A Brief History of the Paleo Diet

Here at Caveman, it’s no secret that we love paleo ingredients! They are nutritious and delicious, plus they make it easy to stay balanced. But where exactly did the “Paleo diet” come from? And how was it popularized? Let’s dive in!

First of all, the basic idea of the Paleo diet is to eat a diet reflective of what was available to our ancestors - i.e. heavily based on plant and animal protein without artificial ingredients or ingredients like dairy, legumes, or grains that require more processing.

While the concept of eating minimally processed foods has been around since the dawn of humankind, the idea of the Paleo diet itself first came to light in 1975 when Walter Voegtlin, a Seattle-based gastroenterologist and psychologist released a book called The Stone Age Diet. In Voegtlin’s book, he posits that cavemen and early mankind could teach us how to eat better in today’s society.

While Voegtlin may have been the first medical professional to propose the Paleo diet as a solution to health problems caused by a modern diet, Voegtlin’s words were echoed and made popular by Dr. Stanley Eaton, a physician based in Atlanta. Approximately ten years after The Stone Age Diet was published, Eaton and his colleague published a paper called Paleolithic Nutrition in The New England Journal of Medicine which brought the Paleo diet to the attention of other researchers in the field.

Eaton would go on to publish a book that further expanded on the rationale behind a “prehistoric” diet in a book he and his colleagues published several years later in 1988 called The Paleolithic Prescription, which is recognized as one of the key pieces of literature to bring the Paleo diet into the mainstream of health and wellness. Eaton’s hypothesis wasthat many of the modern health issues we have are due to our bodies not evolving as quickly as modern agricultural practices. For example, our bodies struggle to process many of the foods we eat today -- look at the trend around gluten or peanut butter! In contrast with this, Eaton pointed to our ancestors’ minimally processed, grain and dairy-free diets to illustrate how we ought to eat to combat conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure.

While Eaton’s and Voegtlin’s calls for a more traditional, regimented diet have their place, we at Caveman believe the Paleo diet is what can help us get back to better when it comes to what we eat. We believe that processed foods, grains, and legumes pose a risk to longevity and health, and so we believe that those things should be eaten minimally or not at all. That being said, we also believe health is about balance - and so, we should balance things that we do for health and things that we enjoy.

Because of Eaton and Voegtlin’s efforts, today the Paleo diet is a household name that many recognize. While there are some historical inaccuracies within early Paleo diet literature - such as the assumption that all of our ancestors ate the same thing when there is evidence that their diets varied based on their geographic location - there is no doubt that the Paleo diet is one of the best dietary regimens you can follow today for healthy, balanced eating.

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