My fascination with the Paleo lifestyle was sparked at an early age; I have always been drawn to that side of humanity and world history. I remember, every Saturday morning watching “Daniel Boone” or, ”Land of the Lost” on television. My imagination would run wild; I longed for those simpler days. Life seemed so black and white, so much clearer. My primal fixation continued into college, resulting in 4 years of archeology and many books and hours of research.
That was over ten years ago. My pursuits have continued, becoming ever more refined. The following is a work in progress, of but a sliver of my Paleo-Logic Lifestyle outline………….enjoy.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors and pre-agricultural people consumed foods that were easy to gather and edible in their raw state. They used minimal technology - other than sharpened digging sticks to gather food, and processed it very little - if at all. Yet their diets were rich with vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and nuts. They consumed five to ten times more fiber than we do, more protein, and YES - MORE FAT.
Their dietary fiber came in part from fruits and no starchy vegetables, which made up a larger portion of their diet than it does ours. Our modern versions have been hybridized to increase sugar and starch content at the expense of fiber. They consumed a higher quality of protein as well - more fish, leaner meat, and more nuts.
The dietary difference between us is based on the fact that our food sources changed dramatically when we became herders and farmers. As our now tamed population expanded, we increasingly supplanted animal protein with plant-source protein, and wild nutrient dense plant foods with starch. We made this shift at the expense of fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts; ironically, these are the foods most “authorities” now advise us to consume.
The most drastic dietary change was a skyrocketing increase in complex carbs (starch) consumption. Starch has become the foundation of our modern diet, whereas our ancestors consumed nearly none. The only wild starch available to them was from tubers and the seeds of wild grasses - both of which were seasonal, small, and fibrous, making them painstaking to gather and prepare. The same is true of sugars. The almost starch-free diet of our ancestors was the primary reason for their exemplary health; they suffered almost no obesity, no diabetes, and no immune disorders (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, tooth decay, osteoporosis, and appendicitis).
We can live our entire lives healthily without starch, but without fat we would become dangerously ill in a matter of weeks. Humans have but one hormone (insulin) to control (spike) blood sugar levels caused by starch; we have four hormones to raise blood sugar level, which traditionally remains low when fed by slowly digested fat. These traits suggest that our bodies more easily metabolize fat rather than starch.
Insulin was one of the first hormones to evolve in mammals. Almost all animals secrete insulin as a means of storing excess nutrients. It makes sense, that in an environment where food was often scarce or not available for long periods of time; our bodies would become so incredibly efficient. How ironic, that it’s not fat that gets stored as fat – but starch.
Conventional thinking would have us cringe at the thought of eating fat and avoiding starch. Fear of obesity and cardio-vascular disease loom like razor-edged rocks before a rubber raft. HOWEVER, new findings by health specialists suggest that consuming fat does not make us fat — starch does. Because we metabolize fat slowly and efficiently, we burn it quite completely. Starch breaks down rapidly and floods the system with calories. The body’s inability to burn them off as fast as they are metabolized triggers an immune response, and the body deals with it by storing the excess as body fat.
It’s the quality rather than the quantity of fat we consume that affects the cardio-vascular system. The fats of fish and wild game actually help prevent heart disease; they have a healthy ratio of oils. Surveys of primitive natural diets point out that - the higher the consumption of these valuable fats, the lower the presence of many common diseases.
Vegetable, seed, and legume oils were not part of our ancestral diet, so we did not develop the capacity to healthily absorb them. Nut and fruit oils (olive and coconut) for example, are part of our food history and remain healthy.
Because the Paleo-diet is not a philosophy or list of principles, but an outline of foods our pre-agricultural ancestors ate, recently-evolved food crops on which agricultural society are based are not included. Grains, legumes, and dairy foods, for example, often are major ingredients of our present-day diet. However, they played minor roles in our ancestors’ nutrition. Grains and legumes, and most tubers contain toxic properties, which protect them from being eaten. They were not consumed by our ancestors and we don’t have the capacity to digest them properly. It is curious that corn, wheat, legumes (including soy and peanuts), and dairy are our most common food allergies.
Our systems are stressed by these "indigestible" foods because we have not yet adapted to the starch that agriculture has imposed on us. We are only 400 or fewer generations removed from our foraging ancestors, and genetically, we’re almost identical with them. Our bodies want what they ate. (Our pets suffer from these foods as well, and for similar reasons. The cancer rate in dogs is skyrocketing, and dogs are afflicted with some of the same autoimmune diseases that inflict us.)
Of course in this day it is not practical for all of us to return to a fare of wild foraged foods. Our lifestyles wouldn’t allow that, nor would our crowded Earth. But we can follow the principle with the foods available to us. Obviously, we’re looking at an entirely new concept in food shopping! But don’t let that trouble you; the diet is quite easy to reproduce without dramatically altering your routine.
The following tips should help get you started:
1. Buy organic if possible; choose free-range over grain-fed beef.
2. Shop the outside edges of the supermarket. There you’ll find - fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats. The processed foods to be AVOIDED - grains and beans - are conveniently reserved to the middle aisles.
3. Choose foods that are edible in their raw state, even if you plan to cook them.
4. Select foods and proportions within the categories of the Paleo-Logic Lifestyle Food Pyramid (pictured below).
5. Seek out new foods. The more varied your diet the more interesting and satisfying it will be.
6. Choose fish that is not pond-raised. Wild-caught salmon for example, has twice the omega 3 fatty acids of their farm-raised counterparts.
7. Eat a large portion of your food raw or lightly cooked.
8. Change your diet slowly to allow your body to adjust. If diarrhea, bloating or gas occurs, eat greens for a couple of days, and then slowly add meat, nuts, and fruit - in that order.
Drinks: Water, unsweetened tea, herbal teas, and moderate fruit juices (high in fructose) - fresh squeezed and organic if possible.
Dairy: In moderation - raw, fermented, high fat are preferred; cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream, cheeses, and milk.
Eggs: Organic preferred for high omega 3s.
Oils and Fats: Olive oil, avocado, coconuts, sesame, sunflower/safflower, palm, hemp, butter, and cod liver.
Meats - Fowl and Fish: Organic, free-range, hormone and dye free, and wild if possible; beef, veal, lamb, pork, wild game, chicken, turkey, duck, quail, lobster, crab, crayfish, salmon, trout, tuna, sardines……any form of road kill.
Fruits: Fresh, locally grown, organic, in-season fruits preferred, as well as all berries. When buying soft-skinned fruits, choose only organic. Apples, cherries, pears, peaches, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, bananas, avocados, plums, olives, mangoes, figs, and pineapple, oranges, grapefruit, limes, lemons, papaya…… and any other fruit eaten fresh.
Vegetables: Locally grown, organic, and in-season; lettuce, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, cauliflower, flowers, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, parsley, celery, carrots, onions, mushrooms, greens, radish, leek, dandelion, Brussels sprouts, artichoke and any other plant edible in its raw state.
Herbs and Spices: High anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune supporting; mint, basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, fennel, garlic, onion, cloves, cinnamon, and saffron.
Treats: Dark chocolate (high - 70% + cacao), dried fruits.
Nuts and Seeds: Great snacks, filling, high-fat and omega 3. Almond, peanut, pistachio, pecan etc.
Snacks: jerky, celery w/cream cheese or nut butters, cottage cheese, canned tuna, sardines, nuts, berries, hard-boiled eggs, trail mix, homemade protein bars.
Tubers and Rice: Yams or sweet potatoes in moderation. Wild rice may also be consumed in moderation. Starchy veggies are good for highly active athletes who need the extra carbs.
Misc. Lifestyle Tips: Fast one day a week if possible. Sprint. Play. Club an enemy over the head. Follow your instincts and let your body be your guide.
Audette, Ray, and Troy Gilchrist, NeanderThin: Eat Like a Caveman to Achieve a Lean, Strong, Healthy Body, 1999.
Dunmire, William, and Gail Tierney, Wild Plants and Native Peoples of the Four Corners, 1997.
Eades, Michael R., M.D. and Mary Dan Eades, M.D., Protein Power, 1995.
Jamison, Richard, and Linda Jamison, Woodsmoke, 1994.
Pottenger, Francis M., M.D., Pottenger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition, 1983.
Price, Weston A. D.D.S., Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 1989.
Schmid, Ronald F., Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine: Improving Health and Longevity with Native Nutrition, 1997.