What Is The Paleolithic Diet?
If early Paleolithic era cavemen were living their lifestyle today, they would be amongst the healthiest and fittest human beings. Their primitive lifestyle included walking long distances in search of animals to hunt and to gather berries and leaves as primary food sources. When they ran out of food sources in one area, they would move and take root in another area. This active lifestyle together with the use of unprocessed and unrefined foods made early man healthier than the majority of people living today.
The Paleolithic era ended approximately 20,000 years ago. The agricultural revolution began approximately 10,000 years ago and hence up to this time, the caveman diet was a basic one. They did not have legumes, grains or dairy in their diet. Mankind were limited to eating animals that they could hunt together with gathering natural resources such as leaves, berries and grasses. Current scientific research indicates that it takes hundreds of thousands of years for our bodies to evolve to a state where the body can cope with dietary changes.
We are genetically very close to our Paleolithic ancestors, but the food we consume is dramatically different and it is now considered that the reason for countless diseases that did not exist in the Paleolithic era may be directly linked to our dietary changes since the agricultural revolution. Subsequently this may explain why so many people in our modern world are sensitive to wheat and gluten which are prevalent in our food chain, foods that were not available in the Paleolithic era.
The Paleolithic Diet
The Paleolithic Diet, commonly referred to as the Paleo Diet, was first theorized by a gastroenterologist, Walter L Voegtlin in the 1970’s, but it really received media attention when Loren Cordain published the book The Paleo Diet in 2001. Essentially Voegtlin states that gross differences in the anatomy of man and the herbivorous animals make us unable to successfully adapt to a diet which is solely based on plant foods, particularly carbohydrate-rich grains, as well as adhering to a diet in which milk products, rich in lactose, predominate; he believed that the whole range of modern diseases stem from our abandonment of the food choices of our primitive ancestors.
The Paleo Diet encourages people to eat as the cavemen ate. This means cutting out all processed and packaged foods and adding a variety of fresh, natural foods. If any food was not available to the cavemen, then it should not be included in the diet according to Voegtlin.
Foods to cut out include:
All grain products including pasta, bread and wheat derived foods.
All sugar treats.
All dairy products.
Foods to eat include:
Fresh vegetables and fruits.
Lean meats – sirloin steak, turkey breast, chicken breast, pork loin & lean beef mince.
Eggs – no more than six in a week since these were not a major component of the caveman’s diet.
Nuts and seeds except peanuts which are legumes. These provide omega essential fats.
The benefits of the Paleolithic Diet
The proponents of the Paleolithic diet claim that eating how cavemen ate is better for you. There is most definitely logic in this approach because we survived for millions of years eating only natural foods and since the agricultural revolution, we have been exposed to new food groups which our digestive system cannot cope with. This is evident because we are now seeing more gastrointestinal diseases than ever before particularly inflammatory bowel concerns such as IBS, colitis and diverticular disease.
Eating fresh healthy food means greater availability of nutrients to our bodies. These foods are easily broken down by your digestive system and the transient time that food stays in the gut is longer which creates a feeling of fullness so that you are not hungry within a few hours which is common place in the modern diet. You will feel more satisfied and full of energy.
Many people following the Paleolithic diet claim to lose weight and feel toned. This can occur because carbohydrates are replaced with protein leading to lower insulin levels in the bloodstream. Higher insulin levels mean higher fat deposition.
There are disadvantages to the Paleolithic diet. This diet is more a lifestyle choice and is unlike other diets specifically for weight loss which one should use for short periods of time. While many of us consume healthy foods, most of us have not exclusively consumed cavemen’s foods and this can be challenging.
The Paleo Diet can be high in saturated fat. Even using lean meat, the total fat content over the day can be high which would be fine for the cavemen who spent the majority of the day searching for food. This can be a problem in the modern world since we spend more time hunting for information than hunting for food.
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