What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo Diet is short for the Paleolithic Diet and involves mimicking the eating lifestyle of our ancient ancestors, the ones that roamed the earth 10,000 years ago. It’s all about eating foods that a caveman might have eaten, back before the days of agriculture made it so he didn’t have to go very far for his next meal.
It’s hard to imagine a world without farming, but that’s exactly what Stone Age man had to cope with just to exist. Imagine waking up in the morning and your sole problem for the day is what you’re going to eat, and how you’re going to get it. You’d have to travel where the food traveled to, and gather what you could along the way.
This means that they were eating a lot of wild animals, whatever they came across and could bring down, and not get killed by themselves. It also meant that any non-animal source of food found along the way was fair game. Think berries and nuts, wild growing fruits and vegetables, these are the kinds of things they subsisted on for thousands and thousands of years.
Eat Like a Caveman
The idea is that if you eat the way the cavemen did, you’ll end up looking like the cavemen did, with lean, muscular physiques and not much fat to speak of. Testing to see if something is Paleo-approved or not is as easy as trying to determine if they would have been able to eat it before agriculture started. You’re basically trying to replicate their diet, even though it’s not really possible where everything you find at the store has come from a farm and was not grown in the wild.
But as modern humans we have to give it our best shot, buying organic meats, fruits, and vegetables whenever possible. This is one way to get back to an earlier time, when food was simply grown from the ground and farmers didn’t use pesticides and herbicides and GMOs. Agriculture wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the profit motive involved, where foods are grown with the bottom dollar in mind and conventional farmers try to get the most yield from their fields as possible.
In regards to portion sizes it’s best not to think about how much Paleolithic man was eating eat at each meal, because it was most likely sporadic. It could have been a day or two subsisting on fruits and vegetables only followed by a big kill of some sort and then mostly meat for a day or two. The first meal after bringing down a big kill was likely larger than the meals to follow. In order to bring this into modern applications it seems best to stick to 3 meals per day, and the palm rule to gauge how much of each food item you’ll eat at any one meal.
What the Paleo Diet Isn’t
The Paleo Diet is just that, a diet. Although you can take some fitness and lifestyle advice from Paleolithic man, you wouldn’t want to replicate everything they did, and for good reason. It was a jungle back then, and Stone Age man had his share of plight. Getting daily activity would be one good tip you could take from back in they day, but other than their diet you’ll probably want to keep everything else in your life modern.
They would have been able to cook the meat they caught, so a Paleo Diet is not necessarily a raw diet, although eating raw fruits and vegetables would certainly be allowed, if not encouraged. And it’s not a vegetarian diet, because meat makes up a large proportion of the food you eat, and they had plenty of meat-eating opportunities back in prehistoric times, with all of the different animal species that were roaming the earth.
Some of the theories that proponents have is that your body is still genetically programmed to eat the sort of foods we as a species were eating before they started farming foods and keeping livestock. They say that the proof is in how poorly our bodies respond to refined and processed foods in our modern world, and how well they respond to the types of foods eaten as part of a Paleo lifestyle.
When you look at what the diet entails, and what it excludes, it’s easy to see how this would result in a healthier way of eating. Lean proteins mixed with all-natural foods like fruits and vegetables is the foundation to many diet plans out there. Supplementing this with oils and nuts for healthy fats is a great way to round things off. You’re also cutting out all of the processed junk that can undo any diet plan.
Those that encourage a Paleo way of eating say that it can help you to lose weight, gain lean muscle mass, regulate your blood glucose levels, and can give you more energy all day long. Some also say that it can have an effect on things like allergies as well as the health of your skin and teeth. It’s even been said that eating Paleo can help you sleep better at night.
Possible Flaws in the Philosophy
One flaw to the thinking that our Paleolithic brethren had it right is that they lived in an entirely different world than we did, and they were eating what they ate in order to survive. The reason that they didn’t have cancer or heart disease is that they didn’t live long enough to get it since the world was a harsher place and lifespans were shorter.
Another flaw in the thinking is: why single out the Paleolithic era as the one that was ideal for human beings? For millions of years before the Paleolithic era prehistoric humans were hanging out in trees and leading an entirely vegetarian lifestyle until they were forced to go in search of food due to there being fewer and fewer trees. In this respect a vegetarian lifestyle may be more historically accurate, with our long and winding large intestines giving proof that we’re meant to eat mostly fruits and vegetables.
Creating Your Own Paleo Plan
There are some food items that are definitely Paleo, like many kinds of meats. There are also some types of foods that definitely aren’t Paleo, like Oreos and Cheetos. Then there are a third group of foods that cause quite a lot of debate as to whether they’re Paleo or not. Foods like Quinoa and other grain-like foods can cause a stir, with terms like Strictly Paleo being tossed around, and different camps being formed based on how rigid you follow the philosophy.
This leaves it largely up to you how Paleo you want to go. Are you going to follow the rules strictly and go by the book, even though there is no official source of Paleo rights and wrongs. Unless you’re an anthropologist with a unique knowledge of what life was like back in that day and age, it’s pretty much just a guesstimate as to what they were really eating and how their life was. And we’re talking about a time period of 750,000 years or so, so Paleolithic man at year one was likely eating a different group of foods as Paleolithic man at year 750k.
Coping with a Caveman Diet
You might have trouble at first making the transition to this way of eating, since a lot of money is spent each year to keep you buying fast food and junk food, and supermarkets are loaded with tons of food items that just aren’t Paleo-approved. The major food conglomerates have it set up to keep you hooked on refined sugar, caffeine, and additives like monosodium glutamate. Breaking away from these things can cause cravings, headaches, grumpiness, and other withdrawal symptoms, but they will go away with time.
Like any diet plan, you’ll notice the best results the longer you stick with it. If you try the Paleo diet for one month you’ll be able to gauge whether or not it’s something you want to stick with or not. You should have visible results by that point, and be able to see a difference in how you feel, and how much energy you have each day. It’s up to you how serious you want to get with the strictness of the foods you eat, but simply cutting out all of the 21st century junk is a huge step in the right direction for most.