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The Right Oil for the Paleo Diet

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Many people perceive that following a diet like our ancestors means sitting around a campfire and eating charred meat with some roots and berries. They believe modern cooking methods such as sautéing or braising don’t fit a caveman diet. Well, I’m here to tell you that this thinking is incorrect. The key to the Paleo Diet is what you eat, not how you cook it.

The key paradigm of Palaeolithic eating is the human body was designed to consume the types of foods that were available to our ancestors during this evolutionary period. Homo sapiens during this time were hunters and gathers. They ate whatever meat, fish and seafood they could catch, and consumed any available plant material.

Roots, fruit, berries, leaves, herbs and wild vegetables were easily gathered. Obviously, these people didn’t eat any processed foods like sugar or white flour. In fact, they didn’t eat any flour and probably ate almost no grains because agriculture had not yet been invented.

Palaeolithic people also didn’t consume dairy because milking of animals is a result of domestication and agriculture. To learn more about the Paleo diet read What is the Paleo Diet.

Since the key to following the Paleo Diet is what you eat and not how you cook it (sorry, deep frying is out) let’s look at the types of cooking oil available to modern man and if they would have been present during the Palaeolithic era.


Almost everybody’s favourite. Butter comes from milk fat and is the result of animal domestication. It didn’t exist in the Palaeolithic era.


This better be obvious. Margarine didn’t exist back then. It didn’t even exist 75 years ago.

Canola/Safflower Oil

These common cooking oils are GMOs and didn’t exist until the late 20th century.

Corn Oil

Corn is an agricultural product and a New World item to boot. Palaeolithic people would not have been exposed to this vegetable.

Animal Fats

Our ancestors were exposed on a regular basis to animal fats. As meat eaters, ingestion of animal fats would have been a regular occurrence. Even lean protein has a certain amount of fat.

Olive Oil

Homo sapiens in the Palaeolithic era would have been exposed to olives. The olive tree may have arisen from the North African tree O. chrysophylla, which existed around the entire Mediterranean Basin and the Near East. While, it’s unknown if the ancient people processed olives for the oil, the fact they were exposed to them means they ate them.

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, and diets containing monounsaturated fats have been linked to a decrease in coronary heart disease.

Coconut Oil

Like olives, Palaeolithic people were definitely exposed to coconuts and therefore coconuts can be part of the Paleo Diet. Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCT’s have several health benefits. Unlike butter or margarine, this fat is easily digested. MCTs enable your liver to quickly convert the fat to energy. By turning to energy instead of being stored, this fat will help to give you a lean healthy frame.

While it’s true that Palaeolithic people weren’t pan frying fish or cooking a steak in a little olive oil, the point of the Paleo Diet is to eat the foods that Palaeolithic people ate. Our bodies are designed to eat the foods people consumed during the Palaeolithic era.

So, if you want to follow a Paleo Diet lifestyle and you want to do a little frying, I suggest that you go with coconut oil or olive oil. Our ancestors ate both coconuts and olives, so our bodies are designed to consume these oils. Just remember not to go overboard. We may be designed to consume these products but they still have calories which can slow you down from reaching your weight loss goal.


[1] Friedrich W.L. (1978) Fossil plants from Weichselian interstadials, Santorini (Greece) II, published in the “Thera and the Aegean World II”, London, pp 109-128, 

[2] Keys A, Menotti A, Karvonen MJ, et al. (December 1986). “The diet and 15-year death rate in the seven countries study”. Am. J. Epidemiol. 124 (6): 903–15. PMID 3776973

[3] Wellness Cake.com. “The Diet Cake Difference”. http://www.wellnesscake.com/the-diet-cake-difference.html

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About Layne Pennell