CrossFit Mona Lisa workout with Kettlebells

The Paleo Diet vs. Flexitarian Diet

Paleo Diet/Flexitarian Diet

The Flexitarian Diet.  It sounds like the antithesis of The Paleo Diet.  The Paleo diet is very interesting, in psychological terms.  It creates order and rules of law. And provides a semblance of moral structure as well.   I am indebted to Jonathn Haidt for his perspectives.   One of the things I enjoy about his writing is his emphasis on human variation.  There are very few people at the extremes.  He defines five basic components of morality:

  • Do not harm
  • Maintain purity (avoid the icky, don’t eat nasty stuff, don’t be licentious)
  • Respect authority
  • Be loyal
  • Justice matters

You can take a survey and get an idea of where you rest on the scale. Some tend to rate loyalty, purity and respect more highly than “do no harm” or “worry about justice.”  Others tend to value “do no harm” and “justice” themes more than any of the others.  This often explains why perfectly reasonable people can be at a complete loss to understand the idiocy of other perfectly reasonable people.

The Flexitarian Diet

The Flexitarian Approach has been described as “Eat more plants, and do the best that you can.”  The basic idea is that you should eat mostly plants and that if you eat unhealthy things some times its not that big of a deal.    So how do these relate to people’s differing moral foundations?  Respecting authority is probably not very flexitarian.  Nor would loyalty.  “Do no harm” seems Flexitarian.  Do not harm yourself or others by being critical.  And eat less meat seems gentler than eat more.   In the opposite corner is the Paleo Diet.  Here respect for authority seems to be pretty important.  Many followers of the Paleo diet seem to have a “you’re with us or you’re against us” attitude.  One that also expresses “if you’re not with us, you’re a unworthy.”  Very inflexible.

It looks like our stone age ancestors were Flexitarian and not adherents of the Paleo Diet as it is frequently described by people in Crossfit.  Both the flexitarian diet and the paleo diet will tell you to eat little (or no) junk food.  And both will probably be much better for your health than the Standard American Diet (aka the SAD diet).   If you are interested in learning more about The Flexitarian Diet,  Mark Bittman will be writing regularly on the topic and  providing recipes.


Ströhle, A., & Hahn, A. (2011). Diets of modern hunter-gatherers vary substantially in their carbohydrate content depending on ecoenvironments: results from an ethnographic analysis Nutrition Research, 31 (6), 429-435 DOI: 10.1016/j.nutres.2011.05.003


Graham, J., Nosek, B., & Haidt, J. (2012). The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives: Exaggeration of Differences across the Political Spectrum PLoS ONE, 7 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050092

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