Whoa, I know. The title on this post, am I right? I can almost hear your thoughts now…
“But wait, isn’t she a paleo blogger? Doesn’t she promote a paleolithic diet? Now she’s saying I SHOULDN’T eat like a caveman?”
Before you jump to any conclusions, hear me out. Because I’m not joking. I really, truly don’t think we should be aspiring to eat like cavemen. Let me explain.
If I had a nickel for each time a skeptic asked me whether I enjoyed gnawing on mammoth bones, or each time a truly curious person asked me if eating paleo meant I couldn’t cook my food…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t need to have ads on this site.
To many, the paleo diet is just another weird fad with strange, rigid rules. Far too many view paleo as an attempt to eat only what cavemen ate.
It’s this view that caused the mainstream media to call a recent study that suggested cavemen ate starches, tubers and even some grains the “nail in the coffin” of the paleo diet (more on that later…I need to take a few deep breaths before tackling that topic).
If you ask me, all this caveman talk is old news (literally). It’s stale, and I’m over it. Instead, I have a new proposal. Let’s quit trying to eat like a caveman, and try instead to eat like a much more recent ancestor: your great-great grandmother, perhaps.
While the “great-great grandmother diet” may not be as catchy and flashy as the “caveman diet,” it’s much more accurate.
The fact is, it wasn’t the discovery of fire or a change from hand-made stone tools to Le Creuset that turned human health upside down. No, that was the result of a much more recent evolution: the move from a food system that valued and relied on local agriculture and well-raised livestock to today’s industrialized, chemical-ridden food production system.
We don’t have to go all the way back to the time of early man to find a diet that promotes overall health. We need only look to our ancestors from a few generations back.
Even 100 years ago, the majority of humans purchased vegetables from a local market that was sourced by local farmers. Many bought their vegetables from the farms themselves or got them from their own backyards. No matter where this produce was purchased, it was purchased in-season. Canning, fermenting and other preservation methods were used to eat fresh produce throughout the winter.
Meats, too, were bought at the local farm or supplied by the town’s butcher. You knew what was in your meat…because the only ingredient was MEAT. Pink slime? No such thing.
Frankly, declining human health is a recent enough phenomenon that it’s not even included in today’s history textbooks. But the data on rising obesity rates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other research organizations cannot be denied.
In the 1950s, less than 10 percent of Americans were classified as obese. By the 1970s, that number had risen to 11 percent. By the time *NSYNC was battling the Backstreet Boys for the top hit single, 23 percent of Americans were facing obesity. And today, 35 percent of American adults are clinically obese, with BMIs over 30.
The situation isn’t any better for today’s children. The percentage of American children aged 6–11 years old who are obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2012,according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. Obesity rates for teenagers increased from 5 percent to nearly 21 percent over this same period. A 2005 paper from the New England Journal of Medicine even suggested that today’s youth could be the first modern generation to have shorter life expectancies than their parents.
So what’s my point?
It’s that we don’t need to concern ourselves with what cavemen ate. It’s interesting, sure. They definitely weren’t chowing down on processed junk food and for that, we can look up to them. But to say that today’s “paleo diet” can be “debunked” because researchers discovered that cavemen ate (gasp!) fruit, tubers and ancient grains? Well, that’s just crazy talk.
Eating like cavemen shouldn’t be the goal. Instead, we should eat like the evolved humans we are. We should eat the foods we know, intuitively, are good for us. The foods that have always been foods: the meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds we would have seen on the tables of our great-great grandmothers.
We should avoid the fat-free, fake sweetener-filled junk made in factories and marketed as healthy; the foods our great-great grandmother wouldn’t have had access to, or likely would have turned her nose up at if she had.
Let’s all move on from the whole caveman thing. Call it a paleo diet if you want; call it a real
food diet; heck, let’s just call it a human diet. No matter what name you give it, the facts are the same (and nowhere near as complicated as they may seem).
Before sitting down to a meal, consider just one thing: has the food on your plate always been food, or was it made possible by a factory? As Jamie Oliver says, real food doesn’t have ingredients, real food IS ingredients.
So find your favorite ingredients, people, and eat up!