If you read the previous points it will be obvious that there is a pattern in how we think about food. All this can be summarized by calling our diet “(semi-)paleo”.
But this doesn’t mean we follow any transient fashion. Since the term ‘paleo diet’ has entered popular culture, there has been a certain trend of alienating from the original meaning of the term, mostly because of the people’s lack of knowledge about the diet of paleolithic foragers, which, in contrast to popular opinion, included mainly plants wherever the vegetation allows it (exceptions are for example Inuit tribes), since they are much easier to obtain and found in abundance almost everywhere on the planet. Now the food industry picked it up to reach more customers and it got to a point where ‘paleo’ Himalaya salt is shipped around the world and sparkling soda is sold – also with the questionable label ‘paleo’ on it.
We have our own definition (at which we arrived after an extensive review of the literature on contemporary and prehistoric primitive people’s lives) of what ‘paleo’ means in terms of diet: organic, fresh wild foods, a lot of raw veggies and fruit, few carbohydrates and no refined sugar, good quality meat, fish and insects. Basically exactly how our foraging ancestors ate and how primitive people still eat today – wherever their way of life has not been polluted by outside influence, bringing cheap snacks and soft drinks. The diet of prehistoric people did include wild tubers and starchy roots, and occasionally other forms of starch (such as breadfruit, unripe jackfruit, jackfruit/durian/chempedak seeds, various nuts, the heart of some palm species, and even wild grains in some areas), so it is low-carb, not no-carb.
Strictly speaking, paleo also has implications on the method of preparation – vegetable oil was unknown to our paleolithic ancestors, as was salt (in most cases) and other spices that don’t originate in one’s immediate environment. Paleo food, when prepared strictly abiding by the rules, is rather bland in taste, and is usually limited to boiling, roasting, grilling, smoking, and sometimes baking (on a stone next to a fire). Stir-frying, steam-boiling, and – let alone – deep-frying is definitely not paleo. There are more exotic and ritualistic ways to prepare food, as for example pit cooking, where food is cooked by hot stones in a hole in the ground covered with leaves and earth.
Regarding the method of preparation we are not very strict, and we often cook regular Thai food using oil, oyster sauce and soy sauce in small quantities. We don’t use additional salt (bad for your heart!) and rarely use sugar (and if, then unrefined, creamy palm flower sugar). Our “Yanomami pancakes” (a recipe we learned from the Amazonian tribe, made from grated cassava without salt or oil, and traditionally baked on a flat stone over a fire), which we sometimes eat instead of rice, are one of the best examples for true paleo food.
Eating like our Paleolithic ancestors has the most benefits for our health, since primitive people, both in the past and today, are in much better health than “civilized” folks. Agriculture and the sedentary lifestyle it allowed have been a disaster for human health, and from many of the worst ills civilized humans recovered quite recently (through the exploitation and consequent synthesis of naturally occurring antibiotics). This is all outlined in great detail by Mark Nathan Cohen in his books “Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture” (Academic Press, 1984), “Health and the Rise of Civilization” (Yale University Press, 1989), and “Ancient Health” (University Press of Florida, 2007).*