Paleo is a diet/lifestyle that is based on how our Paleolithic ancestors ate. For some folks, this means a diet based on what we evolved to eat, foods that were consumed by our ancestors before the dawn of agriculture. You’d probably be forgiven for concluding that paleo was a whole foods diet.
But for many folks, “stone age eating for modern times” is mostly about excluding grains, legumes, and dairy. For them, processed foods like almond flour and coconut oil, or convenience foods with egg white and hemp protein powder, are fine.
Case in point, here are four recipes that came across my feed in the last week or so, all from different paleo blogs:
- Spaghetti Carbonara Quiche
- Homemade Falafel
- Paleo Recipes: German Apple Pancakes
- Paleo Carrot Cake with Creamy Dairy Free Frosting
And then there are these two Kickstarters for paleo snacks:
- Monthly Paleo: Healthy Snack Box To Help You Stay Fit
- Paleo Subscription Box & Online Paleo Market [the image at the top (with the Paleo Pasta and Caveman Cookies) is from this Kickstarter]
I post this not to ding the folks who want to go paleo and have their former favorite foods (though it’s been described as a “one of the most contentious issues in the paleo community“), but rather to tie this in with some recent themes here related to cooking, flavor, diet, and health. It seems to me that (keeping in mind that all generalizations are false), the following holds true:
- People don’t like to eat boring whole foods in a culture that promotes food variety like ours does.
- Any restrictive diet (paleo, vegan, LF, LC, gluten free) that forces you to greatly reduce or eliminate most processed foods is going to be healthier — at least in the short term — over a standard Western diet.
As an aside, I tend to think that Weston A. Price (the dentist, not necessarily the organization) had it right. As Denise Minger summarizes, the health-promoting traditional diets Price investigated were a mix of foods and macro percentages, but they had some things in common:
Contained a rich source of fat-soluble vitamins (particularly vitamins K2, A, and D)—whether from organ meats, high quality dairy, fish eggs, other seafood, or insects.
Were free from vegetable oils, white sugar, white flour, and canned foods.
Placed muscle meats pretty low on the totem pole—valuing instead an animal’s organs, skin, bones, and cartilage.
Contained a mix of both plant and animal foods, with no diet being entirely carnivorous or entirely vegan.
I find it hard not to conclude that the really important thing from a health/weight perspective is cut back on the processed food and follow a more traditional, nutrient-dense diet. And the way to do that long term is to learn how to cook well if you don’t know how. I suspect that if you start with those two things, you can start tinkering at the edges (cut back on gluten or dairy or carbs) to make it work for your personal situation.