A healthy diet is so easy a caveman could do it

Kyle Kranz

Kyle Kranz

Usually it’s anthropology buffs studying the diet and life style of the ancient men and women of our past. However, more recently a new kind of buff has been focusing on our ancestors in Europe and Asia, the fitness and health buff. Why is this group now looking toward the cave man?

The main reason is that the Paleolithic human did not get fat. What was their secret? Many believe it was their diet, now commonly called the Paleo Diet. Over the last decade especially, there has grown a very strong following for this ancient nutrition plan.

This diet is based off of the presumed dietary patterns of humans during the 2.5 million year Paleolithic period, which ended 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture. Their diet was believed to mainly contain lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and roots. This excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, and processed sugar. Many believe that modern man is genetically adapted to the more natural diet followed by our Paleolithic ancestors, and thus our ideal diet should be similar.

What are the benefits of the Paleo Diet? It avoids many foods recently introduced to humans. Agriculture and animal domestication may have been great for society, but it also may have made us overweight and sick. The industrial revolution led to the introduction of many refined cereal, oils, and sugar, as well as fattier meat sources. These new staples in the modern diet have higher glycemic loads, lower macro and micro nutrient compositions, less fiber content, more sodium content, and higher fat compared to the Paleolithic era diet. These changes and modern dietary practices are some of the main risk factors in “diseases of civilization”, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and more. Basically everything we die from.

I like the Paleo Diet because it feels very raw and real. For us modern humans, the diet focuses on eating grass-fed beef and as much organic food as you can find. If it cannot be found in nature, it’s not food, and you do not eat it. Just because you can eat an Oreo does not make it food, it’s more accurately referred to as a food-like substance.

There may be issues with the Paleo Diet as well. The main one is we really do not know how our ancestors ate. Assumptions can be made, but no one can know for sure. It is true that our ancestors appear to have not suffered from diseases of modern man. However, this is also likely due to their eating much fewer calories, less pollution in the environment and food, and their shorter average life. Paleo Diet followers argue that the last 10,000 years of eating cereal and grain is an insufficient amount of time to adapt to such a pattern. And of course there are many who argue the opposite, and state that it is plenty of time to evolve and adapt.

However, there is little question that the Paleo Diet is a better option than the SAD (Standard American Diet). It is a great way to lose or maintain weight. It’s high in lean meat and vegetables. Cutting out grains is one of the quickest ways to drop pounds. Just as eating high amounts of the grain group from the Food Guide Pyramid is one of the easiest methods to gain weight, look at our society. Low amounts of fruit and vegetables and high amounts of grain.

If you are interested in moving toward a more natural, less processed, and healthier eating pattern, there are many resources available for the Paleo Diet. My first read was The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Dr. Loren Cordain and Coach Joe Friel. The website www.RobbWolf.com is a hub of Paleo knowledge and information, as well as his book The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.

Kyle is a senior majoring in nutrition. View his blog at RunningOnTheWhiteLine.com