A “paleo diet” is more of a lens through which to question or view the world and through which to exist if one chooses. Paleo is really just another version of a whole foods or ancestral type “diet.” It mimics what our ancestors ate in idea only, as most foods today did not exist in the paleolithic era. It’s a logical approach to take if you find yourself struggling with health issues, especially those that are digestive-ly related. For many people removing specific neolithic foods for a time(not necessarily forever) allows for an improvement in said health problems.
A “paleo” diet is rich in vegetable matter, good fats, and nutrient dense animal protein. Anything that falls outside of that parameter is viewed as problematic(at least in the beginning). Those possibly problematic foods such as grains, legumes, and dairy, are foods that tend to cause issues with some people and/or might not be the most nutrient dense foods available. For instance dairy is excluded at first because while it might be nutrient dense if full-fat and pastured, it is highly allergenic and many people struggle to digest it properly. It is good example a “tread with caution” type food. Grains, on the other hand, aren’t always as nutrient dense as you have been lead to believe. Nor are they often farmed in a sustainable way to minimize their impact on the planet. Legumes, though often excluded on a paleo diet, fair better on nutrient density than grains and might not be as challenging for the environment. However, in the beginning it can be beneficial to exclude them to see if they might be a sensitizing food, especially if you have some sort of digestive stress.
But I heard paleo isn’t scientifically accurate
To dispel arguments over the perceived fallacy of paleo let me define it further. Eating paleo doesn’t mean that everyone should exclude specific foods because our paleolithic ancestors didn’t eat them and thus we haven’t evolved to do so. Most foods today didn’t exist in their current form during paleolithic times. Broccoli as we know it, is wholly a human invention created through selective breeding. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t have sweeteners or specific ingredients that didn’t exist in the paleolithic era. No one is asking you to give up balsamic vinegar or real maple syrup. A paleo diet doesn’t mean that because we’ve never eaten a food we can’t thrive off a new food source.(I know some people claim as such but I do not.) It doesn’t mean you have to live in a cave, hunt and gather all day long, forsaking your cup of coffee or tea. I don’t forage for my food, I don’t suggest you do as well, unless of course you want to and can do so in a sustainable way. A paleo diet is a label used to describe eating as healthful and junk-free as possible. Don’t get caught up in dogma or semantics.
Make it yours – There was/is no one single paleo diet
Eating paleo or any “diet”, should be personally focused. One-size-fits-all does not work when creating a sustainable diet and lifestyle. For example, Rick a.k.a. The Webinator a.k.a. my partner in crime, can eat and even thrive off of a much higher carbohydrate diet than I can, even though I am more active than he is. Rick and I can both handle more animal proteins than some people. Never try to force yourself into another’s mold. You are unique with specific needs. And yes, you are correct, there was no single paleo diet.