We like to keep it light and bright around here, but today we’re turning up the heat and tackling a controversial issue: Plant-based or Paleo?
These two have many positive overlaps- whole foods, lots of plants, no dairy. The big differences: Paleo is pro-meat and anti-grains.
Today I tell you why the modern Paleolithic Diet is nonsense.
Paleo diet proponents, or “Hunter-Gatherers”, believe we should return to the diet of our ancestors- primarily lean meat, fruit, vegetables, and nuts. Their argument: this is the diet we humans are meant to eat. While I applaud their notion to return to whole foods and simpler times, the claims don’t add up.
Paleolithic people were primarily plant eaters
The modern take on Paleo is actually a poor reflection of the real Paleo diet. It’s estimated that the actual Paleolithic Diet contained over 100 grams of fiber!! Fiber is only found in plant foods, meaning Paleolithic people had to have eaten mostly plants. (For reference, the average American’s daily fiber intake is about 10 grams). The vast majority of our 25 million years of evolution was spent eating 95% plants, not animals.
Fiber is also found in grains, a big no-no on Paleo Diets. However, the scientific evidence linking whole grains (even gluten-containing grains) to disease prevention and weight loss is far too profound for me to dismiss grains.
The modern Paleo Diet also emphasizes meat. Research clearly connects hefty meat consumption to chronic disease. Some Paleo proponents claim insulin (and related inflammation) is what causes disease. They say that because carbs stimulate insulin, we should eat a low-carb, high-protein (meat) diet. The truth: low-carb, high-meat diets actually increase insulin levels (and cause disease)!
The average life-expectancy of a Paleolithic human: 25 years old
Many say a Paleo diet is healthier because Paleolithic humans were chronic disease-free. That may be true, but they only lived until age 25! This makes it essentially impossible to compare their lack of disease to chronic disease rates today.
You are (obviously) not a caveman
Hopefully this goes without saying.
Obviously, a caveman lived a completely different life than a modern human. To feed themselves meat, they embarked on difficult, physical hunts. They were likely only successful every so often, meaning most of their food was “gathered” (plant foods) instead of “hunted” (meat).You drive your car to the grocery store any day of the week and buy your “hunted food” wrapped in cellophane. Need I say more?
The Paleo Diet is canceling out the benefits of your CrossFit workouts
When we think Paleo, we think CrossFit. These two go hand-in-hand… much to their detriment. A recent study looked at Crossfitters on a Paleo Diet and found that the diet cancelled out the health benefits of the workouts! LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) went up, and HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) went down!
The real Paleolithic diet actually sounds relatively healthy. The problem lies in our unscientific modern interpretation.
For me, it is less about the fallacy of Paleo and more about the sound scientific support for a whole-food plant-based diet. When you look at the evidence for plant-based diets, the argument over other fad diets becomes irrelevant.
Bottom line: Skip the hunting, and stick with the gathering.
Stay informed and inspired with our bi-monthly newsletter. The next issue goes out on Sunday!