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Michael Pollan Doesn't Understand Paleo

This article, "Michael Pollan Explains What's Wrong With the Paleo Diet", makes several incorrect assumptions about the paleo diets -- starting with the idea that there is one "paleo diet". The paleo idea is a template from which people pick the variety that is right for them -- lower carbs for people who are overweight, higher carb for people who do lots of physical activity, no nightshades for people with certain conditions, raw dairy for people who enjoy it and can handle it.

Michael Pollan criticized a caricature of the paleo diet, not the diet as it's recommended by clinicians for healing sick people. Healing sick people is what's really interesting to me about the paleo diet. 


  1. Lots of meat every day is not a requirement for paleo. Most authors who talk about proportions say more like 10-30% of calories from protein, which ends up being 3-4 x 3-6 ounces of protein per meal. Giant hunks of meat are a stereotype from recreational bloggers, not clinician who are trying to fix sick people. Quality of meat is a HUGE deal in paleo; I eat pastured meat almost exclusively. If I could afford to eat wild meat more often, I would; I only eat wild fish. 
  2. Fine, humans can live on bread alone, but are they *healthiest* living on bread alone? Certainly not. Getting nutrients from bread is fine if you don't have better options.  
  3. Paleo strongly encourages fermented foods like kimchee, sauerkraut, and pickles -- just the fermented foods that don't rely on grains as the substrate. 
  4. Paleo doesn't suggest that you eat all or even most of your food raw; the paleo authors I respect strongly endorse cooking vegetables as a way to make them easier to digest and easier to absorb the nutrients, for exactly the reasons in that article. 
  5. Cook more? Paleo is all about cooking, because food like this simply can't be gotten at restaurants.  


But mostly, I'm not saying paleo is right for everyone and everyone should eat it all the time. I'm saying that paleo cures or dramatically improves some autoimmune conditions, and thus it's worth a real trial for people who are sick.

These ideas are mostly drawn from the writings of Chris Kresser and Robb Wolf. I highly recommend Chris Kresser's book, Your Personal Paleo Code, which has a procedure for figuring out what version of paleo is right for you

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