The fitness “gurus” may sound convincing, but the notion th
at getting back to our caveman roots at the dinner table is healthy — or even possible –just doesn’t hold up when you look at the facts. To the contrary, the latest research shows that our paleolithic ancestors’ diet probably looked very little like what you’ll find in the average paleo cookbook.

According to a paper recently published in The Quarterly Review of Biology, it doesn’t make much sense to assign just a few foods to the early-human menu, and even less sense to assume that these people constantly filled their stomachs with meat. The truth is that humans, ill-equipped to chase down prey given their bipedal construction, were probably opportunistic eaters, usually noshing on whatever was available and adapting their diets to circumstance.

Food choices may have included roots, bark and bugs, or often, nothing at all. Feast-or-famine wasn’t a figure of speech to the paleo crowd – it was a way of life. Only in modern times did we gain the luxury of picking and choosing our ingredients as we please, when we please.

“Hominids didn’t spread first across Africa, and then the entire globe, by utilizing just one foraging strategy or sticking to a precise mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats,” wrote co-author Ken Sayers. “We did it by being ever so flexible, both socially and ecologically, and always searching for the greener grass (metaphorically), or riper fruit (literally).”

An enlightening summary from Takepart: “…foraging in the wild means dealing with seasonal flux in the availability of different types of food. It would also mean dramatically expanding our notion of what’s edible.”

So while some pearls of wisdom may come from the paleo chorus, like that refined sugars and processed foods are hardly nutritious staples, a meat-laden diet is likely neither “paleo” nor particularly healthy. And with the heavy toll of the meat industry on both our fellow animals and the planet, this is one fad that I’d like to see fade out soon.