As I am sure everyone here must have heard by now, one of the latest “hot” food trends is the Palaeolithic Diet (also known as the Paleo, Caveman, Stone Age and Hunter-Gatherer Diet).The idea originally started in the 1970s with gastroenterologist Walter L Voegtlin,and has gained a lot of momentum these days. Voegtlin noted that the caveman diet was like that of a carnivore, mostly fats and protein with small amounts of carbohydrates, and strangely considered that this was the most healthful diet for humans. Prescribed foods include meats, fish, seafood, fruits, vegetables, oils, seeds and nuts. The diet bans dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, potatoes,.processed foods and refined sugars.(Also no alcohol is allowed. In other words, this is a pre-agricultural diet.
The principle behind this regime is that we should eat only natural, organic, unprocessed food as far as possible. Well, so far, so good – I am sure we would all endorse that. But it also stipulates a ton of meat! The devotees of this diet claim that since humans have evolved from hunter-gatherers, our systems are no longer in tune with the modern diet which results from agriculture. Apparently we should mimic the eating habits of our Palaeolithic ancestors, who existed over 20 000 years ago as nomads in the wilderness. I find this nutritional theory highly amusing – is what prehistoric peoples did a good model for how we should live today? Should we all live in caves as well, and have none of the trappings and comforts of modern life?
One way in which this diet may be healthy is that the historical Paleos had to endure periods of famine out of necessity, and it is actually beneficial for us to fast intermittently, to give our systems a break. However the modern Paleos don’t do that! What they do is greatly restrict foods which are a product of modern farming. So besides only prescribing natural unprocessed foods, the Paleos eschew dairy, as this comes from modern farming practices. I can't fault them there – dairy products are generally not very healthy, notwithstanding all the cruelty involved in this particular industry. It appears that only around 35% of the world's population can metabolise dairy products, and I am sure it is significant that this is a minority figure.
The science behind this diet is mostly all-wrong though – in actual fact, archaeologists have discovered humans were already eating legumes, grains and tubers at the period in question. It makes sense when you consider that humans have mainly developed flat teeth, like herbivores, for grinding, rather than sharp incisors for tearing flesh (apologies for being so graphic! Just trying to make a point).
I am a vegan mainly for ethical reasons, so I would not follow the Paleo Diet in any case, even if it was proved to be the most healthy of all (which I am quite sure it is not!) I am fairly certain I would continue to be vegan, even if it made me ill. But fortunately it just so happens that the most ethical diet is also the most healthy for humans, the most sustainable for this planet, and the one that can feed the most people and help to end starvation in the world. So it's a no-brainer really! We are not prehistoric humans, foraging desperately to survive on whatever we can find most easily – these days we can choose. It appears we have evolved to live off almost any type of food, but since we are homo sapiens we can make choices. We can choose the diet that leads to the greater good for the world., i.e. the vegan one. So I'll stick to this one, since I am not Wilma Flintstone!
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