Trends in Paleo 2011

December 9, 2011

The paleosphere (the nice neighborhood anyway) prides itself on constant examination of its identity – with one eye on evolution and the other on the latest research. This means that, over time, the definition of “paleo” (as we use it) changes.

As we near the end of 2011, let’s take a look back on what has changed, and why.


Fish Oil – Trending Down

For years, the grand paleo poobah (Robb Wolf) has been recommending a lot of fish oil. So much so, that Whole9 put up a calculator, and supplied a special apparatus for getting in your massive daily “metabolically damaged” dose (not really). A sign of the changing times, where there was once a calculator, there is now an informative and well-reasoned Fish Oil FAQ. Even the poobah himself came out and (quite gracefully) changed his recommendation. Props to Chris Kresser for getting this ball rolling.

The Current Stance – Varies a bit by source, but general consensus is to limit PUFA consumption as much as reasonably possible. This means the best option may be to avoid Omega6s whenever possible, and get by on the incidental Omega3s in your high-vitamin/fermented cod liver oil (that you’re already taking for VitA, K2).


Nuts – Trending Down

This longtime paleo stalwart saw a major fall from grace in the last year. It’s a shame, they seem like such a great thing to eat until you actually sit down and think about it. Lots of PUFAs, often lots of n6, often oxidized (think roasted nuts) before they even make it to your gullet by the handful. Oh, and lots of phytic acid, which is part of the reason we’re avoiding grains.

The Current Stance – You can get away with nuts once in a while, but I say “why bother?” They don’t provide anything you can’t get somewhere else and they are often eaten as a snack, another thing you don’t need.


Low-Carb – Trending Down

Paleo eaters have long identified with low-carbers, but the relationship is getting more tenuous every day. The bottom line is that paleo is about eating real food, including carbohydrate. It’s becoming clearer that disease and dysfunction is caused by garbage food, not carbohydrate. Paleo dieters don’t omit wheat because of the starch. Wheat is more than just starch.

The Current Stance – Many are still saying things like “earn your carbs”. Give it a few years and (I think) most people will be saying “go ahead and eat as many #$%^&*@ sweet potatoes as you want.


Potatoes and Rice – Trending Up

This one is likely largely connected with the fading low-carb allegiance in the paleosphere. It’s also the only trend on here that leaves me a little wary. I personally eat white rice and peeled white potatoes on occasion, but I don’t fool myself into thinking they are an ideal food. Andrew at evolvify made a good argument for reconsidering increased rice and potato consumption, with an important point, “Paleo is bigger than lectins and phytates and saponins.”

The Current Stance – This one is hairy. Purists will tell you that these neolithic foods (white potatoes are different than sweet potatoes in significant ways) are guilty until proven innocent, and I tend to agree with their stance on this one. Potatoes and rice are not necessary for health, and there is some chance they are detrimental. This is one where you have to make your own decision (the humanity!).


Paleo” Treats – Trending Down

This one has been a long time coming. I’m not sure who got the first swing in here, but it’s clear that the paleosphere smelled blood in the water and attacked these suboptimal food choices. (1,2,3,4).

The Current Stance – From Whole9: “To use an analogy we can all (probably) understand, the Paleo-ification of poor food choices is a little bit like having sex with your pants on.” Yea, that doesn’t sound too cool. If you talk to someone who has been eating paleo for a while, they’ll likely tell you they made a bunch of this crap early on and kind of regret it. Learn from their mistakes and say no to junk food regardless of what’s in it.


Offal and Other Weirdness – Trending Up

Offal has been around paleo for a while, so I think the trend is mostly a result of a large sophomore class of paleo eaters maturing and eating smarter. As seen on twitter recently (I’d love to know who tweeted it) “The stages of paleo: low-carb zealot, expert “paleo” baker, passionate natural foodie.” (paraphrased)

The Current Stance – There’s a reason that paleo dieters tend to eat more strange stuff as they mature, it is darn smart. Eat up.


Bacon – Trending Down

Bacon and olive oil have pretty similar fat profiles, and you wouldn’t heat olive oil until it’s crackling and smoking in a pan would you? Exactly. So, bacon may not be the best idea. This is why people call the Whole9 crew buzzkills.

The Current Stance – People get unhappy when you take away their bacon. Unfortunately, it’s still not a great choice. I’ve switched to using bacon as a condiment, and you might want to consider doing the same.


Health – Trending Up

It seems to me that paleo has markedly changed its principal interests and selling points. It seems like the majority of content producers in the paleosphere have transformed their message from “eat paleo for a six-pack” to “eat paleo for a long and healthy life”.

The Current Stance – Health is good, mmkay? The cool part is that if you eat for optimal health, a six-pack is not far behind. The increasing focus on health leads to more meaningful discussion and less neuroses. In my experience, people who design their diet for health tend to be happier (and saner) than those with enviable physiques on the mind.


Rational Thought – Trending Up

(Almost) all of these trends highlight part of what makes the paleosphere great. Perhaps as an homage to our roots, paleo is constantly evolving. The dedication to accuracy in the paleosphere is second to none, and it’s what makes us great (back-pat). I’ve heard some complaint about how the paleo recommendations are always changing, but it’s actually a good thing. Be happy to be a part of it. Change or be suboptimal.



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