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Are You Pop Paleo or Deep Paleo? Read this to find out.

A superficial understanding of the Paleo diet can have you running into the grip of powerfully pro-inflammatory main-ingredients

A superficial understanding of the Paleo diet can have you running into the grip of powerfully pro-inflammatory toxic oils

To be, or not to be, labeled Paleo: that is the question.

Lately I’ve been given more opportunities to speak about the Paleo diet, which I take as a complement given that a) adapting a Paleo diet is a great alternative to the food pyramid and b) I mention the Paleo diet in my book Deep Nutrition exactly once. Nevertheless, when asked whether or not I’m a Paleo gal, I’ve always struggled to respond with full confidence. Am I Paleo?

Turns out, I’ve decided that neither “yes” nor “no” really works.

The Deep Nutrition philosophy shares much with the fundamental concepts of Paleo, most notably the belief that our diets have diverged radically from that of our ancestors, and that’s gotten us into big trouble.

But there are some key differences that are no small matter, differences important enough to preclude me from visiting the majority of restaurants Paleo experts identify as “Paleo approved.”

Take for example, THE PALEO RESTAURANT GUIDE TO AUSTIN, TEXAS kindly compiled by threedietsonedinner, which came to my attention because PaleoFX 2013 will be held in Austin from March 28-30 . I called a number of these restaurants to plan my stay, but was dismayed to discover the majority lean heavily on the use of Canola oil. One of them offers almost nothing free of Canola.

I’m thrilled to have been invited to be a speaker. And I think it’s time I made one thing clear:

This cave girl don’t do Canola, nor any of the trans-fat-rich so-called “vegetable” oils (listed here) . (For the purposes of this article, the term Canola stands for all toxic industrial oils.) I avoid the stuff at all costs. And if you’ve followed my blog or read any of my books you know I think you would do well to do the same. In fact, along with reducing your intake of empty calories (like sugar and corn syrup), eliminating Canola oil is the single most powerful step you can take to improve your diet.

Canola oil may be the farthest thing from Paleo ever invented.

Unlike Gluten, a plant protein that predates the genus Homo, the blend of oxidized fats identified in bottles of Canola simply could not have existed in the Paleolithic era. The polyunsaturated fat-mutating technology hadn’t been invented until the industrial age. The Canola plant itself did not exist until sometime around 1970—facts Paleo enthusiasts may want to consider now that Canola oil provides up to a third of the calories in typical restaurant meals.

Many of these Canola-loving restaurants wind up being identified as “Paleo Approved.”

For those of use trying to cut Canola, that’s just not going to work. So here’s the fix: We need to make a clear distinction between the popular form of Paleo and the one reserved for more serious players.

So from now on, let’s call the pro-Canola Paleo side “Pop Paleo” and the no-Canola side “Deep Paleo.” 

Canola marks the dividing line between Pop Paleo and Deep Paleo. But there are other differences worth noting. For example, I think raw dairy can be part of a healthy diet, that fermentation is an essential part of a dietary program, and that homemade bone stock is a great way to help maintain connective tissues integrity well into old age.

So are you Deep Paleo? Here’s the test:

  • Do you do your best to avoid Canola oil when shopping or dining out?
  • Do you think homemade bone stock is an important part of a healthy diet?
  • Would you pass on bacon if you were unsure it was from humanely raised animals?
  • Do you eat real, fermented pickles, sauerkraut or kimchee?
  • And do you include some dairy in your diet?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then welcome to the cave of the Deep Paleo tribe! Like me, you’ve broken through the more superficial elements of the Paleo/Primal movement and dug deeper to find your own truth—the diet that works best for you.

Of course, Pop Paleo enthusiasts are welcome too, as long they know the secret passphrase: “Canola not for eat! For make torch go!”


Andrea (first commenter, below) pointed out that this post could be read as another attempt to fractionate the Paleo group into micro sects. That’s the last thing we want. If you “get it” about oils, you are in the minority –in my experience. So please pass this on: Canola oil can ruin an otherwise perfectly Paleo meal. Its pro-inflammatory potential makes it instant ANTI-PALEO.

Related Paleo content I include this as an example of a common mistake. While the site overall is very helpful, this post contains an error in the list of bad oils I see often. However the fear of omega-6 here is taken too an extreme and the recommendation to avoid peanut oils is not one I agree with, nor does the most published scientist in the field, Dr G Spiteller.

Peanut oil does not oxidize during heating for a variety of reasons and when it comes to determinining if a given oil is toxic or not, oxidation is the issue, not the omega-6 content.

Omega-6 is an essential oil and I’ve treated Pop Paleo enthusiasts presenting with skin rashes and diarrhea that are hallmark indicators of omega-6 deficiency. Fortunately, the symptoms quickly reversed with adding back omega-6 containing foods.