What You Need to Know About the Paleo Diet and Why It’s Just Another Fad
There’s something about the Paleo Diet that has the health and wellness world buzzing. Maybe because it’s supposedly a “return to our natural diet,” maybe because it’s helping people lose weight, or maybe because it’s simply the rage.
Whichever the case may be, we hear about it all the time, and we get asked a lot of questions about it, so let’s take some time to demystify it.
One thing should be noted that we advocate healthy living at all costs, even in baby steps.
While there are plenty of flaws with the Paleo diet, we’re not here to say “don’t do it.” If you came off of a typical Western diet of McDonald’s and soft drinks, and decided to go Paleo, you would indeed be eating healthier – much healthier in fact. So if that’s your path, embrace it. But do keep an open mind, as part of the foundation of what the Paleo Diet is based on is fundamentally flawed.
The premise, that it is a return to our natural or “Paleolithic” diet, is more fantasy than reality, and that is what we are here to discuss.
A Culture Obsessed With Meat
It’s something most people rarely think about: just how inundated we are with meat-related propaganda.
I don’t use that term loosely, as it has come out in recent months in several articles and documentaries that the meat industry actually pays for advertising that lies to consumers and hides what meat does to our bodies, not unlike the tobacco industry used to do. Again, this isn’t something that is even widely known, and most wouldn’t care even if they did. What, meat corporations are trying to get me to buy more bacon? Sign me up! That’s the prevailing mentality in our culture: meat rules the day.
But the truth is, we’re not even supposed to be eating it, and the impact the meat industry has on the environment is nothing short of catastrophic, yet it’s all being pushed under the rug.
It’s easy to overlook just how obsessed we are with meat as a culture.
But think about it. You can’t watch a TV show without seeing a commercial for a flame-broiled hamburger. Everything from chicken to pork is bandied about in advertising, and even our doctors and nutritionists are programmed to say “eat lean meat.” We need it for protein, we need it for iron, we need it because it has B12. It also tastes great. One wonders, if all of this is true then why does the meat industry relentlessly lobby the government, and unabashedly push advertising, that actively lies to consumers?
It’s actually pretty shady. When I first began researching the meat industry for animal right’s purposes, I came away horrified. Mind you, this was a decade ago. So what I knew then pales in comparison to what I know now, and it was still enough to turn my stomach and question the sanity of our collective species.
The events that transpire behind the walls of factory farms and slaughterhouses would put most horror movies to shame. In fact, you can show 99% of all horror movie content in theaters and on TV, because even R-rated slasher-flick gore is tamer than your average factory farm, which you cannot put footage of on most outlets. The material is that disturbing.
You are being shielded from the reality because of millions of dollars worth of propaganda and lobbying power.
The Paleo Diet: Another Meat-Obsessed Fad
So where exactly does the Paleo diet come into play?
If you haven’t heard of it, the so-called “Paleo” diet (short for Paleolithic Diet), is a supposed modern day attempt to eat like our ancestors did. It has many novel aspects, such as cutting out processed foods, as well as processed sugar, soda, and the vast majority of dairy products. This sounds amazing, right? Well, it’s certainly a start.
Where the diet falters is in its absurdist exaltation of meat and denigration of most carbs, especially grains.
The Paleo Diet proponents claim that our early ancestors were primarily a meat-eating species, who occasionally partook of fruit from trees, and who gathered nuts, seeds, and berries when they could as well. In other words, they grabbed the classic Western mythos of early man and ran with it so far that they created a lifestyle around it.
I say mythos because what else could it possibly be? The idea that our early ancestors were primarily meat and egg eaters is just about as close to any myth of Diana or Zeus. Homo sapiens is not, in any sense of the word, designed to eat meat. That it is unlikely that we were chowing down on bulls and lions a million years ago is the understatement of the century.
Truth be told, the Paleo Diet arose out of the umbrella of modern day fad dieting trends that focus on high protein and typical Western habits. Nothing more, nothing less. If any real science were actually behind it, I’d be shocked out of my shoes. There never is with fad diets though – they exist in spite of science, not because of it.
And don’t get me wrong, there are certainly people who have improved their health with the Paleo Diet.
If you go from eating a typical “American” diet and then cut out processed foods and sugars, soft drinks, chemicals and oils, you’re going to feel like a million bucks in only a few months, and probably lose a few pounds on the way. Where the Paleo Diet makes its grave mistake however, is assuming that meat is actually good for us. You might be losing weight, but your body’s pH balance will still be fighting a losing battle, your bones will still be softening due to mineral depletion, and your arteries are still going to be clogging up from all of the animal-based cholesterol. There is no way around this.
To make the point clearer: it’s not like if you cut out sugars, oils, and processed foods, you can magically assimilate trans fat and cholesterol. All of the animal-based proteins that our body’s hate, along with all the other nasty garbage that is in meat, is still getting stuffed into your body, now at a higher rate, and it has nowhere to go. A high animal-protein diet is a death sentence.
The Illusion of Health
It’s easy to point at your average sports star or gym buff who eats meat everyday and say, “look, they’re healthy, so what’s wrong with meat?” This goes double for proponents of the Paleo Diet, who swear up and down that because they lost a few pounds and have more energy, they found the “perfect diet.”
Health isn’t that simple.
There are millions of “apparently” healthy individuals who in reality would never be able to pass an holistic health test, because their bodies are in a near toxic state of stress, and are fighting every day to keep balance and equilibrium before something gives out. Also note that health is often determined by smart choices outweighing poor ones. Those meat-eating sports stars we love also eat a ton of expensive supplements, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and perform yoga and weight training under the guided hands of trainers.
Put it another way, the typical American who eats just as much animal protein as a NFL linebacker but without a good portion of fresh fruits and vegetables, supplements, and exercise, will have an astronomically higher chance of getting heart disease and cancer, among other bodily malfunctions.
The reality is that even some of the most outwardly healthy meat-eaters are dying inside. This is because with every bite of animal protein you take, you are forcing your body into a stress situation, where minerals have to be leeched from the bones in order to dampen the acidic pH of the proteins in order for there to be safe assimilation. And mind you, our bodies have an extremely hard time digesting most animal protein as it is. Because it is not attached to the plant-based compounds our bodies evolved for, we have to expend extra energy just to extract a minimal amount of usable protein from the likes of beef and pork.
It’s important to note that just because there’s a nutrition label on something that lists figures like “5% recommended Vitamin A” or “10 Grams of Protein” doesn’t mean that’s actually what your body is going to get when you eat the food. This is a HUGE misconception that the food industry, in tandem with the FDA, tries to sell you on. Sure there may be 20 grams of protein in that steak, but do you think your body is going to be able to absorb and make use of all 20 grams of that protein? Not quite.
Health is just not that simple.
So you might consume, for instance, a fortified processed cereal every morning that’s crammed with isolated vitamin and mineral compounds, but your body looks at such “food” and scoffs. It’s not even close to what real food looks like in the wild. Many people are allergic to the compounds in such foods and treat them like a foreign contaminate. At best, these kinds of overly processed foods are rigorously digested, and bits and pieces of what could be construed as vitamin and mineral compounds are then salvaged from what is left and used to combat bodily acidity and feed the cells that just worked their butts off to digest the food. In other words, what you’re left with is a vitamin deficient individual.
This kind of situation is extremely common with meat. Sure, you might be able to say it has x amount of iron and protein in it, but just how much of those compounds we are able to utilize from a piece of a dead animal is extremely debatable. Some people, who have cleaner digestive tracts, can absorb more, while still others may absorb a higher percent of animal-based nutrients due to genes. The bottom line is though, our bodies are not looking for nutrients from animal-based sources. Our cells did not evolve knowing how to extract nutrients from meat. Most “meat” we eat is nutritionally deficient anyway, because it’s the muscle we are eating, not the nutrient-rich organs. Carnivores eat their prey in order to tear into the liver, the heart, the spleen, intestines, and lungs. They want the dense, nutrient-packed organs. The muscle is just filler – yet this makes up the vast majority of all “meat” humans eat. Obviously, it’s no surprise to learn why so many people on a typical Western diet are nutritionally deficient.
Because we’re a society that is so obsessed with outward appearance, so long as someone “appears” healthy, they are healthy in our minds. It doesn’t matter that they may be taking 5 different nutritional supplements, blood pressure medication, allergy pills, and protein powders. And those are the good cases. What about common ailments like diabetes, dry skin, IBS and other digestive issues, joint pain, and the numerous other chronic illnesses that plague the West every day? Many millions of people have these ailments, but put on the “guise” of health by downing a fist full of pills every morning. You might assume at first glance that they are fine, but the inside of their body would look like a World War 2 battlefield on a cellular level.
This is one of the fatal mistakes of the Paleo fad diet: just because you might appear or seem healthy doesn’t mean you are. If you are regularly consume animal protein in large amounts, there is almost zero chance that you are healthy by an holistic standard. A common doctor might give you a clean bill of health, but that is simply on the basis of arbitrary modern health standards that doctors follow through a protocol. In other words, unless you are violently ill, breaking out in some kind of rash, have a broken bone, feeling intense pain, or have an organ failure, you’re gravy.
Obviously this isn’t health, it’s a parody of health.
Natural Human Diet
The Paleo Diet is a novel idea: getting back to our dietary roots is indeed something we should be striving toward. And don’t get me wrong, as wayward as the Paleo Diet is, it is nowhere near as bad as the Atkins or Keto diets, which are not only unhealthy but downright dangerous. What’s important to understand is that the idea behind Paleo is sound: eat what our distant ancestors ate. What could be more simple and natural than that?
Well, the issue is that people aren’t looking back far enough. Don’t base a diet on what humans ate 12,000 years ago, base a diet on what humans ate 120,000 years ago, or even better yet, 1,200,000 years ago. That is where you are going to find health.
The popular idea of our “cave man” diet is a modernist interpretation of what life may have been like for a selection of mostly Caucasian humans whose ancestors thrived in the cold, rough lands of eastern Europe over 12,000 years ago during the last glacial period. During these rough times, tropical fruits were probably all but a memory, and the primary means of survival almost surely included drinking milk from animals, and hunting animals for their meat and fur. That is reality.
What is not reality is believing that tells the story of all of the human race during this time period, as well as the story of our species down through the ages. 12,000 years ago, our species was already quite corrupt and lost, having migrated from the tropics and fallen into a state of confusion and aggression, certain segments of homo sapiens needed to do what they did to survive. But if you go back 120,000 years, this picture of the “cave man” who clubbed animals over the head and ate a fruit once in a while becomes far more mythological. Chances are, the humans of this time ate meat only on rare occasions, and even then, this was a custom that most likely developed primarily in northern settlements, in present day Europe. There’s no reason to think that human societies living in the tropics ate meat regularly at this point yet. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
But if you venture back even further, before our species migrated away from tropics out of ignorance or desperation, you will find a docile, fruit-eating hominid that might have partook of small animals or insects as a rare treat once in a blue moon, and whose diet primarily consisted of tropical fruits and leafy greens. This is our natural diet, this is what the Paleo diet should be striving to push people toward, not the absurd “corrupted” diet of Stone Age man. The diet our ancestors ate during these times of great desperation and poverty was not remotely close to our true fruitarian natural diets. There is no indication that we as a species regularly ate the raw meat of large animals, much less their blood and organs like real carnivores and omnivores do. We never had claws, we never had jaws made for crunching bone or rending flesh from a live animal. We never evolved the digestive juices necessary to properly digest meat, and to this day, animal protein creates a dangerous acidic environment in our bodies that forces our cells to have to leech minerals from our bones just to neutralize the threat.
The true “Paleo” diet of man is one of fruits, leafy greens, roots, shoots, vegetables, some flowers, seeds and nuts, and berries. This is the diet that supported all of the great apes, of which we are an extremely close relative of, and it’s what supported us, until we migrated from the tropics and become a lost species disconnected from the web of life. No fad diet can ever replace our natural biological diet. You can “invent” any number of crazy diet trends and ideas, but at the end of the day there is only one diet we are biologically designed to follow, and that diet today is known as veganism. There can be no argument that we are, at the end of the day, frugivores. This biological fact automatically negates any and all fad diets ever concocted.
You want to lose weight, cure your illnesses, and feel amazing? Yes, Paleo might take you a few steps toward these goals, but if you want to truly accomplish all these things as fast and as naturally as possible, it’s veganism you’re looking for, not any fad diet. Veganism is a way of life modeled on doing no harm to animals as well as consuming only what we were naturally designed to eat: fruits and vegetables. No hocks of meat from random animals most of our ancestors likely never even interacted with, let alone raised as livestock and slaughtered for food. These are modern day tropes that have nothing to do with the way our species lived a million years ago, when we were eating our “real” Paleo diet.