By now, you’ve probably heard about Paleo Diet. As diet fads go, Paleo Diet is right up there with gluten-free and raw-food-veganism in terms of trendiness. And, all three are neck and neck for making claims they can’t verify.
Before I go any further, though, and give too many people too much ammunition to find fault with my position here, I’ll say this: Paleo Diet has some very helpful concepts that are worthwhile for your health. In a similar way, gluten-free diets can help a lot of people feel better, even when the popular conception of gluten-free is a big misunderstanding. (Gluten free diets are an absolute necessity for those with the serious condition, Celiac Disease.) Even raw food veganism, an extreme food fad, can be a seemingly miraculous cure for people with life-threatening or crippling conditions like cancer, advanced heart disease, and autoimmune disease.
Now, back to the problems with Paleo. Paleo diet is based on the idea that we should be eating the way our distant Paleolithic ancestors did. That is, people from the Paleolithic-era, or cave people, before the advent of agriculture. Those people were nearly the same as modern humans, genetically and physiologically, with an important difference: agriculture had not yet been invented. If you think for a minute about what almost everyone everywhere eats, you’ll realize it comes from some form of agriculture, including animal husbandry.
So, the theory advanced by Paleo advocates boils down to this: the modern foods of agriculture have destroyed human health. At first glance, this can seem like a somewhat reasonable position. After all, white sugar, white flour, margarine (an industrial era food) and factory-raised animals that receive continuous antibiotics and hormones (also an industrial era development)–these things don’t sound like they’re great for us.
What the Paleo advocates don’t address is why, historically, agriculturalists have pretty much replaced traditional hunter-gatherers almost everywhere around the globe. Agriculture is successful! Agriculture made civilization possible, it made industry possible, it made art and culture possible. Essentially our whole life is based on an agricultural foundation.
What’s more, agriculture foods are healthy. Wheat is a staple around the world, as are dairy, beans, vegetables, and starchy roots. All of them are the result of agriculture, and people who eat them in relatively natural, unprocessed forms are healthy. A true Paleo pre-agricultural diet wouldn’t contain any of them.
So when someone says "I eat Paleo now" and they mean they don’t eat grains or white sugar or dairy, you can say, "Oh, you mean you’ve cut out the three main food allergens: wheat, dairy, and sugar?" Because if they’re feeling better, discovering their food allergies, and eliminating them, probably had a lot to do with it. Probably everything to do with it. It also doesn’t hurt that the Paleo idea gets people more interested in eating kale and vegetables. That is a fantastic idea, and PMS Comfort supports everyone in eating more vegetables, and in eating a healthy diet. But that’s not the exclusive province of Paleo.
You can eat a balanced Mediterranean-style, plant-rich, agriculture-based diet in which you avoid any food allergens you might have, and just call it a healthy, sensible diet. You don’t need to be a Paleo cavewoman to make smart food choices.