Chapter 5

Chapter 5: The Perfect Paleofantasy Diet: Meat, Grains, and Cooking

This chapter is focused at rebutting the idea that the paleo diet is the optimal diet for modern human beings because it is what our ancestors ate thousands of years ago.  One pillar of the paleo diet is not consuming grains because grains only came about with agriculture.  The paleo diet is centered around meat, fruits, and vegetables.  Dr. Zuk then takes the remainder of the chapter to explain why the paleo diet is inaccurate in emulating what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate.

She pulls evidence from Anna Revedin of the Italian Institute of Prehistory and Early History in Florence that on the grinding stones of 30,000 year old archaeological sites they found bits of starch grains.  They used this evidence to conclude that our ancestors made flour and thus made a type of bread.  She also references findings by anthropologist Amanda Henry of plaque of Neanderthals that showed gelatinized starch grains, which is evidence of the starches being cooked.  This is evidence that ancient humans ate and processed grains, which would prove the paleo diet inaccurate.  She also includes a study done by the U.S. News & World Report, 20 different diets were evaluated by scientists, nutritionists, and physicians.  The paleo diet comes in dead last in regards of weight loss, nutritional completeness, safety, and prevention of diabetes.

She also challenges the notion that ancient humans were ravenous meat-eaters who relied heavily on hunting meat and gathering fruits and vegetables. She noticed that instead anthropologist Frank Marlowe’s data shows that the ancient human’s diet varied largely and was based on the environment they lived in.  Plants were the largest source of food for our diets and meat was more of a nice-to-have.  She also brings up the fact that our current food supply has been modified drastically from the wild forms of many of our meats, vegetables, and fruits.  She cites comparisons of 4 oz  of wild deer meat having 2.2 grams of fat while store-bought extra-lean ground beef has about 18.5 grams of fat for the same portion.  This is another issue with the paleo diet as someone who truly wants to eat meat as our ancestors did will not be able to find that type of meat at a grocery store. Overall, Zuk concludes that if one wants to eat like our ancestors there isn’t really a specific diet that is universal among hunter-gatherers.  There is no such thing as a natural diet for humans as we all have eaten widely different types of foods and these foods have changed our genes and microbiome to prefer different things.