The paleo diet is beginning to take the nation by storm and for good reason. The term paleo, an abbreviation for the paleothentic era it was derived, was first popularized by Walter L. Voegtlin, been the subject of many authors, and has been being tested on humans for millions of years. There are other popular names for this philosophy of nutrition; Stone Age diet, Caveman diet, Primal diet, and Hunter-Gatherer diet.
First of all lets change our definition of the word diet. Because of fad diets, we have changed the meaning from “what we should eat” to “what we can or cannot eat.” I don’t like nor advocate diets in the latter term. Our diet should just be a term for how we eat, used closer to a definition of nutrition than how one person or group thinks we can lose weight, get a flat stomach, or improve blood panels. Following a paleo diet shouldn’t be a list of allowed and forbidden foods, rather it should be viewed as a philosophy on human nutrition with an aim to decrease the likelihood of disease, illness, and unhealthy body composition.
The philosophy of eating primarily is simple: eat as our evolutionary ancestors did. Humans evolved over millions of years with Homo sapiens of 200,000 years ago being genetically identical to humans today. Early humans were hunter-gatherers, eating animals they scavenged or killed and any plants, nuts, seeds, and fruit they could find. Processed foods were only included in our diet post Industrial Revolution 100 years ago. Grains and dairy were only added into our systems in the farming age of 7,000 years ago. We are maladapted to our current environment because we haven’t had enough time to adjust to current environmental factors leading to premature death (or in need of modern medicine).
Health concerns like heart disease and diabetes simply didn’t exist during this era. These ancient relatives of ours didn’t die from the kinds of things we are dying from. Although their lifespans weren’t what we have come to expect today; they had to deal with environmental factors (climate, food shortages), predators, accidents, and infection. Our top killers like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other health related factors were not the life threatening illnesses they are today. Not living long enough to accumulate disease was not an issue either, as archeologists have predicted a maximum lifespan of 93 years for early humans.
The science behind eating like a caveman isn’t as extensive as it should be. Unfortunately, research needs money and grants often times come from big business who see lack of profit involved in getting people healthier by eating real food. Instead, money goes to further pharmaceutical research or processed foods/supplementation. Too much money is to be made off the sick rather than in preventative healthcare. Luckily, there is some research and the primal outlook is good. Benefits ranging from helping to prevent common disease (cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic), illness by increasing immune function, decreasing body fat, and increasing lean body mass can all be achieved. The recipe is simple and will be greater explained in the focus of this blog. But in short, stick to animal meats and plants as your nutrient intake.