Overview of the Paleo Diet

The other day I cam across an article about nutrition, and they quoted some guy who had spent time studying a hunter-gatherer society in Africa. This part got me thinking:

If you go out and have a chance to live with a group like the Hadza, you realize that a lot of the stories we tell ourselves about the past, including things like the paleo diet, just kind of fall apart. So there's this idea in the paleo diet world that there's one sort of single natural human diet, and that diet was very meat heavy, hardly any carbs at all and certainly no sugars.

[In reality] the Hadza have a mix of plants and animals in their diets. It changes day to day and year to year, but about half of the calories are coming from plants.

Clearly this guy does not understand what the Paleo Diet is. He has just summarized the Paleo Diet while trying to debunk it. The Paleo diet is not like the Atkins or South Beach diets where you drop everything except meat and then snobbily lecture your friends about your amazing diet while snarfing two pounds of bacon. Instead, the paleo diet focuses on a balance of a small amount of lean meat with an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

A while ago my wife and I went through learning the paleo diet, and more than any particular rules about eat this and not that, it was beneficial for changing the overall way we approached eating and menu planning. Before we studied the paleo diet, if we were at home and hungry and wanted something quick, we would throw on a pot of pasta, cover it in butter and call that dinner. Now, I realize that there are so much better things to eat, both in leaving you feeling better when you are done and also just having better flavors.

So here is a quick summary of the paleo diet:

  • Avoid processed foods - eat fresh stuff.

  • Avoid eating out, cook things yourself.
  • Consume a small to moderate amount of lean meats. Things like fish, a 4 oz steak (not a 24 oz steak), or a grilled chicken breast (not breaded and fried grease bomb with a bit of reconstituted chicken in the center).
  • Eat lots of vegetables, and use a wide variety.
  • Moderate amounts of fruits, berries, and nuts; these are great for adding in more flavors and variety to various recipes.
  • Low or no dairy (some people say none at all, some people say limit to small amounts) - this is one where it helps to do a "cleanse", go a few weeks or a month without it and see how you feel. It is widely documented citation needed? that some populations (like most Europeans) have a gene that allows them to process dairy while other populations (like most Asians) lack that gene and are therefore lactose intolerant, but humans have a tendency to be migratory and promiscuous so you might not be in the group that you think. In other words, try going without dairy and see if you feel a huge difference.
  • Most paleo guides say "no bread" or even "no grains", but this is one where I tend to temper it down to using moderation and less processing. So it is better to use brown rice instead of white rice, and whole grain bread instead of cheapo white bread. Corn-on-the-cob is great, a corn chip (like a Cheeto) is not so good.
  • Eggs are good too.

Overall, using the paleo diet is about rejecting the "progress" that has happened to food, where we are constantly being sold something more bland than we had before. While industrialized agriculture allows growing a huge amount of high fructose corn syrup, and that gives people the food energy they need to live, it does not give the vitamins and minerals that you need to live healthy. I recently saw a commercial for a liquid food replacement named "huel", which to me sounds like a portmanteau of hurl and gruel. Part of me wanted to hurl, part of me wanted to ask if this is some sort of sick joke, and part of me is curious to see who the hell would want that sort of garbage?

The Simple Diet

Somewhat related, I once went through a list of all the vitamins that people need, and made a list of the types of foods that provide each vitamin. Working on the premise that your body knows when it is missing something and so you will be hungry until you fill that need, my hypothesis is that eating something out of each of these categories will help you be healthier and avoid that craving which induces overeating. So here are the categories:

  • Green (leafy) vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, kale

  • Colorful vegetables, such as carrots, peppers, sweet potatoes
  • Fruits
  • Meat and eggs
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and nuts
  • "Good oils", things like olives, avocados, and fish

So the idea is that if you focus on making sure you get at least a little bit from each of these categories you don't have to count any calories or anything, your body will just have access to the things it needs and you will be healthier.

Tags:

Leave a Reply