Diet #10: Paleo

For my 10th diet I’m going to attempt a fairly fashionable low carb diet – the Paleo diet.

This diet is one which has a somewhat shaky underpinning in evolutionary biology: we evolved to eat certain foods back when we were cavewomen, and one of the reasons that we’re all now fat/farty/sleepy/sluggish is that we’re eating things which our digestive systems just aren’t up to handling.

This begs quite a few questions, like…

  • What exactly did our distant ancestors eat?
  • Hasn’t centuries of selective breeding changed the nature of food entirely, rendering the whole project impossible? The nutritional content of (for example) modern corn is nothing like the probable content of ancestral varieties, which were much much smaller (see this article on Vox for a couple of interesting pictures).
  • Were cavewomen really that healthy?


(A Google image search for Cavewoman suggests that yes, many of them were quite fit.)

The general principles seem straightforward; if it couldn’t plausibly be eaten by a cavewoman it’s out. This ties in a bit with a generic low-carb thing, just without dairy and without processed food. Veggies and meat OK, grains not OK. However the low-carb and the cavewoman justifications clash from time to time. Sugar’s definitely out, but honey? Grey area mate. Not sure.

So there’s a question, and that question is: exactly which foods are in? If you search for “Is X Paleo” where X is pretty much any borderline foodstuff, you’ll find some saying it is and some saying it isn’t. Potatoes in particular seem to be controversial.

I’ve read a lot of webpages over the last few days, and to be honest I’ve had enough of people making in-depth arguments about whether hypothetical cave people ate maple syrup (of course they did!). So I figure that with regard to the controversial stuff, I’m going to just make my own decision. So here’s my version of Paleo:

Good foods Bad foods
Vegetables: all of them
Healthy Oils (rapeseed, olive, etc.)
Nuts & seeds
Fruits: all of them
Grains and stuff made from grains
Processed foods (e.g. sausages)
Sugar and things containing sugar
Beans and legumes

For sweet things, I’m going to allow Stevia (a plant-based sweetener) and very occasionally honey or agave syrup.

Some paleo purists will shout “But potatoes aren’t paleo!” to which I will reply “It’s an entirely contrived diet and I can interpret it as I wish!”


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