Eating like a Caveman

Did our ancestors have it right? Here’s what you should know about the Paleo diet.

Thousands of years ago there were no farms; no machines to process food; and no added sugars, chemicals, or empty carbs. Without restaurants, grocery stores, or refrigerators, people relied on the land around them to survive. As hunters and gatherers, their diet consisted of meat, fish, nuts, seeds, berries, vegetables, and leafy greens.

The Paleo diet seeks to go back to these roots. By focusing on whole foods and eliminating all processed, packaged foods, the Paleo diet claims to be a way of life rather than a new fad diet plan. Health, wellness, and weight loss are promised while disease, pain, and inflammation are healed naturally.

Does the Paleo diet live up to its promises? What changes will you have to make and are they reasonable?

Eating a Paleolithic diet is not about historical re-enactment; it is about mimicking the effect of such a diet on the metabolism with foods available at the supermarket. There was no one diet eaten throughout the entire Paleolithic, nor is there a single diet eaten by contemporary hunter-gatherers. Hunter-gatherer diets can vary substantially depending on the geography, season, and culture. Even so, the commonalities among hunter-gatherer diets provide useful parameters for a healthy modern diet. – John Durant, The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health

What Not to Eat

Imagine you’re a caveman. There’s no cereal for breakfast, no chips for snacks, no peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, and no pasta and soft drink for dinner. The Paleo diet cuts out all grains; legumes; vegetable, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated oils; added sugars; fruit juices; and most dairy products from your diet.

What to Eat

So what can you eat if you go Paleo? All the grass-fed meat, poultry, wild fish, eggs, vegetables, and natural oils (coconut, avocado, and olive) that you want. Fruits, nuts, and potatoes can be eaten in moderation due to their high sugar, calorie, and carbohydrate levels. Fresh, organic foods are preferred, but not required. As you can see, the diet is high in animal protein and saturated fats. There’s another added benefit to the Paleo diet: you don’t have to count calories or worry about portion control.

Lifestyle Changes

The Paleo diet is about more than food. A low-stress lifestyle, plenty of sleep and relaxation, time in the sun, and moderate amounts of exercise are all encouraged. If you’re missing one of these in your life currently, that will need to change if you go back to your caveman roots.

Promised Benefits

Without the sugar, toxins, processed oils, empty carbs, gluten, and added chemicals that are found in most Western diets, the Paleo diet claims many health benefits including reduced pain, lowered risk for disease, increased metabolism, reduced inflammation, increased energy, stronger immune system, weight loss, clearer skin, leaner muscles, healthier hair, and improved mental focus.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

A Few Drawbacks

While you’re allowed a slow start to the diet and have the freedom to eat whatever you want for three meals a week during the first three weeks of the diet, after that it gets stricter. Here are a few issues you may have going 100-percent Paleo.

Eating out gets tricky and quick, easy meals made from packaged foods are off limits. This means more time spent shopping at health food stores and more time spent cooking homemade meals in the kitchen.

Wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat, free-range chicken, and organic produce are available, but they aren’t cheap. So unless you have time to go hunting every weekend, your grocery bill will likely go up substantially.

You can expect to lose weight, but unless you’re committed to the plan for life, there’s a slim chance the weight loss will last.

Like any other diet, the Paleo promises great results, but the cost, commitment, and restrictions make it difficult to stick with in the long-term.

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