Paleo Diet Myths

Arthur Haines discusses several myths of the paleo diet, specifically addressing some of the restrictions of this diet. The Paleo Diet is attempting to mimic the diet of the indigenous (and their ancestors) using contemporary plants and animals. Some of the plants and types of animal foods that are categorically avoided in this diet were in fact eaten by indigenous people around the world (and likely their paleolithic ancestors). This necessitates re-evaluating aspects of this diet, or, at least, being more specific with certain guidelines so that followers of this diet can have better information to assist their dietary choices.

NEW DISCUSSION: I think there are several sources of misunderstanding occurring with this video. Part of that is my fault. So let me explain further. To base our understanding on what paleolithic people consumed from what little we can find in the archeological record will lead to substantial biases, due to the fragmentary knowledge we have. Many plant food remnants will simply not exist today because conditions were not conducive to their persistence. Therefore, I infer types of food that were likely eaten by paleolithic people through examination of indigenous cultures (not always exact species, but similar types of foods). Given that the paleolithic period ended about 20,000 years ago, there existed relatively similar technologies between paleolithic people and more recent, isolated indigenous people (e.g., stone tools, use of fire, containers, fiber arts, hunting weapons). For many foods, if they could be eaten today, they could have been eaten then.

Consider also the both groups of people (isolated indigenous and their paleolithic ancestors) would be utilizing a vast array of foods, given the necessity of procuring sufficient nutrition when primary sources were lacking. Both groups of people would have a very realistic use of plant foods (not one commonly based on dogmatic beliefs). Again, if modern indigenous ate it, it is likely ancestral indigenous ate it. This is especially true given that many plant species pre-date the emergence of anatomically modern humans (ca. 200,000 years ago).

One of the errors I made with this video is using North American examples. Clearly the North American indigenous do not go back much into the paleolithic time. However, this was an educational choice, to show examples that people would be familiar with. Understand that many North American plants have similar types and even extremely similar species in Africa. Using nightshades as an example, contemporary indigenous consumed foliage and fruits of nightshades here in North America and on the African continent. Given the minimal processing (in some cases none) needed for these plant foods, why do people believe that plant species offering edible parts were not consumed by paleolithic people (when the species were present and were consumed by their descendants)? Observations on one continent often have great applicability on another continent (again, not always the exact species, but the kinds of species consumed).

I use two lines of evidence, both with limitations, to create a picture of what paleolithic people consumed: archeological evidence and observations of isolated indigenous people. Certainly, the latter line of evidence has merit, especially considering that the wild foods they consume are closer to a paleolithic diet than what modern people consume (which is almost entirely foods genetically modified through breeding and transgenic methods). Further, their methods of processing and detoxifying plant foods would be limited by similar constraints, based on available raw materials and primitive technologies.

My video is not attacking the actual paleo diet (which we don’t fully know what this was). My video is critiquing the common version of the paleo diet that is presented by several authors, elaborated on websites, and discussed by many people who do not research such things. In other words, I’m trying to explain that the common application of the paleo diet likely has several inaccuracies that are not based on any factual data. I’m not trying to disprove the paleo diet, only attempting to correct features of the (in my opinion) warped version. This is not a straw man argument, because I’m aware of the version of the paleo diet I’m criticizing. My video is actually an attempt to bolster our understanding of the paleo diet. I think some people understood my intent and some people did not. Hopefully this discussion will help. Best wishes on your individual and community paths.

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