Ancestral diet, caveman diet, stone-age diet, hunter-gather diet, paleo (read paleolithic) diet – all of these labels carry a similar focus being a return to a simpler, less processed diet that mimics closely what our ancestors ate. Why? Because the modern Western diet is making so many people sick. Obesity, cancer, diabetes, auto-immune diseases are all massively on the rise and something is going wrong. If you truly are what you eat then the modern foods we stick down our gullets are making us ill.
In a nutshell, the paleo diet aims to imitate what the earliest humans consumed before the invention of modern agriculture and the wide-spread cultivation of grains. The diet is based on the premise that we are biologically adapted to eat what our ancestors did and our genes have not had a chance to adapt to new foods introduced through farming 10 000 or so years ago. Simply put, it is the diet that nature intended for us. The proponents would argue that when we “restore our diet to one for which we are genetically adapted, chronic illnesses and diseases with obscure or currently unknown causes improve or completely disappear”. (Cordain, 2011)
There is a heavy focus on grass-fed, pasture raised meat (eating animals that have been fed what nature intend, not grain, soy or corn or even ground up bits of their dead relatives!); eggs, seafood, a large variety of vegetables, healthy fats (butter, coconut oil, olive oil, lard) and limited amount of fresh fruit and nuts.
What’s out are the refined, industrially processed modern vegetable oils like margarine, canola or cottonseed oils that are high in unhealthy Omega 6, are highly heat unstable and have been processed to the nth degree. All grains (wheat, rye, barley, soy, corn etc), legumes and sugar are out as well. Dairy is also not included by strict followers of the Paleo Diet however can be included in the Primal Diet, which is what I follow.
Given most processed foods contain grains, sugars and industrially processed oils, naturally these foods are a no-go as well. On the Primal Diet plan some dairy can be had provided you can tolerate it, possibly some white rice and potatoes, if you are an athlete and not trying to lose weight!
As I read more on the subject, the more I realise the importance of what fuels my body. To find out more about the paleo / primal lifestyle, and to see what the experts have to say, I strongly suggest having a look at the following web pages. Mark’s Daily Apple is the one that has provided me with the most useful information. The success stories there have truly inspired me.
A great paleo resource for parents is:
Stacey’s success story and recipes have really motivated me to feed my children the best food and diet I possibly can.
What does it take to go Primal? Commitment. You need to devote more time to planning and preparing meals, especially for breakfast which was the area for me I found hardest to change. I mean, it honestly is just so easy to pop a piece of bread in the toast and smother it with jam. (And alas, tasty too). Also, an interest in cooking would help. I love my slow cooker and Pinterest has been my god send! There are so many fantastic recipes out there if you are willing to look. In my case, having an auto-immune disease as well as the last few baby kilos to lose is my real motivator!
It really is possible to give up the bread and pasta, one you get into it you don’t miss it (well most of the time anyway). And as the author of the Primal Lifestyle, Mark Sisson’s suggests, if you follow the diet 80% of the time you can still treat yourself occasionally! Hooray!
Good luck if you are on the journey, I wish you well!
* This blog is for educational purposes only. Statements on this page have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult you physician before starting any exercise program or changing dietary habits. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is not a substitute for a medical exam, nor does it replace the need for services or counsel provided by medical professionals.*