Diet 101: Follow the Caveman

What more do we—21st-century humans—need to know about the so-called caveman diet? Plenty, it would seem.

The paleo diet is definitely not something new. It’s been one of the top diets for healthy lifestyles in the past five years alongside other trends like the ketogenic and mayo diets, as well as CrossFit. Heck, we even wrote about it once because it caused such a craze at the time. So, why do we feel the need to bring this up again? Well, like with many other things in life, new facts are continuously being discovered—including for what is supposedly a scientifically-proven healthy eating habit. We’ll get to the “new facts” bit later, but for now, let’s jog our memories a bit.

The most literal explanation of what paleo diet is can be derived from its name. The word “paleo” is taken from the term “paleolithic,” one of the pre-historic period of Earth and its humans—most notably Homo habilis and Homo erectus. Considered as the last period before the rise of modern humans, the Paleolithic period made way for many of humankind’s earliest habits. This includes the use of fire, advanced tools and weapons, culture, religious rituals and, of course, diet and nutrition.

The studies about what these old stone age humans ate became the basic understanding of the paleo diet. There are two basic lifestyles that defined the Paleolithic period: hunting and gathering. The invention of advanced tools and use of fire opened possibilities for more well-fed humans. They now can cut grass, weeds and trees, while also harvesting fruit and digging up roots. This then evolved further when they also invented weapons such as spears or clubs. The age of hunting came and it gave humans an important source of nutrition they never knew they needed: cooked meat. And the healthier they are, the smarter and braver they became. Human groups became larger, as did their prey—the disappearance of the wooly mammoth was thought to be due this technological upgrade.

But how does an eating habit from around three million years ago matter to us? Us as in modern humans with unlimited access to better protein, produce, nutrition and flavors? We can even create all that on our own now, through better technology beyond stone tools and fire.

“Humans during the Paleolithic period managed to push huge mammals into extinction without firearms and vehicles. They must have been in great shape back then, right?”

Well, the biggest reason would be processed foods. A lot what we consume by the boatload today are not things need by our bodies. Things like corn syrup, artificial flavorings, trans fats and dairy. Or think of it this way: Humans during the Paleolithic period managed to push huge mammals into extinction without firearms and vehicles. They must have been in great shape back then, right?

So, reinvesting your energy and maybe sacrificing your culinary enjoyment by committing to the paleo diet might be worth looking into. Adapting to this diet means keeping a strict plan of only eating foodstuffs considered as part of the paleo menu: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats and oils—all that can be obtained, stocked and harvested (in a responsible manner—let’s not forget about that) from natural sources. If it’s enough for humans that chased mammoths, it should be more than enough for us slacking modern urbanites. And it did. Many reports stated that the paleo diet has been helpful in treating conditions like diabetes and heart disease while increasing immunity levels.

And now we’ve come to the latest development in paleo diet, all thanks to the latest findings by modern archaeologists, which is that one thing that most people on a diet have always had a love-hate relationship with: carbs. Yes, recent studies showed that in order for Homo habilis and Homo erectus to survive and reproduce, they needed enough carbohydrates in their daily meals. Glucose is very significant for humans to be operational on day-to-day activities and it’s even more important for the brain development in a growing fetus.

There was no way that humans could have lived through the Paleolithic period (while hunting giant furry elephants), if all they consumed were meat and beans. While there’s no way that they could have farmed rice, wheat or corn, they could have obtained of carbs from roots and tubers. In conclusion, celebrate the fact that you can now incorporate a little starchy goodness into your paleo diet plan.