Did cavemen have the perfect diet?

The Paleolithic diet, which became very popular at the beginning of the 21st century, is based on the idea that our prehistoric ancestors ate a better and healthier diet during the Paleolithic era when food was all about hunting and gathering.

The person who started the fad of the “caveman” diet is Dr. Loren Cordain, a professor at the Colorado State University’s Department of Health and Exercise Science and author of The Paleo Diet book, which has a widespread following.

According to Dr. Cordain, the healthiest and most natural diet is the one which humans ate during the old stone age era, which was 2.6 million years ago up until 10.000 BC. The rationale behind the Paleo Diet is that people then ate only whatever they could find naturally in nature – thus berries, herbs, fish, meat and other vegetables or animals which were not cultivated or domesticated.

The proof that this diet is healthier than the diet of the 21st century, according to Dr. Cordain is the healthy condition of the very few remaining hunters and gatherers on earth – the Kitavans and the Masai for example. The Kitavans are the native population of the small island of Kitava in Papua New Guinea, and it has been found that their diet has not been affected by the Western world, and according to studies, this is the most probable reason for the fact that the Kitava population has practically no cases of acne, blood pressure problems, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia and obesity or even being overweight.

Research has shown that the Kitava population’s diet consists mainly of; tubers, such as yam or sweet potato, fresh fruit such as papaya, banana, mango, water melon and pineapples, as well as fish and coconuts. The local intake of coffee, dairy products or alcohol or tea is almost zero. And the consumption of oils, sugars, cereals and grains is very low, as is the overall consumption of fat.

The Maasai too are a semi nomadic group of the native population in Kenya and Tanzania in Africa. The traditional diet of the Maasai tribe consists of: milk, honey, tree bark and cow’s blood, as well as meat (Beef, goat and mutton). They didn’t eat meat from wild animals, chicken, fish and salt was forbidden. Today, the diet has become slightly more modernized and the tribe has turned to eating ostriches and Guinea fowl.

Even though, our cavemen ancestors as well as these primitive tribes, had a much lower life expectancy than the people living and eating in the modern world, this is mainly due to the advanced medical technologies and pharmaceuticals which we have now. The problem is, that since the old Stone age, the genome of the human beings has not changed that much, and even though there are some newly evolved enzymes, which allow humans to break down starch or dairy, it is not that clear whether the human organism has yet adapted to breaking down the junk food and processed foods we are surrounded by.

Dr.Cordain claims that eating like a caveman will lead to a general improvement of the health and wellbeing and will reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes, slow down or shut down autoimmune conditions and diseases, improve mental health, increase the libido and energy levels and generally improve life.

According to the founder of the Paleo Diet, it is as healthy as can be, and people who follow it are urged to eat only natural and unprocessed foods, such as: meat, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds as well as some healthy oils, and rarely tubers such as sweet potatoes. Of course, eating processed foods is out of the question, so there is a lot of food preparing and cooking involved in this diet.

Some people are against the complete exclusion of high fat foods and the starches from the diet, and claim that the meal plan of a person following the Paleo diet should in fact consume about 10% of high-fat dairy such as cheese, butter or cream to their diet, and also to keep in mind the fact that lean and healthy people with a healthy diet can have some occasional starches without experiencing the harmful issues which many people do.

The truth is, the human diet should be made up of foods and ingredients to which the human body has adapted to during the centuries and ages of evolution, rather than to the brand new fad diets such as the low-fat and grain-based diet which was introduced relatively recently without any proof that it is healthy for the human organisms.

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2 thoughts on “Did cavemen have the perfect diet?

  1. Paleo is not about losing weight, eating low-carb, eating no-carb, glorifying meat (or awful factory farming methods), spending a lot of money, telling people they have to go and kill their own dinner, or pretending we know everything about paleolithic man and trying to recreate their entire life.

    Paleo is about eating (and enjoying) delicious food, not counting calories, finding freedom from negative food behaviours, sleeping more, caring about the environment, prioritizing health, being curious and open minded, exercising/being active because you want to you be (not because you think you should be), enjoying indulgences like a glass of wine good quality chocolate, not feeling guilt or shame around food (which SO many people counting calories/macros/points/portions etc do), not judging others for their food choices and being compassionate, and knowing there is no one perfect diet.

  2. I think it’s important to recognize that paleolithic people would not have had access to fruit year round but only certain times of year. And the fruit they would have had access to would probably be unrecognizable today as our modern fruit has been super hybridized and engineered to big bigger, juicier, sweeter etc.

    Primitive fruit would have been quite tart, sour and almost bitter. If you’ve ever eaten a raw crab apple off a wild tree you’ll be able to relate!

    The sugar content of paleolithic fruit would only be at it’s highest when it was super ripe as well leaving a very small window of when sweet/higher sugar fruit would be consumed. Find the wildest, purest forms of fruit you can if possible.

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