

    Regardless, for someone who is interested in the evolutionary basis of our diet for determining which foods are likely to be healthy I fail to see why they need to change their outlook and belief system because someone else chooses not to follow an evidence based approach. If a creationist is at odds with this concept I feel it is their problem to sort out not the evolutionist to cater to them. If a blogger talks about paleo then it is the choice of the person to read it, not to complain and ask for them to change the terminology based on their own sensitivities or accuse them of alienating a group of people. Paleo is very clearly an evolutionary approach to eating, and I would simply suggest not reading it if you don’t agree, just like I would never read any creationist diet based on the bible’s preferred foods, for example.

  10. Tara says

    Dan,
    My intent wasn’t to start a theological discussion. Everyone is free to believe however/whatever they choose to believe. My point is that eating a high quality protein, vegetable portion, and a healthy fat at each meal is beneficial to everyone (as evidenced by countless testimonies and for lack of a better phrase, food science), so going along with Chris’ overall sentiments in this post, is it necessary to label it Paleo (which focuses on a time period on which the details aren’t definitive) rather than focus on the amazing benefits of this eating style? Why automatically dismiss Dallas and Melissa Hartwig and The Whole 30, which is a Paleo-eating book and breakdown of how it benefits the body? If you want to argue or confront some important players in the “Paleo food field,” contact them and be my guest. It shouldn’t matter if one believes in evolution across species or intelligent design to have optimal health!

  11. Ara says

    I agree… Couldn’t care less. Just stay away from stuff, can’t call it food, that comes in a box or bag. Eat things that God made and were fed things that God made. And you’ll be fine…

  12. says

    The paleo diet is a diet based on evolution. If anyone feels their is a divide or alienated it would be from the creationist who chooses not to believe the evidence. Although I agree that a detailed explanation of how foods reacts with our bodies, this is not paleo. Again, any division felt is only because said religious person does not agree with evolution, but that problem does not mean the person who does should change their viewpoints to cater for them. IMO.

  13. Tara says

    Not sure if this question/sentiment will be dismissed by the readers, but why does there need to be a focus on the presumed population rather than the balance and nutrition that these foods provide us today? The focus on a Paleolithic people excludes Creationists. I appreciate Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s book, It Starts With Food and the detailed explanation of how foods react in our bodies, rather than guessing and adhering to labels that exclude people who can greatly benefit from gaining better health and optimal wellness. I appreciate your posts, Chris. I also think there is an inherent division implied, which is not necessary (but may be purposeful?).

  14. says

    I am a scientist with over 15 yrs research experience into Zoology also, and currently working at a University looking at predator-prey dynamics within ecosystems. Although I study marine animals (i.e zoology) and not humans (although humans are animals this is more the field of anthropology) I find it as much of a stretch to claim we cannot learn from modern HG’s because they may change their diet due to observer bias, as it is to say we can. With most science there will never be the ‘perfect’ study when you are looking at evolution and ecology, but I certainly believe you can learn a lot about paleolithic diets from HG groups as long as you admit that the caveat is that their diet may be slightly altered. It just seems the basis of the argument in this post is a bit overinflated in importance. I mean if I didn’t publish material every time there was a potential flaw in my study I wouldn’t have published a thing, ecology and evolution are full of variables, it’s about transparency and letting others know the possible flaws, it doesn’t undermine the findings. Knowing their diets might be altered is a non-issue in my opinion.

    • BillP says

      Well said. The premise that modern HGs can’t be ‘paleo’ because their diets are automatically suspect or corrupt is ridiculous. OF COURSE they have much to teach us: the living testimony of the variety of primitive diets that actually work, one way or another.

      As someone above so eloquently pointed out, it is best to define Paleo by what it does NOT include; stuff that was not eaten in significant quantities long ago: grains, dairy, junk food, industrial seed oils, sugar.

      Personally, I don’t have a problem with the ‘paleo’ label; to me it merely indicates a very wide variety of foods from the era preceding intensive agriculture and animal husbandry. By no means does it mean a heavy meat-dominated diet. As someone who has been paleo for over a year, I am constantly baffled as to where that idea came from (I suspect the New York media; they love the snarky caveman label.)

  15. Juliand says

    Greetings, all.
    Well, as a latecomer my comments might not be as relevant. However…..

    First of all let me amake clear that approve in general the tone of the article and find it balanced as well as interesting. The following opinions are mainly meant to open up the debate and should be taken in that spirit.

    The main problem I find with all these discussions (not just here but in general) is that they are limited to the foods, the grains they ate or didn’t eat etc. What is missing is context, setting, opportunity, choice etc. This last point was mentioned in the article and I was very happy to see it. Indeed, an Inuit might well love some sweet potatoes and your average HG would have loved the occasional Twinkie if one of the time-travellers had left one behind.

    Where is the talk of cooking methods and lifestyle? Sugar in itself is not Evil. Too much sugar is. The occasional burger with ketchup (don’t like the stuff) isn’t going to kill you but eating too much boar and venison (no beef s such in thoe days) might. Eating a Paleo (whatever variation of it) diet and living as a couch potato isn’t going to help you live longer. Going to the supermmarket or the butcher, driving around, turning on the oven or stove and sitting in front of the telly do not compare with wandering around the wilderness, hunting and gathering, making do with what’s available, building a fire and looking out for deadly predators.

  16. Howjohn says

    Very interesting discussion.
    One point: many people seem to assume that grains and legumes are too hard to be eaten without some kind of preperation. I am an ex-farmer. All the grains I have grown, including grasses, are easily edible until maybe a month before they are normally harvested. For modern harvesting and storage they have to be hard and dry, but for most of the growing period they are soft. They can be eaten when hard but it takes a long time and a lot of chewing. Maybe paleo-people could grind the harder seeds between stones to make them more easily edible. So it would be quite possible for hominins or hunter-gatherers to have eaten the pre-agricultural versions of our grains and some legumes (some are poisonous).

  17. Marlene Meyer says

    I like the term “Hunter/Gatherer”
    Dreamer is asking a great question.

    Loved your article. I feel so much better on a “Paleo Template” diet but do not like the whole “Ancestral” premise used to prove its efficacy. I think there were cultures who ate bread and cheese as their main foods and were very healthy. What they didn’t eat was modern processed foods. Some people today can do excellent on a varied, whole foods diet like WAPF, although others do far better without grains, starches or legumes.

    My theory is completely opposite to the “Paleo” premise: I believe that modern people have lost some of the ability to digest grains, legumes, and dairy from several generations of eating processed foods, taking medicine (including antibiotics), and a high stress lifestyle which has led to gut dysbiosis and a lack of the enzymes and bacteria needed to digest these foods properly. Our ancestors probably had the gut health to eat many fibrous, starchy foods that today often make people sick. They ate what they could find, grow, or produce. There wasn’t a grocery store so people in different regions remained healthy even with very different diets. What they had in common is their food was unprocessed and natural.

    Some people today can go back to a whole foods diet and do great, others no longer have the gut health to include all of these foods in the diet, even though we know that many cultures existed eating them for generations with excellent results. Your perfect diet will be determined by your genetic background, the bacteria you inherited from generations before you (the good and the bad), and your current health status. There is no “one size fits all” approach that will work for everyone like it did in times of old where everyone in a particular region ate basically the same foods. Diet Dictocrats that claim they know the perfect diet for mankind are arrogant and mislead; in my opinion.

    That is why I particularly like your approach Chris. Thanks for everything you share online that blesses so many people. All the best!!

  18. Dreamer says

    Eating a nutrient rich diet of appropriately raised items is something I am 100% behind. However I have a few thoughts for you (which I promise I am not trying to “stump” you with).

    I’m not sure if someone has asked this yet, but how do you explain people who cannot tolerate meats and get physically ill even when it is appropriately raised?

    Also of note, how do you explain the ancient asian and other diets that help people live well past one hundred with the same low or non-existent incidence of cancer or other modern diseases. These diets focus on grains, soy bean products, and other paleo “no-nos”.

    Lastly, many of paleo’s bad food have been used for centuries (non-modern, non-western) as part of a regular diet to cure common diseases, cancer, and other things rather than cause them and promote very very long life. Many times what wards of disease has been proven to change from climate to climate. What works in one will cause imbalance and disease in another. That is basic, ancient healing wisdom. Does paleo look into these known ancient teachings or does it simply rely on modern, scientific inquiry based on current finds?

  19. Sasha says

    THIS IS THE BEST ARTICLE I HAVE READ SINCE FOREVER … i have been struggling with knowing what a perfect human diet is … i am on paleo (low carb high fat ) and i have had so may questions and many things about the paleo argument didn’t make any sense to me … things like the primal blureprint of sisson seemed like a diet not a life style choice … thank you for filling the gaps

  20. says

    Thanks so much for posting what has been on my mind a lot lately. I work as a nutritional therapist and am constantly asked what I eat. I don’t fall into one “category” and I’m okay with that. I usually answer “real food” tending to lean more towards paleo. It’s refreshing to find people breaking free from the label game.

  21. shout out says

    This article mentions diseases that can be turned on and off with the intake of carb, oils and sugar, but what about meat? I saw Forks Over Knives which mentions several studies about the rise in cancers and diseases with the increase/decrease in meat intake. I’m sure sugar and excess carbs are no good as well, but can anyone speak to this that supports the meat intake of Paleo? I’m not claiming to praise one diet over another, I’m just looking for more info and want to get the facts about meat intake. To me, it seems it would be closer to our ancestors if we didn’t eat a ton of meat, or even every day, since the hunter’s abilities probably weren’t successful to fulfill daily intakes of meat. thoughts?

  22. samjohn says

    Simon Cook:

    You should have read to the end of the ‘article’.

    “–To avoid further confusion: this is a work of fiction. The experts do not exist. Their arguments, however, most surely do.”

  23. says

    Hey Chris,

    Agree with this post when you say that we don’t know exactly what our ancestors ate in the paleolithic area.

    But I thing I know as a Hunter-Gatherer Apprentice (just started recently the Paleo Diet), it WORKS for and I think it makes total sense to eat what we are supposed to eat

    Stop bloaded, no gaz, better digestion and more energy.

    I will soon start my own 30 days plan and will share some results.

    See ya.
    Phalakone

  24. Andrea says

    With deference to Joel Salatin, how about the Polyface diet? :-)

    I also have issue with telling friends about “paleo” – it has too many connotations.

    Things like “human”, “real”, “optimal” and all might be accurate but if they are perceived as condescending it won’t have appeal in larger media.

    Atkins took hold – maybe paleo needs a person to take on the name and run with it. We do have a “Wolf”, after all…. that sounds better than the “Weston” or the “Attia”…. :-) One of the sub-genres is Bulletproof – not a bad concept but as detailed and restrictive as GAPS so not really great for large populations. There might be something to using the word “gut” as it or as an acronym, since it gets to the point about what’s wrong and what needs nurturing.

    How about the Puppy diet? Everyone loves puppies, right?

    Anyway, just musing.

  25. Adlock Hungry says

    Awesome-vore Diet!

    The “Way-better-than-yours” diet! Wait, we all call our own dietary beliefs that already.

    The “I Keeel You” diet?

    The “Chest-thumping, Teeth-gnashing, Ravenous Two-legged Beast” Diet!

    The “My Scientists Could Kick Your Scientists’ Butts” diet!!!

  26. Tito says

    “Nutritarian”
    Does that work as a substitute for “paleo?” Implies nutritent-dense food, leaves the door open for meat&dairy, but excludes processed grains, oils, sugar.

  27. Todd says

    My questions are:

    Why would you avoid the many vitamins and micronutrients found within the fruit world and also why the percived need to emphasize meat and fats in the diet if health has been shown to occur on vegan diets that are low in fat? I’ve heard recenlty on-line by researches that even olive oil causes a 6 hours sludging of the blood.
    W.r.t. the first, I seem to remember an anthropological study where teeth of human ancestors were studied and determined to be indicative of largely frugivorous (fruit eating) type eating.

  28. Bethany says

    I like “The Designer Diet” because I believe we did not evolve to eat this way, but instead were created to eat this way. Grains may have been included, but is it even possible to get grains that have not been genetically modified now? I’m not sure we can eat the way we were designed to eat exactly because of that. But, we can do our best. Whenever I read the words ‘evolved’ I just change them in my mind to ‘were created.’ It’s all good. Thanks for all the valuable information.

  29. says

    Great article. The term “Paleo” works well enough for me, although I prefer “Hunter-Gatherer.” The term “tribal” won’t work. I have friends today who hail from tribes in the Himalayan regions and they are certainly not eating a hunter gatherer diet. They’re farmers, and they eat a lot of wheat and a copious amount of dairy and potatoes. In today’s world, “Tribal” does not equal HG. Keep going, Chris!

  30. Michael says

    Template Diets

    How about we call it The Template Diets.

    So that it’s more of a system than a specific diet. The problem with giving it a name is that it implies it’s a static diet that is the same for everyone – especially true when your target audience is everyone. As we know there is no one diet that is going to be healthy for everyone because everyone is different.

    I know this name is boring but it’s full proof.

    Within the template diets are several different templates of diets targeted at different audiences that can then be further tweaked and refined to the individual. There could be hundreds of variations but each is clearly defined and could have sub-versions.

    There is no confusion. Template diet 1 could be the Chris Kresser diet as mentioned above, perhaps targeted at healthy people who want to be as healthy as possible and stay that way. This could be whatever is determined the most effective blanket approach sort of diet (i.e. the paleo diet). It would not specify any macro-nutrient ratios at all. People would then find their own sub-diet from it which works best for them individually.

    Template diet 1.2 could be low carb, targeted at specific audiences that would benefit
    Template diet 1.3 could be high carb
    Template diet 1.4 could have an emphasis on gut healing like GAPS
    Template diet 1.5 could be the same sort of diet but made to be vegetarian (obviously worse but some of these vegetarians still like paleo except the meat. all we’re doing is categorizing it)
    Template diet 1.6 could include dairy
    Template diet 1.7 could include legumes
    Template diet 1.8 could include properly prepared grains for those who can handle it

    Template 2 could be what is the current western diet which is just everything that is on the menu
    Template 2.1 could be low carb
    Template 2.2 could be low processed food
    Template 2.3 could be gluten free
    Template 2.4 could be dairy free
    Template 2.5 could be nightshade free

    Everyone has a different level of buy in on what is healthy and what isn’t and also what they are willing to do. some people might feel just fine on a standard diet (as far as they know) so maybe all you can get them to do is go to template 2.2 at best. but it’s still better than the standard template 2. But with the goal of template 1.

    Then as it’s a diet without a name we can change our stance as often as we like and update the diets without anyone being able to attack the whole thing. It will all simply be based on the latest research. I don’t know who gets to approve the changes but we could have different versions for where there is conflict. They can even be authored by different people or co-authored etc.

    I think as long as it’s documented well and searchable and clearly idendified by the template and version numbers it should be easy enough.

    Each diet will specify the target audience and provide supporting evidence of why the specific diet template is recommended with references. It will be awesome.

    could call it http://www.templatediets.com which is still available.

    for people to see what diet they are currently on they just read the main template and narrow down to the more granular templates. Then they say I’m on template diet such and such and I changed to template diet 1 and feel the best ever or it didn’t work out so I’m now on template diet 1.3 or whatever.

    The idea needs work but it get’s out of the pigeon holing of the paleo diet name.

    It’s not about who is right or wrong it’s about providing these diet templates as recommendations for people who seek them. References and all so people can do their own research. If the evidence is lacking it will show.

    And we can categorize the references into strong or weak evidence etc so there is a grading. and use different colours or something to show it. Make it very easy for people to learn about nutrition and make the very best choice for themselves. they can easily discuss with the doctor without having to explain it.

    Any comments??

  31. Arend Kuiper says

    I think there is another issue at play here. I’m not saying you’re guilty of it mr. Kresser, but evolution effectively means adaption to the environment. These HGs wandered around to obtain better hunting and gathering grounds, both relative to the seasons as to change in climate or just to find better grounds (through the generations). It is not all that certain that the grounds were always optimal or that found HG tribes that wander along a stable pattern of grounds or just stayed put were at the optimal ground for hunting and gathering. All kinds of factors play a role in the distribution of HG tribes on the land. So basically, I’m saying that it doesn’t even follow that the diets of HG were or have always/ever been ‘optimal’. With a proper use and application of modern science man can reveal the physical cause and effect mechanisms of diet and the human body, which leads to rules and guidelines that are much more settled than the result of intentioned but organic distribution of HGs and their resulting diets.

    Of course the Paleo diet constitutes a reactionary direction in diet and nutrition vis-à-vis the ‘modern’ common wisdom diet. But as HGs adapted to their environments and through selection sought better HG grounds, we are in the position to much better pick and choose our personal optimal diets than the HGs could have ever been able to achieve. I’m not per se saying that we should drop the label Paleo, because the inspiration of the HGs are there. But living with an optimal diet by means of natural selection and given resources in a geographical area constitutes a whole different intentional diet selection process than the present evidence-based biochemical Paleo diet.

    Just my 2 cents, great site!

  32. gcb says

    I’ve been starting to think of it as the “mediocre hunter” diet. When our ancestors were successful in their hunts, they got to gorge on meat for a few days. Not so successful, and the bushes started to look tasty.

  33. says

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/12/29/neanderthals.diet/index.html

    Chris, I seem to recall that there was also other stuff written about Neanderthals which examined their bone structure, size, etc. and reserachers were able to deduce that they had a high caloric need, somewhere around 4000 calories per day. Isn’t that the case with Otzi as well? The point is, I do think you can’t say for sure what people ate 1,000,000 years ago, but you can deduce it from studying the bones of ancient hunter-gatherer’s, as well as the bones of the ancient Egyptians, and studying anatomy and physiology comparatively say between man and ape. There is a lot of evidence out there, though you might have to deduce it a bit, like evolution. But still, a LCHF seems to work, and the bigger issue is that government and economic policy doesn’t care about that, but would rather make you sick while making themselves rich. We shouldn’t fight amongst ourselves! But I do have problems with the general aesthetic of the term Paleo, and would agree that if you are not ready to eat worms, insects, drink blood, boiled blubber, and carrion, then you are definitely NOT paleo.

    • Gloria Cole says

      Actually we CAN know what our paleo ancestors ate.

      Here is one of many methods in use: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/280636?uid=2&uid=4&sid=21101296750011

      But this post is absolutely correct: if you knew what they ate you probably would not want to eat it.
      In the words of one anthropologist working with modern hunter gatherers in Australia: “Hunter-gatherers eat everything they can get their hands on.” They eat everything in their environment that is edible. And more grasshoppers and baby birds and rodents than we usually find in our modern grocery store. Another method of determining what our ancestors ate is environmental reconstruction. We can generally know what edible plants/animals were in their environment, and except for food tabus we can validly infer that’s what they ate. In general h-g in more southern latitudes at more plants than those in more northerly latitudes.

      I should think the conclusion to be drawn from any “paleo” analogy is that they–our ancestors–ate everything edible, while we eat only a very limited selection that happens to be available at the local store–unless we have a garden. Even then it is unlikely that our consumption of food would match the varied edibles of the every-day consumption of any hunter-gatherer.

  34. says

    There’s a crucial factor missing in assessing any “Paleo” diet. Primitive man walked barefoot and slept on the ground. Modern humans typically NEVER make contact the Earth, unless they’re at the beach. Otherwise, they’re wearing shoes with NON-CONDUCTIVE soles. What does this mean from a health standpoint? We’re not getting the free electrons that the earth is designed to give us. This energy is the most powerful antinflammatory and antioxidant therapy known, and we aren’t getting it like paleo man did. See http://www.earthing.com and find out.

  35. says

    In scandinavia Over 40% of the people eating less carbs. The most popular diet are
    LCHF( Low carb high fat,) People quit margarine their eating real Butter, double cream and
    fullfat sour cream Sorry my bad English LCHF= see Dietdoctor.se

    Bjørn from Norway

    • Robin says

      I like that as a name instead of Paleo, LFHC makes sense. Although it doesn’t encompass all of the principals of Paleo, it might lead to a little less confusion.

  36. says

    “And, even more telling, when these groups return to their traditional ways, the modern diseases disappear again. This suggests that it wasn’t some genetic vulnerability that caused them to develop modern diseases with the introduction of modern foods”

    Why is this so? Wouldn’t such vulnerability stop being active when the food are withdrawed?

  37. says

    I refere to this diet as the “innate diet” based on the teachings of Dr. James Chestnut. Innate means inborn, and its based on what raw materials are needed to express homeostasis..

    Good post!

  38. says

    start with a little observation – he’s not eating the phone… ;-)
    and
    having poked around on vegan sites fer fun looking for signs of dementia, i have to say that paleo-type discussions are definitely considerably more intelligent and “meaty” (sorry fer that)

    it’s kinda clear, yes – there is no single paleo diet even if we could time-machine our way back – i’m quite sure ever couple thou years the diet varied widely – but i think it’s safe to conclude that what was eaten was variations on a theme (kinda like the painfully endless tunes of vivaldi – what was that? oh yea – he wrote the same piece… 650 some odd times…)

    that then begs the question how much of which of that collection of foods available in the environment did our evolutionary heros eat? probably widely varying amounts at all different times resulting in evolutionary adaptation to the “musical scale” of possible foods, but in fact – there was never the perfect concerto of foods. For example i think it totally possible that we have husbanded (and wived…?) animals off and on for a hell of alot longer than there is evidence – thus our easier digestion of goat milk over cow–

    so paleo is what exactly? in my world – it’s a starting point with no finishing point ‘cept what i find works and doesn’t make me sick or kill me–

    PS – love the PENIS diet – is that a raw food diet…?

  39. Jack Kronk says

    someone commented on dr harris’ forum about his use of the term “pastoral” in his side bar summary. i posted the below comment over there so i figured i’d just copy/paste it here too…

    Pastoral refers to old school shepherd’s life, most specifically with raising livestock and moving around according to availability of fresh pasture and pure water. Pastoral is a pretty decent description actually. Since dairy and meats make up such a large portion of our diet, much of what we eat should ideally be pasture based. Plus it’s very non-industrilaized, meaning there really wouldn’t be poisonous seed oils, grain agriculture, and loads of silly fructose laden concoctions.

  40. says

    There was not just one paleo diet. The food composition surely very much depended on where a HG lived and on the time of year. I agree that it is best to focus on and avoid what they surely did not eat. I stick to a (low-carb-side) Loren Codain type of diet. VBR Hans

  41. Chris Kresser says

    I often use “species appropriate” diet, but again, a lot of raw food vegans will tell you that’s what they’re doing.

  42. Jack Kronk says

    I like Genetically Appropriate. (Genap, Ga)

    anon, that is absolutely hilarious. i am crackin up over here thinking about what people would say improved their health the most.

  43. anonymous (you will see why) says

    Pre-Industrial
    Enlightened
    Nutrition
    Including
    Saturated fats

    The PENIS diet will sweep the country!

  44. Jack Kronk says

    I like where GeeBee was going with the word mixing.

    Somehow take all the words that most accurately describe the best way to eat and then make an acronym.

    Whole Foods
    Optimal Health
    Non-Toxic
    Nutrient Dense or
    High Nutrition Density
    Pre-Industrial

    hmm. not enough first letter vowels here….

    how about

    Nutrient Dense Whole Foods = Nuden Woofoo
    High Nutrition Density Optimal Whole Foods = Hindop Woofoo
    Pre-Industrial Nutrient Dense = Prindy Nuden

  45. claire says

    There is a lot of good debate here. I was wondering what people would be saying after the recent news of findings on the teeth of these ancient people.

    I just want to remind that most of the HG were probably moving around. They likely would have used some food preservation methods to save meat and fish such as drying. Food preparation is an important part of most diets, including I suspect the HG. I don’t assume that they stayed in one place long enough to cultivate much. I don’t discount that they may have eaten wild grains, fruits and vegetables that they came back to again and again on their nomadic rounds.

    I think preparing foods (and cooking?) for storage, travel and future use was likely part of the process of the HG diet. That alone allows them to eat whatever was in their particular geographic area without them having to be either farmers or purely hunters.

    I personally like the thought they they were hunting and preserving the kill, and also adding gathered fruits, seeds, and the few grains they found growing wild. In addition they probably using alternate protein sources such as bird eggs, insects, grubs to add fresh food when no fresh meat was available.

    We don’t cook much in our culture and I feel that people forget (in these debates) that preparing foods was/is as important to the diet as eating them. In my opinion of course:)

  46. revelo says

    @Luming Zhou: they do have seasons in Africa, it was probably much cooler there during the Ice Ages, and humans are more adapted to the higher and drier and more temperate grasslands than the jungles, which is why we are different from our ape cousins (better at walking and running long distances, can’t swing from trees, able to sweat profusely and thus tolerant extreme daytime temperatures).

    @TheQuickBrownFox: I’m not saying that primitive humans aren’t intelligent. But catching prey isn’t easy even with intelligence. Read the diaries of Lewis and Clark. Even with rifles, they often had extreme difficulty getting game to eat, other than in the Yellowstone area, where there was plenty of game except it was defended by ferocious grizzly bears who could take 10 direct hits from their muskets before dying. The only reason there was much game left in the areas populated by indians was that the Indians lacked muskets. As soon as the whites armed with muskets entered these areas, most of the remaining game, that the Indians couldn’t capture with primitive weapons and traps, was soon wiped out. Top predators always tend to reproduce to the point where they on the verge of starvation. Most feline cubs starve to death, for example. That is nature’s way. Once the population rises and the game becomes hard-to-catch, which won’t take long, humans would have been forced to a diet resembling the other omnivores, meaning mostly vegetables, which is precisely what you see in New Guinea. The natives there love meat, but they weren’t able to eat it often because of overpopulation (even after resorting to warfare to keep the overpopulation down, and note that the warfare lead to cannibalism–humans do like meat, that I’ll grant) and so they eat mostly tubers.

    Also you don’t need to eat big animals for B12. There is plenty of B12 in insects and grubs. Again, compare with bears and apes, who eat far more insects and grubs and other small animals than big animals. Catching an antelope is quite difficult compared to catching termites and grasshoppers.

    Also, eating lots of grains and tubers doesn’t imply intense agriculture. Read the diaries of the Spanish captured and enslaved by Indians in coastal Texas in the 16th century. Most of what these indians ate was cattail tubers, which are difficult to harvest which is why they wanted the spaniards as slaves. But there wasn’t any agriculture. You just go out and dig the cattails up from the marshes. Likewise, the indians in the Lake Superior area harvested wild rice. Grains grow wild all over the world–if they can be made edible by grinding or cooking or soaking or other processing, and if the energy content justifies the effort of harvesting them (and this is certainly true for things like wild rice), then humans will figure out a way to process them. Any human with intelligence can figure out that all you have to do to get blackberries to flourish is to burn down a piece of forest and then scatter some blackberries from elsewhere on the burned land, then come back a few months later. Ditto for all sorts of other plants–you kill the plants that are useless by fire or girdling, and that leaves space for the plants you want. The Hunter Gatherers who live in an enviroment most similar to that in which huamsn evolved is probably the Bushmen of the Kalahari. And they eat mostly nuts. The men, especially, TALK big about catching antelope and the men do indeed spend most of their time hunting, but they seldom catch anything. When they fail to catch anything, they fall back on nuts and other plants gathered by the women.

    I’m not saying humans didn’t eat meat when they could get it or that they didn’t try to get meat. Bears, pigs, raccoons, and other omnivores eat meat when they can get it and meat is also their preferred food (at least if they haven’t eaten meat in a long time). If they can’t get meat, they do without. And that’s what humans did for the most part, other than in a few isolated places near the ocean where sea animals, fish and shellfish were extremely abundant for those willing to risk drowning to obtain them.

    Again, the issue is not whether we are adapted to eating meat. Clearly, we are, just like bears, pigs and raccoons. We are also adapted to eating Twinkies and potato chips and other junk food, and indeed a diet of junk food appears to lower the age of menarche and lead to higher reproductive rates. The issue, at least for me, is what diet leads to a long life (like 90 years) with health and fitness maintained right up to near the very end, whether or not this diet corresponds to the diet we ate during the evolutionary stage. Evolution wants us to survive to age 40 and reproduce and then die to make way for the next generation, not to live to age 90. Someone who fails to have children (like me, intentionally) and then lives to age 90 and thereby uses up resources that could be used by people who do plan to reproduce, is an evolutionary abomination. So what? I’m doing what I want, not what Nature wants, and I strongly suspect that a mostly meat diet, like some Paleo types advocate, and especially fatty meat, is mostly definitely NOT the way to live to age 90 without health problems.

    • Robert says

      90 years? you must be young. At 55 I am looking to 120. If I had found CrossFit and the Paleo eating modality when i was 20 I would say 150.

    • Adlock Hungry says

      Revelo, Your post was from some time ago, so I don’t know if you’ll get this, but worth a shot.

      Your rationale sounds very logical but is not what the evidence supports. As Mr. Kresser explained, experiments and clinical experience/trials has all but proven that eating “Twinkies and potato chips” for example, as well as so-called high glycemic foods, causes a host of modern maladies, Avoiding such things causes most said maladies to go away.
      The evidence, be it anthropological, or more current scientific experiments, continues to also show that consuming varied forms of healthy (meaning the animals are not raised in feed lots) animal foods – both protein and fats, vegetables, fruits, some seeds, little starch, no sugar (as CrossFit founder Greg Glassman likes to put it) brings about a host of adaptations that support rigorous health in the immediate term, as well as the conditions that constitute indicators for a long healthy life.
      I have no dogmatic attachment to eating like a Paleo purist, and I think that’s really the point of the article. Avoiding carbs at all costs in the name of “Paleo” may not be such a good idea for some, while it’s likely a good idea for many in this age of rampant obesity. Your point is certainly valid, though, that it’s highly unlikely that our ancestors didn’t eat carbs in whatever form it was available. So, avoidance of carbs could be considered more a modern adaptation of an “ancestral diet” designed to address current needs, eg widespread obesity, type II diabetes, etc.

      As a personal anecdote, since I am both naturally lean (exercise or not, junk food or not) AND I exercise quite rigorously almost every day, it would be foolish of me to avoid carbs even with my relatively high dietary fat consumption. That being said, I had been having considerable problems with my health and overall energy until the day I dropped grains from my diet & increased my consumption of pasture raised animal meats & fats (I already ate the hell outta some seafood!). Almost overnight I got much (not all) of the rigor of my early 20’s back, and was well enough to start a fitness regimen again, which for me is essential to a full and happy life. Oh, and the persistent nasty warts I’d had on my fingers for years went away literally within a few days of dropping grains!!

      Anecdotes aside, the evidence, again, shows that eating fatty meats from wild or “appropriately raised” animals does, in fact, support long term health, regardless of your doubts. I would add: “for most”, since I believe there is definitely more individual variation in modern, highly mixed groups of people.

      Cheers,
      -adam

  47. TheQuickBrownFox says

    @revelo
    “Also, anyone who has spent anytime outdoors in the temperate climates (the most desireable places for humans to live) knows that the easiest food to get is carbs. Acorns, chestnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, tubers–it is pretty obvious that most HG’s got most of their calories from nuts and tubers, plus a small amount of meat. Catching prey animals is not that easy”

    You seem to have decided on what humans must have eaten based on what seems obvious to you…

    1. No one said catching animals was easy, but it’s quite possible that the extra energy expenditure was worth it for the rewards: greater nutrient density, certain nutrients that were not available in plants (particularly brain-related like B12) and the avoidance of antinutrients secreted by plants to discourage animals from eating them.

    2. We are talking about people with a similar genetic base to modern day humans. They had a lot of brainpower and capability for abstract thought. They used it primarily to get food (as with most wild animals), and a big part of that could involve hunting. Imagine if all the neurons we use to read, write, use computers, negotiate contracts, program software etc. were used for hunting? Imagine if your grandfather’s primary role was hunting, and he passed on everything he knew to your father, who passed everything on to you and you spent your entire life doing it. You would be an amazing hunter by today’s standards and probably average by pre-civilization standards. Look at accounts of Aboriginal hunting techniques. They are quite amazing and fascinating to read about. Aboriginals tend to greatly outperform “civilized” people in visual memory tests. Their brains are wired for tasks that are useful to them such as navigating across terrain to track animals.

    3. Some pre-civilization populations may have had much bigger and stronger individuals than is usual today (see Weston A Price’s account of Native Americans).

    Basically, I’m saying that the difficulty of catching animals doesn’t mean that it wasn’t done. We have more technology now but we have lost many techniques and we have less powerful bodies. It may have been worth using our seemingly unique human advantage for strategy and abstract thought to get the “best” food.

    • says

      actually even here in the north temperate regions, at certain times of year animal protein is VERY easy to come by. “Shad festival” anyone? Fish runs are old old news, and fish TRAPS are easy to make.
      when you are not playing by the fair hunting rules of today, you set up salt licks and ambush hunt, and scatter grain for the ducks.. (and hunt “sitting ducks”) and put glue sticks in the trees to catch song birds.
      net fishing is old old old, as is basket fishing and the sticks to build a fish maze (fish weir) can be used (and have been) by every culture.

      heck, look at the hunting done by the modern “neo paleo” groups! The native northerners hunt WHALES and did so in hide boats.. as well as seals, especially during (here is that comment again) easy times

  48. says

    We evolved in Africa, which is a climate which does not have any seasons. The temperature is hot year around.

    Also, in hot climates, nuts and seeds only have trace amounts of polyunsaturated fat.

    I think fruits, tubers, and herbivorous animals were our main foods.

      • Rob says

        Bugs most definitely would have been part of a true Paleolithic diet. Insects of all kinds, especially big fat larvae and grubs. There’s your fat and protein right there and you don’t have to run like a cheetah to catch it. ;o)

        While we’re at it – lizards, snakes, amphibians, small rodents, fungus (mushrooms), etc.

        Oh, and no oils or seasonings of any kind. What? No BBQ sauce??? Cooking methods would have been limited to cooking over a fire or in a pit built into the ground.

        Know anyone in the Paleo crowd that actually eats this way? lol

        • Rob says

          And of course any meat you consume would have to at least be from a free-range, grass-fed (or whatever the natural diet is of the animal you’re eating) animal to come close to the quality of meat consumed by our ancestors from those times. Other things which you can’t control is the environment. Not even close to Paleolithic times. So, yes, I think a new descriptor is required for the Paleo Diet.

  49. revelo says

    Whether or not a non-processed-food, non-grain, non-sugar diet is healthy, it is VERY significant than every group of primitive people exposed to such a diet abandons their previous diet in favor of processed foods, grains and sugar. And you can’t just dismiss these people as being stupid. They are no different from us. Fact is, potato chips are really, really tasty compared to an all meats and green vegetables paleo diet. And therein is the big problem with the paleo diet. It might work for a year or so, especially if you blog about it and join a group and get all sorts of moral support to keep you on the wagon. But eventually you will fall prey to the lure of grains. The more sensible approach is thus to accept grains into the diet from the day one, and in large quantities, but in a form that doesn’t cause problems, meaning whole grain. Go ahead and eat 5 pounds of potatoes a day, but boiled potatoes, not potato chips. Or a pound of steel-cut oats, not granola bars filled with HFCS.

    Also, anyone who has spent anytime outdoors in the temperate climates (the most desireable places for humans to live) knows that the easiest food to get is carbs. Acorns, chestnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, tubers–it is pretty obvious that most HG’s got most of their calories from nuts and tubers, plus a small amount of meat. Catching prey animals is not that easy, other than where top predators are kept under population control by other forces (such as in the arctic, where cold limits top predators, or from fishing in the sea, which were inexhaustible in paleo times, because paleo humans lacked sophisticated fishing technology like we have nowadays). In a mild temperate climate, population reaches the carrying limit in no time and the supply of easy-to-catch prey animals is greatly reduced, so that humans end up eating like black bears. That is, greens in the spring, fruit in the summer, nuts and grains in the fall, body fat in the winter, stored nuts and tubers year-round for humans (but not bears), and meat only occasionally. This may or not be a healthy diet. All that evolution cares about is whether we can make it to age 40 or so and leave healthy offspring behind.

    • Robin says

      Who is it that you think would prefer to eat boiled potatoes and oats over meat and veggies?! Certainly not me! Give me some pastured pork and broccoli smothered in cultured butter and garlic any day of the week! I actually prefer to eat meat and veggies and I know I’m not alone in these preferences. Not only do I prefer them over boiled potatoes and oats, but I would also take them over potato chips and other junk food. Those foods are addictive, when you break the addiction, they no longer taste good!
      Primitive people switch to diets high in sugar and processed seed oils because they are taken from their traditional habitat, and those are the foods that are cheap and plentiful in modern society.

  50. GeeBee says

    PaleoPlus – That’s the term I use and I’ve also seen it mentioned elsewhere.
    There’s got to be some good acronym based ones using Hand in the title – the HAND part referring to High Nutritional Density.
    FreeHand – Free of Refining and of the Highest Nutritional Density?

  51. says

    I think “paleo” as in “old” instead of “paleolithic” stills seems to work best because it has some traction and because whatever term someone comes up there will be someone else with a different interpetation.

    I was thinking “pre-industrial” diet might work the other day, but when you google it you see a lot of the sites talking about low animal protein and high fiber.

    There might be some merit in something like “Paleo2.0″ that it is saturated and dairy fat (and starch) friendly to distinguish it from more old school thinking like Cordain. You could also always say Cordain Paleo or Harris Paleo or Jaminet Paleo or whatever.

  52. says

    Nice post. I like the point of how we are uncertain of what our paleo ancestors ate.

    Paleo is just what our hunter-gatherers ate. That is probably starchy vegetables, meat, nuts, seeds, grains, and animal fat. I hate when people redefine the term to include dairy products and/or eggs.

    It’s like a rationalization. If a food is unhealthy, then it’s not considered paleo. It’s rationalized away from being considered to be paleo.

    I like Mark’s suggestion of a “tribal” diet.

    • Lel says

      There are hunter gatherers who still eat eggs. Why not eggs? Of course, they’re not gathered from the cage or the barn floor, they’re gathered from the precarious sides of cliffs, from the rocky nests of sea birds.
      The closest I can come is gathering eggs from my own, home reared, free range, real-food-fed chickens. Nothing will persuade me that our ancestors wouldn’t have taken advantage of eggs when they could get ‘em.

      • Synova says

        Eggs… the animal food that can’t run away.

        And dairy? Maybe we’re not perfectly able to process cow’s milk, but fer the love of reason… we’re mammals!

  53. Jack Kronk says

    there are a lot of super intelligent and creative minds poking around in the ‘paleo’ world, both bloggers and commenters alike. it seems to me that most of the top experts who propel the paleo movement are not even truly ‘paleo’, exactly as chris’s title suggests. that’s pretty hilarious. stephan g, chris k, chris m, kurt h, mark s, the jaminets, and even the wapf support and believes in consumption of healthy dairy. some of the aforementioned are more ok with grains and legumes when properly prepared (i think dr harris is the most hardcore against grain). and almost all agree [to an extent] on the ‘acceptability’ of certain starches.

    so for this group (and i know there are more that i didn’t mention) that is leading the way on this path of figuring out what is the best possible way to eat in our modern world, i think the basic blueprint has already been laid out well even at this point. sure, continual learning and research will commence, but is it possible to unite the general ‘clan’ under one gigantic umbrella term, or is the world of ‘paleo’ destined to remain a foggy generalization of itself? i think it would be very interesting to ask commenters to submit what they think it should be called, in addition to the bloggers themselves. maybe take a massive, multi-blog vote?

    to re-iterate chris’s question, what’s the best way to label a nutrient dense, non-toxic, whole foods way of eating to obtain and maintain optimal health?

    how about:

    propasture
    wholefarm
    optimal (or “optimalus”)
    pre-industrial (or “predust”)

    fun to ponder.

    jack kronk

  54. Harald says

    Thank you for your thoughts.
    Here are mine: A forward thinking but rearward gazing dentist investigated our ancient diets starting with identifying the design of our teeth. He found, that early man was a seed eater and when the HG job became too teedious, developed grains with a better yield. This worked quite well for a long time and even fed armies, that were healthy, strong and successful (Romans come to mind), as long as the WHOLE grain was eaten.
    Enter the industrial revolution followed by the technological developments and refinements. Suddenly the need for “refining” our foods removed the very essence of health by concentrating almost exclusively on “shelf-life”. Dr. Schnitzer in Germany has advocated a return to natural foodstuffs as unadulterated as possible, because his impirical studies have proven his assumptions. He had managed to get an entire community in the Black Forest region to switch to his recommended diet with the result, that the incidence of karies and misshapen teeth reduced dramatically. In short, the people regained their true health, but the dental association gave him a hard time! Guess why?
    http://www.dr-schnitzer.de .

  55. lolo says

    i know how our “PALEO” ancestors ate. Not every single day. Barely enough. When they could. They where on constant deficit all the time. Finding ample food was difficult, time consuming, dangerous. A once in a week event at most. that’s why intermittent fasting works so well. its in our genes.

  56. says

    I do hope they study more about what our ancestors ate. But I’m like you…so what, call it SCD, GAPS, Paleo…all I know is it has been a miracle and a godsend for me and my son. I guess I first learned of it from Elaine Gottschalls book so I think of it as SCD, but I browse SCD, GAPS, Paleo and primal sites for recipes. Perhaps “Grain-Free, Junk-Free” describes it best…who knows. There’s no denying what it’s done for us though.

  57. says

    Just my two cents here…Different times, different people, different habitats. We know that tremendous changes have taken place relative to climate since “paleo days.” Many areas that are now desert were once forest. Many lakes, streams, rivers and seas were larger. Animal life is different in numbers of species and abundance. There are too many factors that have changed, including encroachment of “civilization” to make an apples-to-apples comparison. Further, I’ve often wondered whether a lack of technology is more natural or whether technology has enhanced diet by being able to grow, hunt and perhaps cook foods that were not available to ancient man. Early man’s natural limitations do not necessarily add up to a more healthful existence. A simple example would be developing an easier way to climb a tree to reach higher fruit or berries. Are we meant to eat only that which we can reach, catch, hunt or grow without any innovation? just a little innovation?

  58. Mark says

    Why not call it “tribal” instead of “paleo”. There has been much research into “tribal” diets, from Weston Price and many others. Besides going “Tribal” sounds more fun than going Paleo.

  59. TheQuickBrownFox says

    And another thing. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who wrote The Black Swan, is very much in favour of empiricism and argues we are far too confident in our own knowledge. That book covers those themes. Even so, he is on board with Arthur De Vany’s form of paleo and wrote the afterword to De Vany’s new book.

    Empirically, if you eat what we regard as paleo and it increases your health markers, makes you feel better and happier, then you must be on the right track! The most scientific thing is to try it and see if it works on you.

  60. says

    Chris,

    To me, the “Paleo” in Paleo Diet refers to “pre-technology.” It was a time when people ate foods very close to their naturally occurring forms.

    And, we can also say with certainty what was *not* eaten in Paleo times. For example: Twinkies, spam, transfats, blooming onions with god-knows-what sauce, etc.

    We can be fairly sure that they didn’t eat grains in the huge quantities that modern man does. Mostly because it would be very labor intensive, and hardly seems worth it. If Paleo man had 7-eleven and MiniMarts, sure they’d have eaten Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread. But they didn’t.

    Main point being: even though we can’t say what Paleo man did eat or did for fitness…we can say what they didn’t do. And maybe that’s a good place to start axiomatically. In other words, the burden of proof should be on the technologically advanced products and methods.

  61. says

    Frankly, I think the distinction Prof. Gumby made is a bit, well, “academic”.

    Yes, no HG group today is going to eat exactly what “paleo” people ate, just as a paleolithic-era diet from Africa bore little relation to a paleolithic-era diet from Australia, or Asia. Different fauna and flora, different menu.

    But I agree: so what? If the health of the modern HG reflects our paleo ancestors better than ours does, then it’s a useful exercise to learn from his diet, just as Dr. Price went around doing.

    He didn’t return with a list of foods that people should eat, but with a list of principles, which are really what we need.

    And yeah, from a marketing perspective, calling it the hunter-gatherer diet may have been better than paleo, but again, so what?

    Which isn’t to say Prof. Gumby’s post wasn’t fascinating, which it was.

  62. TheQuickBrownFox says

    Nice post, and I’m sorry but I’m going to have to nitpick on one little thing:

    “I could care less” should be “I couldn’t care less”.

    If you could care less then it implies you care enough to care less. It implies a minimum level of caring. If you *couldn’t* care less then you must really not care. It’s a pet peeve of mine!

    Back to the topic: Haven’t there been some detailed account of tribal lifestyle and diets in populations that were only beginning to be touched by civilization? An example would be Weston A Price and Native Americans. See here: https://www.westonaprice.org/traditional-diets/628-guts-and-grease.html

    • Betty Taylor says

      For TheQuickBrownFox: “I could care less” is a pet peeve of mine, as well.
      People who say that must not listen to what they’re saying.

    • Grammar says

      If we are copy editing…

      “Haven’t there been some detailed account of tribal lifestyle…”

      Should be — hasn’t there been some detailed accounts of tribal lifestyle.

      • ron says

        As a non-native speaker I’d have sworn it has either to be
        “Haven’t there been some detailed accounts of tribal lifestyle…”
        or
        “hasn’t there been some detailed account of tribal lifestyle”.
        But all these copy editors can’t be wrong, of course.
        (I must be grammatically off course in some way)

        • Lel says

          Ron, you’re correct. “Haven’t there been … accounts” and “hasn’t there been … (an) account”
          You’re on course. Keep your pronoun plural if your noun is plural, and singular if it’s singular.
          And “I could care less” is an emerging idiom. It can be taken as meaning (“As if) I could care less”, “”I could care less – but not by much” or it could be meant to be taken ironically. I don’t use the expression myself, but I don’t mind it.

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