Are eating plans like the paleo diet really healthier – or more ethical – than the way we eat now?

April isn’t the cruellest month – January is. There is no other time of year when we are as prone to navel-gazing, often literally, as this one. In this period of anxiety about the size of our waists and what we consume, simple dietary rules are appealing. “Eat like our ancestors” is a particularly catchy slogan to live by, at least on the surface.

But who exactly are these ancestors we are supposed to emulate? Are they our great-great-grandparents, cooking wholesome things from scratch? Or are they that nebulous group of hairy low-browed brutes we imagine “cavemen” to be? The popular “paleo” diet pins modern health woes on the birth of agriculture, claiming that we should stick to eating meat, nuts and berries. Strict paleo dieters are forbidden from eating beans, as well as potatoes and grains.

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