If you’re familiar with the term “hunter-gatherer”, then you might be familiar with the eating habits of our ancestors, the Palaeolithic humans. The Palaeolithic way of eating has now become the influence for another health craze sweeping many a nation, the Paleo diet.
What is it?
To under stand the diet, you first need to understand the origin. The word “Paleo”
refers to the very old or ancient, relating to the geological past during the era of the “Palaeolithic”. The “Palaeolithic” era was a prehistoric time period when humans first learnt how to develop tools and hunt for food, as well as gather vegetables and fruits from plants in the area, hence the term “Hunter-gatherer”.
The diet today is based on the eating habits of humans during this era. Although we have to consider that the food available to humans of the Palaeolithic era varied greatly based on the geographical location of their home lands. They did not have the luxuries we have today, of fast transport or refrigeration.
There are a few types of Paleo diets, but for the most part they restrict or cut out the consumption of dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, processed oils, salt, alcohol, coffee and any processed or chemically enhanced foods. Strict Paleo diets ban the consumption of basically all foods after the beginning of the “Neolithic period“, which is the shift from the hunter-gatherer civilization to the establishment of agricultural settlements.
Dr. Walter Voegtlin was a gastroenterologist who argued in his book “The stone age diet“, published in 1975 that the differences in man’s and herbivore’s physical makeup does not allow us to adapt to an all plant-based diet, specifically that of a carbohydrate rich grain diet and dairy product diet.
More recently, world leading expert in the diet of stone age (Palaeolithic) humans, Dr. Loren Cordain has been arguing that the current daily diet of humans has led to the occurrence of such diseases as cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, hyperinsulinemic disease and even acne!
What are the health benefits?
There have been some studies done to help prove the worth and health benefits of a Paleo style diet. Results of these studies concluded that when compared to a standard low-fat diet that many people would use in order to lose weight, a Paleo diet is more effective. Over a 2 year period, 70 obese postmenopausal women were tested and the results showed that on average the Paleo group of women lost 4.6 kg, where as the women on the normal low-fat diet only managed to lose on average 2.9 kg.
A separate study done showed that despite increasing the amount of Paleo snacks given to the test subjects to prevent them from losing weight, they actually continued to lose weight. Showing that you do not need to eat smaller portions in order to decrease your weight.
A Paleo diet can also lead to healthier cells, a healthier brain, an increase build up of muscle, a reduction in fat, and improvement in gut health, digestion and absorption.
Over all there is evidence to support that a Paleo diet improves a person’s ability to combat diabetes, cardiovascular disease and weight loss more than a healthy carbohydrate based diet.
One of the most important thing for people following the path of the Paleo is that they support the use of quality produce. Grass fed beef, wild game meats, pastured animal meats and wild caught seafood.
What’s the down side?
Through my research I came across some different forms of the Paleo diet. For some people the fact that the this diet is based on what we assume people during the Palaeolithic era ate, there seems to be a lack of structure as to what people can and can not eat. Take dairy for example. We can eat a cow, because it is meat and during the Palaeolithic era they ate meat, but the milk and cheese that comes from a cow, is off-limits, right? Wrong? in some forms of the Paleo diet it is okay to eat certain types of dairy. In the ‘strict” Paleo diet, you can not eat any form of dairy. In the “normal” Paleo diet you can eat ghee and grass-fed butter. In the “Primal” version of the Paleo diet you can eat yogurt, grass-fed butter, aged cheeses and raw milk. This is just an example of what I was able to find, the differences vary widely, so you have to make a decision before starting down the path of the Paleo, what type of diet do you want to follow?
The fact that the diet varies, makes it quiet confusing and difficult to follow long-term for some people. Some people also argue that the digestive system of people today has evolved since the Palaeolithic era and we no longer have a need to live on such an archaic diet.
Another negative is that in the Paleo diet you are allowed to eat meat. While some of the diet plans regulate the amount you eat, the others leave the choice up to you. Some people my take advantage of this free choice and choose to go over board with the meat. We need to take in to consideration that back during the Palaeolithic era they were hunters. Which meant spending many hours stalking, walking, running and hunting! This type of physical exercise came hand in hand with the consumption of meat. However, if you consider people today. How many people actually hunt for their meat? The fact of the matter is, meat is quiet easy to come by and you really don’t have to do much physical exertion to get it. Another point to consider if you are thinking about doing the Paleo diet is that hunting is a hit and miss (pun intended) type of activity. Some days you will get a big hit and you can feast, other days you might miss and go without meat for a day, two days or even longer.
What’s my take on it all?
I actually love the idea of the Paleo diet. It seems to be the most holistic of the ones I have been researching. Well, to certain extent. It really depends on what type of paleo diet you go for. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t think I could ever be 100% vegetarian. I love meat too much, so this would be a great type of diet for myself, but the only other things I love as much as meat is….. Cheese! So the paleo diet doesn’t really help me out there that much.
The main thing that I do love about this way of eating, is how it takes into consideration the life of the animal. Only allowing people to select animals that have led a good life, a healthy life. As a meat eater, I am a firm believer in quality over quantity. Another thing that I really want to do, but haven’t had the chance to yet, is go hunting. Now, I don’t mean trophy hunting. I think that type of hunting is beyond barbaric and only serves to pump up egotistical degenerates with a superiority complex. All of nature should be respected! I want to go hunting to find food. Learn what it was like for our Palaeolithic brethren. The struggles, the triumphs and the way that they didn’t disregard any piece of the animal. That’s the type of hunting I am talking about. And, if you are a meat eater and you are reading this, I would highly recommend considering going hunting yourself. If you choose to eat meat, you have a responsibility to learn where it comes from and be a part of the whole experience. We lead a life of luxury compared to people back in the hunter – gatherer era and I believe that stepping back in time to experience life as it once was, is an essential part of learning who we are as people and understanding our place here on Earth.
Wow. I never thought talking about the Paleo diet would make me go all philosophical! So in a nut shell. I love the idea of this diet, the values it represents and for people who live in the country with a vast amount of fresh produce and the ability to go hunting on a daily/weekly basis, it would be great. Unfortunately for us city dwellers, it’s a little logistically complicated and again, it comes down to cost. Unfortunately we live in a world where to buy organic meat and produce is more expensive than the alternative, so for many people it would be hard to adhere to the values the Paleo diet stands for. Having said that, if you have the ability to give it a go, I would recommend trying it!
And there it is, your weekly food for thought!
Foreign 2 Food.