Several months ago, I received a message from 4-Hour Work Week author Tim Ferris entitled “How to Keep Feces Out of Your Bloodstream (or Lose 10 Pounds in 14 Days)” touting claims from Robb Wolf’s “Paleo Diet Solution”.
While it was the first time for me to hear about the Paleo Diet, I later found there were numerous books on the so-called “caveman diet”, built around the premise our diet should consist of foods available before the advent of modern agriculture.
The subject line of Ferris’ email, and Wolf’s claims sounded so sensational that I didn’t feel it necessary to inject cynical remarks before forwarding it to a friend who had nearly adopted a vegan diet.
Where I had quickly written Paleo off as yet another fad diet–one that glorifies animal protein, no less–what a shock to later learn that my friend not only tried Paleo, but became a big Paleo fan!
btw did i tell you i’ve been doing the no grain or potatoes diet you sent me? no bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, oatmeal, bulgur, etc, or added sugar. OMG i wish i had done it 40 years ago, Seriously. i have so much more energy, feel sooo much better. and i lost about 10 pounds almost immediately. the cravings for sweets stopped almost immediately when i started the diet. isn’t that something!?
In the interest of open-mindedness, I decided to look into the Paleo diet and found more similarities between it and a healthy vegan diet (i.e. whole food, plant-based aka “WFPB” diet) than I expected. For example:
- Like a whole-food, plant-based diet, Paleo recommends seasonal and local fruits and vegetables, and shuns dairy products (WFPB excludes all dairy products).
- Both diets encourage eating healthy fats (i.e. avocado, nuts) vs. processed fats (i.e. oil)
- Both discourage processed grains, oil, salt-containing foods, and sweets.
- Both discourage processed grains (Paleo all grains, while WFPB diet just processed ones).
On the other hand, the biggest differences between a whole food, plant-based diet and Paleo are:
- The irreconcilable difference is that Paleo diet allows animal products, including lean meat (chicken/fish) and eggs.
- Paleo diet disallows these staples of the plant-based diet:
- Cereal Grains,
- Cereal Grain-like Seeds
- Starchy Vegetables
I will explore the medical evidence around both diets in more depth, and whether there is any benefit or way to “marry” the two diets in future articles.
While I haven’t tried and wouldn’t endorse a Paleo diet, I recognize how challenging it is for people to change their dietary habits. For that reason, I think Paleo is progress for those following the standard American diet, because organic, non-genetically modified fruits, vegetables, and grains are more nutritious and better for you.
And-although there is absolutely no need for humans to raise animals for their own consumption, organically raised meats are at least better (i.e. more humane) than factory-farmed.
While I strongly recommend a whole foods plant-based diet (for health, environmental and ethical reasons) as a healthy baseline, there are those may have health issues for which they have chosen to follow traditional medical advice–which regretably presumes people are unable to maintain a plant-based diet.
How you feel on a diet is vitally important. Whether it’s giving you the results you want (whether that be losing weight loss, reducing cholesterol, improving vitality) is another. Only you know, and can decide what’s the best diet for you.