Call me a modern-day cavewoman.
Okay, so I don’t go out and hunt and gather my food like the cavemen, and I certainly don’t live in a cave. However, my eating habits mimic those of our Paleolithic ancestors—if a food didn’t exist before the Agricultural Revolution (circa 10,000 years ago), I won’t eat it.
This way of eating goes by many names: the Caveman diet, the Primal diet, the New Evolution diet, and possibly the most well-known, the Paleo diet. The philosophy behind eating like the cavemen is that prior to the Agricultural Revolution, humans were taller, leaner, stronger, and much healthier than their post-agrarian descendants. Modern day (or “Western”) illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and obesity also did not exist before humans abandoned their hunting and gathering ways and learned how to farm. Studies done on modern-day hunter-gatherers mimic this idea— in The New Evolution Diet, Art DeVany writes, “Ancestral humans were not overweight. Nor did they suffer the ailments that are so prevalent in our civilized world. Now we suffer from a host of chronic ‘Western’ diseases that were virtually unknown among our early ancestors and are largely absent even among today’s hunger-gatherers living in traditional ways.” Eating like the cavemen also regulates insulin levels, lowers bad cholesterol, erases or alleviates symptoms of conditions like IBS, Crohn's disease, and arthritis, clears up acne, and improves athletic performance.
The Paleo diet is high in fat and animal protein and relatively low in carbohydrates. Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint, says to “eliminate: sugary foods and beverages, grains (wheat, corn, rice, pasta, breads, cereals, etc.), legumes (soy and other beans), trans and partially hydrogenated fates, high-risk conventional meat and produce, and excess polyunsaturated fatty acids.” Processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and dairy should also be avoided. That’s right—no pizza, Insomnia cookies, Red Bull, or fro-yo on this eating plan!
While it may seem that this is incredibly restrictive, the foods you can eat are some of the healthiest and most delicious ones that nature has to offer. A Paleo diet consists of fruits and (non-starchy) vegetables; lean (and idcaveman, Health, Nutrition, paleally organic and grass-fed) animal meats, seafood, and eggs; nuts and seeds; healthy fats such as olive and coconut oil; and fresh spices. Eating this way is quite easy—almost every restaurant has meat and veggies on the menu, and the dining halls are accommodating to this lifestyle too with their salad bars, protein and veggie entrees, and occasional “action” options like omelets and lettuce wraps. There are thousands of meal choices for Paleo eaters—in fact, there are even countless cookbooks available!
There’s no “one size fits all” approach to the Paleo lifestyle, however—it can be adjusted to an individual’s specific goals and preferences. If you turn to Paleo to lose weight, for example, you might decide to cut out nuts, seeds, and fruit. Other Paleo eaters decide to include modern foods into their diets such as coffee, red wine, dark chocolate (with 70% or higher cacao content), or high-quality cheese. Some also choose to use natural sweeteners like honey or Stevia, whereas others decide to eat all of their foods raw. No matter how strict you want to get with it, eating Paleo is all about being healthy and promoting longevity-- and that's what makes it more than just a diet! Paleo is a lifestyle.
Want to learn more about the Paleo/Primal/Caveman lifestyle? I highly recommend watching this clip from ABC Nightline, checking out the websites of Loren Cordain (The Paleo Diet), Mark Sisson (The Primal Blueprint), Robb Wolf (The Paleo Solution), and Art DeVany (The New Evolution Diet), or taking a look at my blog, Paleo at Penn. If you have some more time on your hands, I encourage you to read any of these writers' books, as well as some probably more-familiar titles, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan and Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, which both touch upon the Paleolithic lifestyle and its health benefits.
As we Paleo eaters like to say, Grok on!
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Call me a modern-day cavewoman.