Paleo Diet Not What Cavemen Ate?

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Paleo Diet Food can be a humbling journey to understanding nourishment and healing. After a three-year transition to a better eating routine, I now have the mindset that food is medicine. Food should taste good, but we should also eat to prevent and treat illnesses—whether mental, emotional, or physical.

Eating with a purpose is an interesting sentiment. Many people will follow diet plans with the mere intention of weight loss. This doesn’t necessarily equal better overall health. Your weight is a reflection of health inside your body, and it is best to consider other factors to determine your diet, such as hidden health concerns.

For example, I have food sensitivities to gluten, wheat, and dairy. I avoid these foods, along with processed oils and foods, and refined sugars. My diet also includes lean and grass-fed meat and eggs from my local organic farmer, wild fish and seafood, and other organic foods—fruits, seeds, nuts, healthy oils (extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil), and lots of vegetables. Without intention, my current whole food approach to nourishment is the Paleolithic (Paleo) diet, which is also known as the “caveman diet,” “hunter-gatherer diet,” or the “diet of our ancestors.”

The benefits of the Paleo diet are notably present. This high-alkaline, low-carbohydrate diet is known to prevent or help treat diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It can also reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and autoimmune disease symptoms. The Paleo diet may be healthy, but is it really how our ancestors ate?

Maybe not—let me explain…

Paleo Diet Not What Cavemen Ate?

I recently found a new study published in the Quarterly Review of Biology. Researchers from Georgia State University and Kent State University found that cavemen were likely sustained on a variety of foods instead of surviving on a specialized diet. The study observed the evolution of mankind from six to 1.6 million years ago, but the findings are also considered applicable to the Paleolithic period, which was 2.6 million to 10,000 years ago.

Evidence appears to suggest that early humans ate to survive rather than to support health and wellness. The diet would depend on the person’s local habitual conditions and nutrition was not a major concern. In other words, they ate whatever was available. Plants may have been mostly on the menu when living near the equator and southern parts of the world, whereas animals were likely eaten in northern locations.

Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes still did not concern our ancestors. How is this possible? The researchers explained that they simply had shorter lifespans, and our ancestors were too young to be affected by diseases such as obesity or heart disease.

They may not have lived long, but they surely followed a healthy diet. They ate whatever they could kill or whatever grew on trees. Would they eat a burger with fries if it grew on trees? Well, from that example, it’s clear that the main advantage of the diet of our ancestors is that the food was not processed in a factory with additives and preservatives, sprayed with pesticides or fertilizers, or injected with antibiotics or growth hormones. They simply ate foods that occurred naturally.

Should You Try the Paleo Diet?

Cavemen may not have eaten it, but the Paleo diet is still considered to help prevent and treat diseases. It can certainly benefit you to consume as much local food as possible, which is primarily what cavemen would have eaten.

The Paleo approach can also improve digestion and candida, and reduce inflammation, especially when wheat, gluten, and dairy are avoided.

I don’t really consider the Paleo approach to be a diet—it is more of a long-term approach to improved health and wellness. After all, I’m eating plenty of foods high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Prestwich, E., “Paleo Diet May Not Have Been What Cavemen Ate, According To A New Study,” HuffPost Living web site, December 22, 2014;
Sayers, K., et al., “Blood, bulbs, and bunodonts: on evolutionary ecology and the diets of Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, and early Homo,” The Quarterly Review of Biology December 2014; 89(4): 319–357.
“Paleo Diet,” U.S. News web site;, last accessed January 11, 2015.
“What to Eat on the Paleo Diet,” The Paleo Diet web site;, last accessed January 11, 2015.

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Jon Yaneff, CNP

About the Author, Browse Jon's Articles

Jon Yaneff is a holistic nutritionist and health researcher with a background in journalism. After years of a hectic on-the-go, fast food-oriented lifestyle as a sports reporter, Jon knew his life needed a change. He began interviewing influential people in the health and wellness industry and incorporating beneficial health and wellness information into his own life. Jon’s passion for his health led him to the certified nutritional practitioner (CNP) program at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. He graduated with first... Read Full Bio »