Without question, “going paleo” is one of the most popular diet trends out there right now. Cross-fitters have taken the diet on as their own. You can find numerous paleo books on Amazon. And celebrities and other fad diet aficionados are all over it (not to mention gluten-free folks, as well). But WTF is this diet all about?
Much of the craze has been driven by the fact that high-protein diet plans never totally went away, even when the initial fervor over Atkins and South Beach subsided. And sugar continues to be vilified (for good reason), which falls right in line with the most basic paleo principles.
What is Paleo?
The Paleo or Paleolithic diet references the eating habits of Stone Age cavemen, and focuses primarily on meat and vegetables, while generally excluding grains, dairy, legumes, and processed foods. Many would argue that it’s just a more “natural” version of your favorite high-protein diet from the 90’s.
But those that espouse the paleo philosophy have a slightly different take. They adamantly claim that we should eat what our ancestors ate because we haven’t evolved enough to do so otherwise.
But therein lies the problem: What did those wild and wholly Stone Age ancestors of ours actually eat?
For you paleo fans, the answer may surprise you.
It has long been thought that our hunter-gatherers ancestors ate a very meat-heavy diet, with a few tubers and fruits thrown in for good measure. But new research is turning the paleo world upside down.
The newest data indicates that our ancestors were actually much less carnivorous than we were initially led to believe, with anywhere from 65-80% of their diets coming from vegetarian sources. They may have been hunting quite a bit, but large animal kills were relatively few and far between.
In fact, an occasional bird or a couple bugs here and there were the more likely animal-based protein sources on a day-to-day basis. Good stuff, huh?
The True Diet
So armed with this knowledge, are consumers today following a true paleo diet or are they following someone’s twisted version of what a paleo diet should be? In truth, it’s probably the latter. And given this new data about our ancestral diet, is there any logic in changing up your current paleo plan to decrease animal protein and include more vegetarian food sources?
You can decide that one for yourselves, but I do think that incorporating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes will enhance health, and the absence of these foods will likely diminish health. After all, it is well established that vegetarian diets decrease the risks associated with numerous chronic diseases.
Photo Credit: Crossfitsac