My Truths #168 (poo poo’ing Paleo)

by Stephanie

“Debunking the Paleo Diet” is just a catchy title for a presentation which really supports the Paleo/Primal way of eating.  Someone asked on Facebook recently if a certain recipe was Paleo. Since it contained ¼ cup of honey I pointed out that technically it’s not pure paleo but that it sounded delicious and healthy. Someone responded by posting a link to a TED video presentation called “Debunking the Paleo Diet” by Christina Warinner.  I try to keep an open mind and was curious to see what this “expert” had to say. My overall impression is that most of the comments she made support the Primal/Paleo diet as opposed to contradicting it. Here’s a summary of her most salient points.

  1. She starts out by saying that the Paleolithic diet would have been some lean, wild game (including the consumption of marrow and organs) as well as that plants would have made up a large portion of their diet. I’ll buy that.
  2. She spends a lot of time describing how today’s produce is genetically engineered. She uses the example of bananas, blueberries and apricots. No one is disputing that fruit today is larger and sweeter… that is why the Primal and Paleo diets encourage eating more vegetables and less fruit.
  3. She describes today’s vegetables as being less fiberous. I’ll have to take her word for it on this one. The reality is that we can only make the best of the food we have access to today. I think everyone can agree that eating today’s broccoli is still better than a cupcake.
  4. She asks “How much sugar cane would you have to eat to equal the sugar in a 34 ounce soda? How many feet? Her answer: 8.5 feet of sugar cane. She points out the obvious, that someone of that era would not have been able to consume 8.5 feet of sugar cane in the time that a person can consume a 34 ounce soda.
  5. She mentions that they found tools that would have been used to grind grain by hand which, in her opinion, proves that they consumed grain. The Paleo/Primal gurus acknowledge this but point out that it would have been very labour intensive work.  It would be logical to conclude that it would not have made up a significant part of their diet. She also fails to mention that today’s wheat is very different from ancient wheat.
  6. She concludes with her “3 main lessons”
    1. No one correct diet. Diversity is the key. Avoid processed food which mostly contains corn, soy and wheat. She agrees that they are “opposite to the direction we should be going”.
    2. eat fresh food when they are in season and foods that are preserved naturally. Avoid preservatives because they can affect the good bacterial in your gut.
    3. eat whole foods with their package and roughage…even the parts you can’t digest are important.

Like I said previously, I don’t know how any of the statements she made “debunks” anything. Nobody is really claiming that we are eating exactly like our Paleo ancestors did. Most ancestral diet gurus recognize the points that she makes and suggest that we try to approximate the diets of our ancestors using the foods that we have available to us today.