Beginners Guide to the Caveman Diet
The caveman, or Paleolithic, diet is a food philosophy and fad that was popularized by the book The Paleo Diet, written by Loren Cordain in 2002. Popularly referred to as the Paleo diet, this diet encourages one to make food choices based on what was available for our early hunter-gatherer ancestors. It remains one of the most popular diets of this century so far and encourages one to think about food in a new way.
The Philosophy of the Caveman Diet
The book and its fans stipulate that if one modeled their lifestyle after the same diet and level of exercise as a Stone Age individual, one would lead a healthier existence. This philosophy may be complex in its details, but it’s simple and easy to remember in its initial practice. This is perhaps why it is so popular: it’s emphasized as a long-term lifestyle choice rather than a strict diet with a harsh set of rules. One can simply ask oneself whether cavemen had this particular food item available or the level of effort they needed to put in to attain that food item, then eat accordingly.
What Foods Should Be Avoided
This diet leads the crusade against processed foods. There are many foods that were most likely never consumed by humans before the advent of agriculture, and those are excluded, too. They include dairy products, complex grains, starchy veggies and fruits, processed oils (like vegetable oil), legumes like beans, sugars, salt, and many different types of beverages, like coffee, tea, and alcohol. The diet completely cuts out foods that have been highly processed, and that includes everything from cakes to crackers to French fries to cheeses. For instance, a classic Italian-American meal of pasta and marinara sauce is not caveman-like at all, so it’s not allowed.
What Foods Can Be Eaten
Focus on what may have been available for our ancestors and one can come up with a shorter list of non-processed foods that were available if one hunted and gathered in the wild. Hunter-gatherers didn’t have time to bake, season, or extensively prepare foods. They grabbed what was available and ate it or heated it up over a fire and then ate it. Lean meats and seafood are encouraged, leading the diet to have a higher amount of protein and “good” fat intake than other diets. Also allowed are high-fiber fruits and veggies. Certain nuts, berries, and leafy greens are encouraged as well.
Criticisms of the Diet
Like with any food fad, this lifestyle is not without its criticisms. Some of them are centered around the historical accuracy of the supposed diet of Stone Age people. For instance, there is a huge variance in diet depending on the geographic region of one’s ancestors. And food decisions are being based on assumptions of a group we hardly know anything about; Stone Age people didn’t exactly leave cookbooks lying around at archeological sites. They may have been consuming dairy, cheeses, grains, and breads much easier than caveman-dieters think. Other complaints have to do with evolution and the fact that human beings have evolved a great deal in the past 10,000 years. Our stomachs have adapted and changed to suit our diets over time. Lastly, the lack of carbs and dairy can be damaging if not carefully monitored, especially for certain groups like children and teens.
Who Would Benefit From This Diet
Who would make a great caveman? Because one cuts out complex starches and other glucose-related foods with this diet, certain diseases can be controlled more effectively. Also, this lifestyle is perfect for one looking for a low-carb diet that’s behavior-based and more forgiving. The best part of the Paleolithic/caveman diet is that it forces one to think about foods in a new way. So, for those looking for a long-term lifestyle change rather than simply a strict set of rules one must dedicate themselves to, the caveman diet is perfect.
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Summer Banks has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.