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Harvard trained anthropologist Christina Warinner blasted the Paleo Diet as “not very paleo” and not actually based on Paleolithic diet in her TED talk, Debunking the Paleo Diet. (1)
Here are the Paleo Diet claims:
- Modern agricultural diet is making us sick.
- We should abandon farmer’s food and eat as we did more than 10,000 years ago.
- We should eat mainly meat, no grains or beans and supplement with fruit and veggies.
- We must return to an ancient diet to improve our health.
From an anthropological perspective, Dr. Warinner makes the case that humans are actually not genetically adapted to eat meat very well. Why, you ask?
- Our intestines are much longer than carnivores so to allow less dense plant-based nutrients to be absorbed. (1)
- We require certain plants for essential vitamins like vitamin C, which humans cannot manufacture and most carnivores can. (1)
- Our teeth are adapted for plant-based tubers, grains, legumes and vegetables – not meats. (1)
- In Europe and parts of Africa, humans are more adapted to eating dairy products than meat through what is called “lactase persistence.” (1,2)
The actual Paleolithic Diet was quite varied and, outside of the arctic, the science reveals a diet that was much more diverse, plant-based and seasonal, with small amounts of meat. The meat they ate was generally from smaller game. The meat was lean; they ate everything including the bone marrow, brains, intestines and all the fatty parts. (1)
The so-called Paleo Diet of today is high in farm-raised livestock rather than hunted game, suggesting we ate it multiple times a day rather than in moderation. True Paleo Diets were much more diverse and seasonal with a dependence on tubers, veggies, and grains, and much less meat than you might think. The veggies were completely different than they were today. Carrots were tiny and bitter, tomatoes were small and toxic, broccoli as we know it did not exist, bananas would be unrecognizable and blueberries and avocados would be puny with little fruit meat to eat. (1)
Dr. Warinner makes the case that there are three primary principles that we should take away from the Paleolithic era:
- Foods should be species diverse – meaning we should eat more diverse foods that change with the seasons. Please sign up for my FREE Monthly Seasonal Eating Guide called The 3-Season Diet Challenge, where I offer recipes, grocery lists and seasonal food articles for each month of the year.
- Eat fresh foods. Traditionally, humans figured out how to naturally preserve foods with salt or fermentation. Today, we use preservatives to ward off bacteria that may be killing our own beneficial intestinal bacteria.
- Eat whole foods. Whole foods are nutrient dense and diverse. They are loaded with natural fiber that feed the microbes, regulate elimination and ensure proper bile detoxification. The modern diet consists of predominately three species: wheat, corn or soy.
Note: As far as meat goes, perhaps we can take a clue from the centenarian cultures, who eat only 10% of their diet as meat!