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Would the Flintstone Diet Qualify as a Good Paleo Diet?

Would the Flintstone Diet Qualify as a Good Paleo Diet?

The Paleo — prehistoric, or early human — diet seems to create more questions than answers. This is because its premise is based on a theory that eating like primitive humans is the closest diet to perfect. But the biggest problem comes in an attempt to identify what early bipeds really ate without considering a host of other important factors ranging from stomping grounds to food availability and everything in between.

Back into the misty past

Paleo diet theory takes us back into the misty past, prior to the advent of civilization. What is not theory is that most of today's "modern" diets have roots in the crossroads of history when humans stopped wandering and began to settle down, roughly ten thousand years ago.

During this stage of cultural evolution it was discovered that, by growing food, humans no longer had to solely brave the travails of hunting, fishing, hiding, being eaten or fighting the whims of the weather spirits. With successful agriculture, human beings could settle down in one place and begin to build empires, wage big wars, conquer other tribes, take slaves and create a division of labor.

Division of labor makes it possible

It was this last point — division of labor, combined with availability of natural resources — that made advanced technology and the growth of cities and kingdoms/queendoms possible. Clearly, if you didn't have to spend your days hunting, you could spend them managing multi-faceted growth. Some of your people could wage war, others could build structures, some could grow food and others could make pottery. Finally, not everyone had to worry about where his/her next meal was coming from.

There's much more to this idea of the birth of civilization, and it is quite fascinating, but to delve any further we risk falling off topic, which is the ever-contested Paleo diet.

The prehistoric diet is said to be better for human health because early human diets did not include the foods that sprang from civilizations— wheat, caged animals, domestically raised livestock, mass produced food and hybrid food.

Historical revisionism and make-em-up science

Many "experts" have written about the advantages of the prehistoric diet. Some of these experts tout the health advantages of the diet while making erroneous claims about early humans' eating habits.

Author of The Paleo Diet, Loren Cordain, PhD, is one such "expert." He makes statements that aren't accurate, anthropologically-speaking, and many of his dietary suggestions defy good health practices. He includes diet soda as a suggested drink within the context of his Paleo diet, he infers that low fat diets are most healthful, and he suggests that wild game available to early humans was low-fat.

Neither Cordain's early human or his diet are real, and his caveman is someone who's been taught misguided lessons regarding the dangers of saturated fats, natural salt and the usefulness of artificial ingredients. So he's way off the mark and his book isn't helpful if you want to be healthy.

Then there's PETA, the pro-vegan group, that merely invents the truth about our early ancestors by reporting, "During most of our evolutionary history, we were largely vegetarian. Plant foods like potatoes made up the bulk of our ancestors' diet."1 This astoundingly baseless statement flies in the face of anthropological evidence gathered by actual scientists who have no motive to massage the truth in favor of meatless diets. While vegans and vegetarians may be sincere in their convictions, they are not entitled to rewrite history.

What do we really know about the diets of early humans?

We know that early human diets were varied and not as limited or simple as some Paleo diet advocates lead us to believe. Archeological finds of teeth, killing sites, ancient garbage dumps, campfires and other discoveries show what kinds of foods were eaten, including the obvious animal food as well as fruit, tree bark, nuts, leaves, and sedges, plants, papyrus and cypress. Anthropologist Darryl de Ruiter, Texas A&M, tells us that early humans had access to more food sources "than we had previously established."

An international team of researchers reported in Nature magazine that Australopithecus sediba, an early relative of modern-day humans, enjoyed a diet of leaves, fruits, nuts, and bark, which meant they probably lived in a more wooded environment than is generally thought.1

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News, writes, "Our human ancestors did not eat much fruit, but instead consumed a lot of root vegetables, nuts, insects and some meat, according to a new study [of early hominid teeth published in Journal of Human Evolution]."3

An article in Cosmos online, entitled "Fossil causes rethink of early human diet," explains, "University of Utah and National Museums of Kenya researchers examined the Paranthropus boisei skull found in Tanzania in 1959, using pulverised tooth enamel to analyse the carbon isotope ratios that revealed what food these extinct human relatives were munching on. 'It most likely was eating grass, and most definitely was not cracking nuts,' said lead author and geochemist Thure Cerling from the University of Utah of the study published in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."4

Would the Flintstone Diet be any less accurate?

If we continue along this path, it becomes very clear that what early humans ate is a matter of great complexity, dependent upon myriad factors such as where they lived, the availability of their food sources, their state of technology, and other rather obvious but defining variables. If we followed The Flintstone Diet it would (sadly) be as valid as many attempts at reproducing the early human diet, especially the ones that are jumping on the fad bandwagon.

Underlying all of the confusion, rewriting of history, poor research and bias there are some basic truths we come away with by studying the anthropological literature on the diets of early humans. We know with certainty that early humans did not eat these modern-day foods that lead to disease and decay: processed foods, refined salt, refined sugar, diet soda, artificial ingredients, foods in plastic containers, factory farmed chickens and cows, farm-raised fish, GMO foods, fluoridated and chlorinated water, and Bob's burgers.

All said, it's best to use the Paleo diet as a metaphor for getting back to nature. Integrative medicine practitioner (and rather gifted blogger) Chris Kresser, LAc, does a good job of getting to the root of the issue: "It should be abundantly clear that we can't know for certain what Paleo people ate. They lived a long time ago, and we don't have a time machine, [but] we know enough about ancestral diets in a general sense to suggest that they are superior to modern diets for human health. And we know enough – thanks to current clinical research – about modern foods like flour, seed oils and sugar to know that we shouldn't be eating them."6


1. "The Natural Human Diet," PETA website,

2. Early Human Diet Shows Surprises, Tamu Times, Texas A&M University, Jun 27, 2012

3. Viegas, Jennifer, EARLY HUMANS SKIPPED FRUIT, WENT FOR NUTS — Tooth analysis reveals our human ancestors preferred root vegetables, nuts and insects in their diets. Discovery News, Nov 9, 2009

4. Amanda G. Henry, Peter S. Ungar, Benjamin H. Passey, Matt Sponheimer, Lloyd Rossouw, Marion Bamford, Paul Sandberg, Darryl J. de Ruiter & Lee Berger, "The diet of Australopithecus sediba," Nature, Published online 27 June 2012; "Fossil causes rethink of early human diet," COSMO online,

5. The Bradshaw Foundation online,

6. Kresser, LAc, Chris, "Is Paleo even Paleo? And does it even matter?" Jan 7, 2100


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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paleo diet

About "Would the Flintstone Diet Qualify as a Good Paleo Diet?" which you have posted in the blog is really pretty outstanding from all side. I have come to0 know about a Good Paleo Diet after reading out your blog. Thanks a lot dude. Carry on.

Where's the Beef?

http://www.skinnyliver.comHighly polyunsaturated fatty acids (HUFA), linoleic and especially the long-6 arachidonic acid (AA) in meat, not saturated fat are the culprits here. I am shocked that the majority of diet information I read blames saturated fats for unhealthy eating habits. The research developed about essential fatty acids began in 1930. In 1964 it was established that AA's tissue response was hormone-like eicosanoids. In 1982 the research achieved a Nobel Prize when the discovery of excessive eico's were present during several unhealthy conditions that included heart attacks, strokes, thrombosis, arrhythmia, arthritis, asthma, menstrual cramps, headaches, and tumor metastases. The National Institutes of Health has had an educational section of their website available for some time. It provides interested readers the opportunity to review over 16,000 foods while measuring the tissue response. This teaches visitors that want to avoid unhealthy food choices to measure what they eat in accordance to how the tissue responses and begin implementing a change of eating habit. When it comes to diets there are many variables using caution, as many wrote about in this thread while also learning to enjoy the food you eat is the trick to finding a diet plan that works for each individual.

another view

I have been amused at the "paleo diet" as if that were the pristine diet of mankind from the beginning as well as the only diet, and to follow that diet we will all regain our health and be robust as cavemen. To be honest, none of us really know. We just try to piece together things from the past what seems likely to us. Not even science can tell us truthfully. And then there are people like me who do not believe the "evolutionary theory" but rather believe in creation by God "ex nihilo." I tell my family that I follow the pre-Flood diet, vegetarian. Laugh and mock if you wish, but stories abound in almost every culture of a catastrophic world flood and the Genesis account states that God before the Flood gave to all creatures the herb-bearing seed to be "your meat." (Gen. 1:29) After the Flood, God gives mankind food of "everything that lives and moves"(Gen. 9:2-3) and now the animals would also have the fear of man. Vegetarians are right on target for the pre-Flood diet and mentality. Those who like to eat meat follow the diet God allowed after the Flood. Which is healthier? It is up for debate, isn't it? We continually search for the best diet to keep us healthy and living longer and we all CHOOSE to believe what we want to from what we read and hear. After 65 years on the earth I have come to believe eating a variety of foods is the best answer, however, keeping the foods we eat in their whole forms, some raw, some cooked, eating in moderation. Love my pre-Flood diet. :)

Paleo - A Closer Look...

When I forwarded this article on my AVOIDIABETES facebook page, one of my readers sent me a comment that I would like to share with this page. It stems from Glenn Lalonde. He is founder of Toronto-GTA Paleo Life, a public group which brings together people interested in the Paleo Diet and lifestyle. He comments as follows:

"The visualization of the Flintstone’s is of course a classic, much like the usage of the ‘caveman’. Is Vic Shane making fun of the paleo concept. Why, I don’t know. There’s a bit of reverse psychology in play. I do agree that a sedentary lifestyle due to population growth, barbarism, and trade led quite rapidly to the adoption of an agrarian lifestyle for survival purposes. What quickly ensued were property rights, much of our civil and criminal legal system, and trade, establishing the current way civilization does business. It isn’t a healthy one. Caught up in these transgressions we incidentally or strategically crushed a more ‘natural’ way of life based pretty much on what nature had to offer us without tampering with its diversity, and ended up replacing it with a novel human-made, human-centric, displacement of those natural ways of life, in the race for control and possessions. Many "experts" (his quotation) have written about the advantages of the prehistoric diet. Some of these experts tout the health advantages of the diet while making erroneous claims about early humans' eating habits.” We can also say many experts have also hit a cord of truth in their studies. There are hundreds of thousands of studies done each year, many not worth the paper they are written on, some worth looking into and others gems, sparking our imaginations.

In his article he sounds like he hasn’t spent any time delving into the Paleolithic, Anthropological or Early Human Evolution, so a cautious bias shows. That’s good. There is more research and peer reviewed info out of Cordain’s book references then there has been by many writers. That is what got many in the field of nutrition to question the High Carb-Low Fat premise, a fad which allowed for the launching of a very warped agrarian domestic and foreign policy, focused on the power of genetic manipulation and patents, and the opulent use of manmade chemicals and drugs in food production. With little to no controls, in four decades this launched us into a dangerous odyssey, hurdling us precipitously towards the world’s worst nutritional pandemics ever. Society is the sickest it has ever been. That is not an understatement. It’s fact.

Cordain’s historical perspective has given ‘everyone’, scientist and layperson a chance to see our digressions in the last eight to ten thousand years in a novel way. It caught our imagination. “What are we genetically predisposed to eat” and the “foods your body is designed to eat” have become mantras, in moving the dietary file forward. In the past decade this ancestral health approach has ushered the realization by many that much of what is in the grocery store has little nutritional value, and is to be be bypassed. It has reinvigorated urban and rural links between producers and eaters. It has raised the concern of the damages of monoculture, and the experimentation by big pharma, and most importantly the absurd needless amounts of money spent on symptomology instead of prevention. It has ushered a new group of industry bent not on nutrition void foods but on nutrition rich foods. His characterization of the vegetarian diet is also flawed. Although I would agree that our gut allows for quite a huge variety of food types, we can no longer afford to forget the big picture. Without the conscious effort for supplementation with pharmaceuticals, that diet leads to shortfalls in essential micro-nutrient shortfalls too. Should our hopes for the future be linked to that magic miracle pill or better use of the natural systems we have at our disposal?

Where I would wholeheartedly agree with Vic Shayne is “ We know with certainty that early humans did not eat these modern-day foods that lead to disease and decay: processed foods, refined salt, refined sugar, diet soda, artificial ingredients, foods in plastic containers, factory farmed chickens and cows, farm-raised fish, GMO foods, fluoridated and chlorinated water, and Bob's burgers.” He also mentions Chris Kresser and his work. I too think Chris Kresser is doing great work. His role in lifting the level of the discussion and understanding on the role of ancestral health in healing billions is noteworthy. Chris Kresser himself says “The diet is based on the theory that our core genetic makeup hasn’t changed since the Palaeolithic era, and in that era people didn’t experience as much chronic disease. And so comes the conclusion that the diet cavemen ate is best for preventing chronic disease…”

So Fred, go ahead and have your steak. I couldn’t agree more." - signed Glenn

More on Flintstones

I've done a lot of research on the Paleolithic period and early human development and evolution. The essence of this short little article is that there is no diet that can be called THE Paleo Diet. Cordain's books are all over the place in terms of his food (and drink) recommendations. His diets reflect modern foods, not ancient ones. His and others' are oversimplifications of a very complex and dynamic period of history. The end result is that today's so-called Paleo Diet has little to do with the Paleolithic period which lasted for millions of years and covered a vast stretch of geography. 


thank you for sharing that - it is excellent!

paleo diet

Hi, interesting article. I did a little studying on the diet of native California indians. My conclusion: they had an intimate knowledge of and ate everything edible in their environment. Form an evolutionary perspective, humans would be selected to be omnivors. Fussy eaters following some diet philosophy would become extinct. There was abundant game in California but still the indians ate all edible plant foods available and were aware of the starch content even in meger roots. For a great read on the subject: "Tending The Wild" by Anderson. The indians even included some grain in their diet. 

the grain thang

Since researching this diet - and i greatly appreciate the accounts of traditional diets like you mention - however, i always am amused at the constant attempts to implicate that grains have somehow been a meaningful part of our diet- comments like: "ate some grain too" - perhap they did but any extension of this claim needs logical examination:


 have you ever seen how much grain it takes to make a loaf of bread's worth of flour?  (hint: alot!) - have you ever collected grains by hand, hulled them, pounded them into a paste/dust and then tried to make a bread? (hint: alot of time/effort)  -


while i believe that grasses and grains were collected (as observed that the indians ate all edible plants in their environment) - perhaps even many tens of thousands of years ago  - the volume necessary for what we call bread would almost assuredly never have been collected - remember there were not waving monoculture fields of golden grains just growing in huge, easy-to-collect patches.  Additionally, the actual kernal/seed size of ancient forms of wheat and other grains were much smaller which would require even more time/effort to collect any useful volume.  Wild versions of most of our fruits/plants are the same (think wild/unpruned apple trees and the resulting small, not-too-sweet apples)  -  The 25K+ old grindstones found in france had only one old grain seed identified - the remaining 7 or 8 were rhyzomes, roots or tubers - clearly it would be hugely more productive to collect roots and grind them - much easier to gather a functional volume in a short time.


so i firmly believe that arguments that any pre-agricultural peoples gathered any substantive amount of what we think of as grains (and made anything remotely like our bread) are implausable. a final end to the discussion is the work of Sayer right here - if humans had grains in their diet in meaningful amounts, we would have adapted/selected to safely and propely digesting them - which we clearly did not.


Hi, eating some grain is distinguished from grains as a major contributor to dietary carbohydrates. California Indians did create large areas of almost single species of desirable plants. They went through a laborious process to turn acorns into mush and bread. I recently read about the lectin in grains as causing GI complications whitout an immune component.

The next arguement is "did humans who used grains as a major dietary component, know how to coax nutrients out of the grains and reduce the anti-nutrients? Is it worth the trouble? Will everyone eating a substantial amount of whole grains suffer some ill health consequences? Carbohydrates turn into blood glucose and that can lead to glycation and its consequences. At most, grains should be a small part of one's diet.

Ca Indians

Hi mokshasha, I agree that grains wouldn't be a major part of of the indian diet. In "Tending the Wild" (Anderson) we see that, for the paleo California indians at least, even though there wasn't traditional farming there was a "tending" of the land. There were managed large areas of selected wild plants. Europeans witnessed the indians grazing like cattle on fresh clover. What struck me about this paleolithic population (that had modern witnesses) is the knowledge of medicinal and edible plants. Plants were an important part of the diet not only for seeds but also greens and starch. Even with much game available, the indians waited for and celebrated when certain plant foods became available. "Omnivore" is the operative word that comes to my mind. Animal products are an obvious dense sources of nutrients that would be sought after but why all this effort to find and use plants? Plants produce phytochemicals that protect them from environmental stresses and when we eat plants we benefit form these phytochemicals (and carbohydrates too). I think that taking an evolutionary perspective to determine modern humans need for nutrition and exercise is a good perspective. 

yes of course--

i agree that plants were **very** important - and especially the sacred/medicinal ones.  The paleo perspective is not one of denying our omnivore-ness (except for the paleo zealots of course) but that the core of our good nutrient health and caloric intake was animal products when available.  I would also postulate that any observed behaviours in the last hundreds of years would yield important observations - but not be a complete evolutionary view as those native american people also adopted some agricultural practices in the last thousands of years. Many many populations moved from HG to "horticultural hunter gatherers" all over the planet and did tend or garden - this is clear from archeological finds and it went on for tens of thousands of years.  Even nomadic pastoral HG's would often have seasonal "homes" where such tending/gardening could take place.

The overall healthfullness of moving too much towards agriculture is shown in the archeological digs of the dixon mounds where huntergatherer bones give way in upper layers to corn-growing peoples bones - the unquestioned diminishment of health, stature and vigor is evident in the agricultural skeletons that have been dated after the adoption of maise as a central foodstuff.  I believe that the horticultural hunter-gatherer diet is a very good one to emulate and one that is still almost possible to emulate today.

simply put - i believe we are omnivores that lean heavily - both in our genetic predisposition and our tastes, to animal products, meat and seafood whenever those foodstuffs were available and abundant and, contrary to vegan/vegetairan claims to the contrary, when the HG population densities were holding for tens of thousands of years at a very small growth rate, there was plenty to hunt as well as gather and fish from the waters.  we simply have not had enough generations since the introduction of agricultural foodstuffs to physiologically/genetically evolve the plant-eating/grain-eating capabilities necessary for grains/vegetable matter to deliver us complete good nutritional health.

another point

Hi, I agree with your points. Here is another thought that I formulated from reading Sally Fallon and the "Weston Price" book and the organization. So yes we are genetically paleolithic hunter-gatherers. The advantages of farming and herding put us into the modern area. Over the last 10-15 thousand years humans, like always, learned how to coax nutrition out of the foods available. In his travels, Weston Price did find very healthy indigenous populations eating grains: rye in Switzerland and oats in islands off of Scotland. Grains were soaked and fermented to make them more digestable and the nutrients more available. SO, the theory goes that we lost the "traditional wisdom" of preparing whole foods. Still, grains are carbohydrate loads and need to be eaten in moderation in accordance with one's unique biochemistry.

the paleo logic

as a paleo-leaning enthusiast, i found this article a bit wishy-washy (and with that title, a tad demeaning...)  but at least it fell on the side with the "return to natural foods" idea that is a large part of the paleo/primal thinking. of course one could have endless discussions and arguments (and one does if you engage online) based on real science, biology, anthropology and physiology about the exact pre-historic diet - the fact is, humans spread throughout so many environments in prehistory that one specific paleo diet would be ridiculous to postulate.

This is one reason i too find Cordains arguments - especially regarding saturated fat intake,   limited in scope.  I find Dr. Michael Eades a more pragmatic and patient-experienced source for better arguments about saturated fat, as well as Dr Harris and his "archeovore" diet recommendations.  In fact, to have written the above article without a review of both Eades, Harris and several other well-trained medical/science voices is why the article is somewhat lacking.


It is difficult to dispute that for at least several hundred thousand years before agriculture, we were hunter-gatherers and, in the unforgiving natural world, would have been genetically selected to survive/thrive on the diet of hunter-gatherers with emphasis on the hunting (the emphasis on hunting is not my speculation but rather the logical conclusion from much anthropoligical digs and analysis as well as informed speculation about the human hunting impact on animal populations - even extinctions).  this last stretch before agriculture would cull any remaining vegetarian-dependent huminoid populations in many areas as the ice age could not have been survived without primary hunting activity.


With that in mind, and with even with only a laymans education in the basics of these fields of science, it is very simple to deduce what we should NOT be consuming - most all industrialized foodstuffs from the last century. Even when finding cookbooks from 75 or 100 years ago - long before the epidemics of alzheimers, diabetes, chronic ills and autism, one can easily see the relatively small % of the truly damaging neolithic foods were in "traditional" diets - and those that were there were modest in volume and if grains - treated before consumption. after viewing a head-spinning amount of evidence and opinions, i believe Weston Price's actual research (not the WAPF) to hold the biggest and best clues that, taken together with the most indisputable elements of the paleo/primal diet, can lead one to a healthy diet, healthy lifestyle and human appropriate nutrition.


finally - the proof in the pudding is your n=1 experience and after almost 4 years i (58) my partner (38) and our child (4.5) enjoy robust health, perfect body composition despite not being athletic, and satisified with meals in a way none of us experienced before - protien/fat meals leave one satiated and virtually never craving the between-meal snacks that are the benchmark of a high carb diet.

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