Hey Meatheads, the Real Paleo Diet Was Mostly Plants

paleo diet
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

The Paleo diet, for those of you without a meathead cousin who always wants to discuss coconut oil and body-fat percentage, is based on how Homo sapiens in the Paleolithic era supposedly ate. Grains like wheat are out because what we know as agriculture came late to the human game, and our bodies are -- again, supposedly -- less well-adapted to eating it. Instead, meals are mostly nuts, fruit, veggies, and meat. A typical Paleo meal might be a sweet potato, an avocado, and chicken breast, just like our prehistoric brethren ate. 

No animal is off-limits for consumption, either -- the thinking is that early humans were hunter-gatherers, so they probably stayed up late grilling, eating nuts, and talking about whether the paintings of antelopes on cave walls are really "art" or just a superficial, masturbatory attempt to get attention.

If you have any annoying friends who follow the Paleo lifestyle (it's a lifestyle, NOT a diet), they'll gladly regale you with tales of how humans are biologically designed to be carnivores, how this way of eating totally fuels their WODs and Murphs, and how hunter-gatherers were healthier than today's sitter-eaters, even though they had to dodge things like unpredictable weather, hungry saber-toothed tigers, and a lack of medicine.

Still, the logic appeals to a certain everyman common sense: After all, what did our prehistoric ancestors eat if not for animal meat, animal fat, and broth made from (yes, animal) bones?

Turns out, mostly plants


Hunting for berries and gathering greens isn't as exciting as trudging through the elements to take down a wooly mammoth, but it's probably a more realistic picture of what our Paleo ancestors were doing for food. A 780,000-year-old collection of edible plants found in Israel points to a more plant-based diet for humans at the time.

The discovery is the first time researchers have identified such a wide variety of plants that early humans had access to and likely consumed. The findings revealed more than 55 types of edible plants among the remains, including seeds, fruits, nuts, stems, and leaves.

It makes sense, considering the hunting technology of the time likely consisted of a bunch of males with crude spikes trying to take down animals that were probably superior in size, strength, speed, and agility. Plants stay put. You don't have to chase them. They're usually pretty much fine raw.

So it's more probable that our Paleo ancestors were half-assed vegetarians who indulged in the occasional piece of meat, rather than the other way around. 

Oh, and they probably ate bread, too. 

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Christina Stiehl is a Health and fitness staff writer for Thrillist. She's ditching her jerky for carrot sticks. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaStiehl.