I am thrilled with the rising popularity of the Paleo/Primal/Paleolithic/Traditional way of eating. I refrain from using the word “diet” as this word is so associated with short-term, calorie-counting, supplement-popping schemes only concerned with weight loss. Furthermore, these aforementioned are ways of eating for life that by its very nature enhances physical, mental and emotional health and well-being, and when properly implemented is also sustainable and ethical. It’s much bigger than a superficial concern with weight!
Studies of our cave ancestors and of the primitive and nonindustrialised peoples have been a long-standing interest of evolutionary biologists, physiologists and modern scientists. Foundational research by practitioners such as Dr. Sidney Haas, Dr. Weston A. Price and Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride revealed vital information about pre and post agricultural diet and health that informed much of their groundbreaking professional practise. The integrity of their work, and unwavering success at healing any number of chronic diseases, continues to encourage enquiry into how we can educate and heal ourselves though food. Carrying the torch through this new blogging age and coming up with their own personalised ‘takes’ are the likes of Art De Vany, Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf.
The basic premise of the Paleo and Primal diet is that, as our genes and physiology are still 99.9% the same as our hunter/gatherer ancestors, our best chance at health is to eat and move in similar ways. After all, it is our ancestors’ diet and exercise regime that created the genes that have allowed us to survive – strong muscles, efficient and explosive energy sources, healthy immune and reproductive systems, healthy offspring and big brains – we should be thanking them!
Our cave ancestors largely died of natural causes – accidents, injuries, etc. – there is absolutely no trace of chronic illness like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, auto-immune diseases, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and so on. These all started appearing around 10,000 years ago when agriculture really took off, or when man stopped being so nomadic and started growing and eating more grains. To cut a very long story short, agriculture and eating grains simply hasn’t been around long enough for us to have developed either an efficient way of maintaining nutrient rich soil, or a human digestive system strong enough to break down the natural but lethal plant acids, proteins, phytates, and leptins that grains contain.
Now if you consider 10,000 years not being long enough to digest grains, then it’s no wonder we are so sick when you note that there have been more changes to our diet over the past 50 years than there has been in the past 10,000. The introduction of fast-food, refined sugars and flours, vegetable oils, processed antibiotic-filled meat, soya everything, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides (to name just a few) has us riddled with allergies, learning and concentration difficulties, anxiety, depression, infertility and medical drug dependencies. These cause A LOT more trouble even in comparison to properly sourced and milled grains. A lot of the success of these ways of eating can be down to the elimination of these new age fast ‘foods’. We are supposed to be happy, fit, energetic, calm and generous people – and this is still absolutely possible.
After some time eating in this way a lot of people feel healthier and more vibrant and as such can start to reintroduce very small amounts of traditionally prepared grains and legumes back into their diets. Learn how here and here to safely prepare grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. And read here to lean more about this Traditional way of eating.
PALEO FOOD LIST
It ain’t no fad! This list is what humans have been eating for thousands of years:
MEAT: Organic, lean, grass-fed; organs and fat included and in fact even better than the meat
EGGS: Organic, grass-fed, free range
VEGETABLES: All (noting legumes can be problematic)
FATS: Animal, olive, avocado, coconut, macadamia
FRUIT: All, in moderation
NUTS AND SEEDS: All, in moderation and ideally soaked (noting peanuts are legumes)
- Avoid grains – wheat, rice, quinoa, spelt, rye, corn, millet, buckwheat, oats, bulgar, amaranth, barley
- Avoid legumes – beans, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, soya, peas
- Sweetness – raw honey and fruit and occasionally coconut sugar, molasses and maple syrup. Omit the rest.
- Limit dairy – full fat is always best. Omit the rest.
- Grass-fed, lean organic meats are better – better omega 6 to 3 ratio, more B vitamins, more vitamin E and K, more magnesium, calcium and selenium, more beta-carotene, and just as importantly: happier, healthier animals (and land)! Proper paleo eating is truly holistic; understanding and respecting the environment, treatment and natural life-cycle of all food you consume.
- Eat your veges! A common misconception about paleo eating is that it’s all about gorging on meat. High consumption of vegetables is vital and should always be the cornerstone of a meal.
- Consume natural fats and stay well clear of any hydrogenated plant based oils such as soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, peanut oil, cottonseed oil, safflower and sunflower oils – these are high in easily oxidized polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) and pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
- Realise that some of the most unhealthiest foods out there are what governments and nutritionists promote us to eat – this is mainly because years of bad science but also because of economic agendas.
- Eat when you’re hungry. It’s better to go without than to rush a meal or wolf down something that isn’t healthy. You will not starve – especially if you have followed this regime for a while and are able to feel hungry without feeling faint, sick or moody. When you eat this way you will start to source your energy from your fat stores rather than from sugar – become a fat-burner rather than a sugar-burner.
- Get inspired – there are countless websites and blogs out there with recipes and other ideas to expand your culinary horizons
- Fill up on good quality proteins and fats
- Tune into when you are thirsty and opt for fresh water to hydrate
All in all, you really can’t go wrong when eating this way. You certainly will not starve. The food choices you have are bountiful and your body will lap up all their nutrients with relish – knowing exactly what to do with each molecule. The same can certainly not be said for a bowl of cereal, can of coke, McDonalds burger or Hagandas ice-cream.
Try it out for one or two weeks – I promise you will feel better! Then start reintroducing soaked and spouted grains, it’s a whole new culinary world!
(IMG: Primal Six Pack)