Our Paleolithic Ancestors Knew How to Eat
Depending on what part of the planet they lived, the majority of hunter/gatherers got the majority of their calories from animal protein and fat (this is slightly modified in areas where fat consumption came from a lot of coconuts). The greatest volume in their diet, again with some exceptions like the Inuit, was vegetation. They ate an astonishing diversity of plant life. This diet was rich in vitamins, minerals, micro and macronutrients, and our bodies evolved to eat this way. Our bodies did not evolve to eat grains, legumes, seed oils, soy anything, processed foods, high-fructose corn syrup, McDonald’s French fries, beer, and doughnuts.
The foundation of hunter/gatherer diets is simple: animal protein and fat, vegetables, certain plant-based fats, nuts and seeds, fruits, and lots of water. As modern H/G, we may also wish to include moderate amounts of dark chocolate, coffee, tea, and/or alcohol. Much of this depends on your personal goals, and your genetics, epigenetics, environment, and existing health challenges.
Why We Should Eat This Way
Our H/G ancestors instinctively knew more about nutrition that we do today. Their survival depended on it. I could take a break right now and give you a few scary statistics. In fact, I think I will. By the year 2030, according to the American Diabetes Association, one in three Americans will have diabetes. By the year 2020, 85 percent of Americans will be overweight or obese (we’re at 75 percent right now). In Colorado, roughly half of the population is overweight and we are the skinniest state in the nation. Health problems? Yeah, we got ‘em. Heart disease, cancer, epidemic levels of gastrointestinal illnesses, rising rates of autoimmune disease, diabetes, depression, and on and on – all related to inflammation, coming back around to unhealthy dietary choices.
Jettison the USDA’s Food Pyramid/Plate Before it Kills You
To change, we have to first accept that maybe we are doing something wrong. Since the low-fat revolution 30 years ago, Americans have only gotten fatter. Since the advent of processed food 60 years ago, Americans have only gotten fatter. Feedlot beef, farmed fish, 12 servings of “healthy grains” a day, fast food, a building boom in health and fitness centers, diet programs, bariatric weight loss surgery, pharmaceutical companies made rich selling drugs for lifestyle diseases – through it all, Americans keep getting fatter, unhealthier, and unhappier.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average weight for men aged 20-74 years old rose dramatically from 166.3 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002, while the average weight for women the same age increased from 140.2 pounds in 1960 to 164.3 pounds in 2002. Just in the last 10 years, the CDC estimates that number may have crept up between 5 and 10 more pounds.
Need a couple more statistics? One in five women over the age of 50 has osteoporosis (and we pop more calcium pills than any other country in the world); half of women over age 50 will suffer a fracture; one in five American women is on an antidepressant. It’s predicted that after years of ever increasing life expectancy, the generation of children being born now will have a shorter lifespan than their parents.
A Change Will Do You Good
You can change your life and you can help change the lives of the people around you – your partners, your children, and your friends. But right now, you have to start with yourself. Let’s leave all the gloom and doom behind and get started on making you lean, strong, energized, happy and healthy! You will have to have a lot of conviction because you won’t get a lot of support from the government (fats are bad!), your doctor (eat more whole grains!), or your family (red meat kills!).
Here are four principles that help me in keeping a Paleo kitchen and attitude:
- In order to eat well, you must cook.
- Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.
- The Paleolithic lifestyle is not a historical reenactment of how our ancestors lived, but rather a foundation upon which to build health and wellness for modern human beings.
- If you can eliminate the Four Horsemen of the Dietary Apocalypse from your diet, the rest is just tinkering around the edges – grains and legumes, linoleic acids, dairy, and refined sugars.
When I hear the so-called health experts repeat the mantra “Paleo is too hard and people won’t do it,” I scoff. When people discover how amazing they can feel and how healthy they can be, Paleo just becomes part of their normal lives.