Are You Eating Like A Caveman (or woman)?
During the Paleolithic Age (which extends from the earliest known use of stone tools, probably 2.6million years ago, to the end of the Pleistocene era at around 10,000 BC) humans of course ate what they could get. The diet and lifestyle of the time allowed the human genetic makeup to evolve in such a way as to maximize our ability to survive. Out of this history our bodies are now made to eat certain foods. The typical Paleolithic diet contained between 2 and 5 times as much nutrients when compared to today. How is this possible? First off all - the caveman would obviously not have eaten processed foods. Potato chips, breads, breakfast bars etc. wouldn’t have been a part of their diets. They of course ate a completely unprocessed diet.
They definitely ate fruit. Several of the fruits we eat today have been around for thousands of years pretty much as they exist today. Plums, figs, pears, grapes, apples and olives date back to the Paleolithic era or earlier. Grapes have in fact been around for at least seven million years. Apples date back beyond 30,000 years. Oranges and various berries grew in certain parts of the world. Even though none of these are identical to what we eat today, they would be perfectly edible to us. Some fruits like dates, figs, and pears that were around back then, have changed. We have engineered them to make them larger and sweeter.
Since farming had not been invented there would have been no grain (or very little) or corn in their diet. These items are a staple today of course. Given that there was no livestock they would not have had access to milk or cheese. Game animals however, would have been eaten as often as they could secure such a meal. Unlike today their meat would have been totally free of hormones and antibiotics however.
The caveman also ate vegetables. But the vegetables they ate would have been very different from the ones we eat today. Most of the vegetables that we consume today have undergone profound changes. For example roughly 10,000 years ago we took a green, leafy plant that was called the brassicas and began to transform it into what is now broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts and kale. Carrots were around but they were different (possibly purple in color). The greens we eat today are largely invented by man. Ancient man also ate certain plants that we generally don’t commonly eat today. For example there is evidence that ancient man included plants like ferns in their diet.
Quite simply they hunted and they gathered. Therefore their diet would have included fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and meats.
Most of the carbohydrates they ate came from fruits and vegetables. All would of course have been wild. Back then they didn’t farm and they lacked pesticides. Pesticides affect the soil in such a way that fruits and vegetables today often contain fewer minerals than those the caveman would have found in the wild.
It is estimated that their diet was made up of two-thirds plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds and the rest came from lean meat and fish. Given this apparently healthy diet why did the caveman only live an average of about 18 years? Especially if their diet was so much healthier than ours? One has to keep in mind the way they typically died. Viruses, bacteria and frequent battle with predators were what typically did them in. What normally did not kill them were dietary inflammatory diseases such as heart attacks, cancer and diabetes. Today we have vastly cut down on deaths from viral and bacterial sources but we have replaced those will new diet related health concerns. If one wanted to try to emulate the approximate diet of the caveman – one way to start would be to avoid the following:
- Potatoes (they have been around for less than 11,000 years).
- Cereal grains (rice, wheat, barley, corn).
- Dairy products.
- Refined sugar products.
- Most alcohol; especially distilled.
- Modern fruits bred for high sugar content.
- Large amounts of salt (at least for those not living near the sea).
- Foods that require cooking (the caveman generally ate everything raw).
Here are some other things the caveman typically ate:
- The diet was higher in protein than ours, since we tend to eat lots of carbs and our meat is typically grain fed rather than grass fed (grass fed meat has a higher ratio of protein to fat)
- Even though the meat was lean, the caveman was able to obtain needed fat, since he ate much more of the animal, including the organs, bone marrow, tongue, eyeballs. The fat from these sources is less saturated than the fat you find in the cuts of beef generally available today.
- Cavemen living near water would be able to get lots of protein and therefore a high protein to fat ratio.
- Fruits and berries were available seasonally. Today of course fruits and berries are readily available but the breeding has produced today's very sweet offerings. The caveman fruits had considerably less sugar than what you find in today's fruit.
- Grain (grasses) may have been eaten in small quantities occasionally - but the amounts were miniscule compared to what most people eat today.
- Nuts were often available and provided a good source of protein and fat.
- Root vegetables, like carrots, turnips, parsnips and rutabagas were available – so they had plenty of fiber in their diet.
- They ate eggs when they could find them.
~ Bon Appetit