The Paleo Diet ~ a term coined after the first edition of The Paleo Diet, written by Loren Cordain, PhD, was published ~ is a diet based on what our Hunter-Gatherer paleolithic ancestors would have eaten prior to the Agricultural Revolution. According to Cordain, and others, human health began to decline with the advent of agriculture, and the consumption of whole grains and beans.
As mentioned here, whole grains and beans contain lectins, and phytic acids which humans may not yet be evolutionarily adapted to eating. They can inhibit the absorption of certain minerals, leading to nutritional deficiencies.
According to the authors of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Paleo,
"In their raw form, grains and legumes are toxic, and people figured that out very earl on. Even when they're cooked, seeds and grains contain gluten and anti nutrients, like certain lectins, phytic acid, and enzyme inhibitors, which are detrimental to our health. Anti nutrients interfere with the absorption of nutrients, and gluten can cause intestinal damage and immune problems. There's research that links lectins and gluten with autoimmune disorders, immune responses to foods, neurological disorders, skin problems, and major intestinal disease. There are hundreds of symptoms and illnesses that may have their roots in grain and legume intolerance."
Macrobiotic diets typically center around meals of whole grains and vegetables, however a macrobiotic diet is not a vegan diet, nor does it have to be a grain-based diet.
'Macro' means 'great' or 'big' and 'biotic' means 'life' therefore Macrobiotic means big or great life.
The ancestral diet for those of European descent, including many other cultures featured fish or animal flesh foods, fruits, roots, fungi, nuts, greens, vegetables, sea vegetables and various underground tubers.
Grains and whole grain, traditionally fermented breads are more recent additions to many European diets, relatively speaking.
Don and I followed a grain and bean-based macrobiotic diet for close to five years, interspersed with more fruit and vegetable variations of a produce-rich, plant-based diet, and experienced several health improvements initially, however, as time wore on, our energy, vitality, and moods wore out.
How people craft their paleo diet can be quite varied. Some focus heavily on animal proteins and/or fats, while others consume ample fresh fruits and vegetables.
Macrobiotic diets differ from paleo diets in many ways, primarily in the most widely accepted principal or staple foods. However, I would argue that the principal foods of any person's diet need to be those which best support that person's health.
While all grains ~ whole or refined ~ are on my foods to greatly minimize list, traditional preparation methods can improve your ability to appropriately digest grains.
For example, according to the blog post, Top Ten Reasons to Eat Sourdough Bread, found on Cookus-Interuptus, traditionally fermented sourdough breads contain higher amounts of lactobacillus, the healthy form of bacteria that resides in the gut. Higher amounts of lactobacillus leads to greater production of lactic acid. This diminishes the effect of phytic acids, and therefore increases the availability of key minerals in the grain, including magnesium, zinc, and Vitamin K.
Soaked and sprouted grains have also been tested to have higher nutrient availability compared to grains cooked without soaking or sprouting. That said, many paleo diets, and our own Meats & Sweets dietary approach, inspired by the extensive volume of work researched and written by Ray Peat exclude grains, beans, and starches in general to achieve better digestive health, metabolism, thyroid functioning, and overall health.
While a paleo diet may differ from a typical macrobiotic diet, there is also much they have in common, including the following: