Myths and Truths of the Paleo Diet

One of the most challenging aspects of beginning the paleo diet is wading through all the conflicting information that’s out there.  Even when you’ve decided that paleo is the way to go, it’s not unusual to still have niggling doubts.  Here are some common myths about the paleo diet.  If you need to refresh yourself about what a great choice paleo eating is, look no further - and share some of your own favourite “myths and truths” in the comment section below.

Confused about the paleo diet? Not for much longer! Photo courtesy of Photostock/

Myth: There is a definitive paleo diet.

Truth: It’s impossible to know for sure what our paleolithic ancestors ate.  Anthropological studies can only uncover partial information at best, and studying modern hunter-gatherer societies can’t confirm exactly what hunter-gatherers ate in antiquity.  What we do know is that traditional societies across the world have survived and even thrived on widely varying diets of real, whole, nutrient-dense plant and animal foods, and have done so without the common degenerative diseases of the modern age, which only became prevalent with the introduction of processed carbohydrates, refined seed oils, and chemical additives.

The characteristics of healthy traditional diets.
What we really know about the paleo diet.


Myth: The life of cavemen was nasty, brutish, and short.

Truth: Although modern technology has conferred many blessings and conveniences upon us, they have come at a dire price.  Modern food-processing technologies have resulted in increased consumption of fragmented food products that our bodies barely even recognise as foods.  Extensive studies of so-called “primitive” societies and traditional peoples have shown that their health was far superior to that of modern man. Archeological evidence shows that our paleolithic ancestors were taller and more robust than their neolithic descendents.  Farming and the consumption of grains were not kind to our health.

Nasty, brutish, and short?


Myth: The paleo diet is dangerously high in cholesterol.

Truth: Although we’re repeatedly told that we must keep blood cholesterol levels  lower than 180 mg/dl, the fact is that the all-cause death rate is higher in individuals with cholesterol levels lower than 180 mg/dl.  Far from being the poison it is commonly portrayed as, cholesterol is an essential nutrient, necessary for proper cell integrity and the production of adequate amounts of appropriate hormones in the body.

Cholesterol and health.


Myth: The paleo diet is too high in protein and will harm your kidneys.

Truth: This myth stems from a 1983 study in which researchers observed that protein intake increases our “glomerular filtration rate,” or GFR. GFR relates to the amount of blood our kidneys are filtering per minute. From this finding, many scientists made the leap that a higher GFR places the kidneys under greater stress. However, around the same time, Dutch researchers found that while a protein-rich meal did boost GFR, it didn’t have an adverse effect on overall kidney function. In fact, there’s no published research showing that downing hefty amounts of protein—specifically, up to 1.27 grams per pound of body weight a day—damages healthy kidneys.


A good rule of thumb would be to eat around 1g of protein for desired lbs of body weight.  In other words, if your desire is to be a 180lb lean machine, eat around 180g of protein daily.  Obviously, it’s important to observe other healthy-eating precepts, and to ensure you’re getting adequate and appropriate exercise.

It is possible to break through bad information and find your way to a healthy diet. Photo courtesy of photostock/

Myth: Red meat causes cancer.

Truth: Studies associating red meat consumption with increased cancer risk have almost invariably been inconclusive at best (and quite flawed at worst). In a 1986 study, Japanese researchers discovered cancer developing in rats that were fed “heterocyclic amines,” compounds that are generated from overcooking meat under high heat. It’s unlikely that humans would be daft enough to only eat the horribly burned bits of their meat. If in doubt, trim off any burned bits, but don’t eschew properly reared read meat: a true superfood.

Red meat & cancer & very bad journalism.


Myth: Saturated fats cause cancer and heart disease.

Truth: For many years, saturated fats - particularly saturated animal fats - have been systematically demonized by the industrial seed-oil industry and unenlightened (and heavily lobbied) governments.  Good science, on the other hand, indicates that saturated fats are amongst the safest for human consumption, because of their stability and resistance to damage.  Fats to beware of are industrially processed seed oils, trans fats, and excessive levels of pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids.  Good-quality saturated fat - including a wide-range of animal fats from healthy, properly reared animals - is to be considered an essential nutrient.

Whatever causes coronary heart disease, it is not primarily a high intake of saturated fat.

~ Michael Gurr, PhD (Lipid Chemist)

Five fats you should have in your kitchen.


Myth: It’s impossible to be vegetarian and follow a paleo diet.

Truth: Not so. Whilst the study of traditional societies indicates that the healthiest always included a proportion of animal foods in their diets, it’s not the case that the principles of the paleo diet can’t be applied to vegetarian eating. With care, a healthy, nutrient-dense vegetarian diet can be constructed. However, following a standard vegetarian diet - particularly one that’s high in processed carbohydrates and seed oils which are extracted at high temperatures - is far from optimal.

Paleo diet for beginners - with vegetarian options.
Is there a place for vegetarianism on the paleo diet?


Myth: The paleo diet is too expensive to follow long-term.

Truth: With a bit of investigation and some careful planning, it’s entirely possible to follow the paleo diet in a way that’s kind to your budget. You’d be surprised at how many budget-friendly paleo options there actually are…

Following the paleo diet on a budget.


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Brian Cormack Carr is a life and career coach, charity CEO, writer, and advocate of a real foods diet.
His home on the web is where you will find more articles, his free Lifecrafting Newsletter, and information about his online career-creation programme
You can follow Brian on Twitter: @cormackcarr


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