What is Paleo?
The Paleolithic Diet is based on foods that humans had access to during the Paleolithic Era, a period dating from 2.5 million years to about 12,000 years ago. These early humans were hunters and gatherers, and it is thought that their diets consisted primarily of meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts. The Paleo Era was before the agricultural Neolithic Era, so Paleo peeps did not likely eat any grains or dairy from domesticated animals.
First thing to notice is that the Paleo era lasted an incredibly long time- just about 2 ½ million years. Although the end date of around 12,000 years ago also seems like forever, this is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the length of the Paleo era. For 2 ½ million years humans were hunter-gatherers, and their bodies were thriving on these foods, and for only 1/208 that time, we’ve been using agriculture to obtain new foods. So in taking a step back, the dawn of agriculture doesn’t seem like too long ago and the main principle behind the Paleo diet is that we haven’t had enough time to adapt to these rapid dietary changes.
It is important to note that we don’t have concrete “proof” of the exact diet of this time. Since the cavemen didn’t exactly keep food records, we can only make educated guesses based on ancient tools that have been found and analysis of fossilized human remains. Also helpful are modern age hunter-gatherer societies, who are studied for their current diet and to see what happens when they start eating like the rest of the world.
The exact foods eaten during the Paleo era varied by location, based on plants and animals native to the area. Some inland populations may have had access to more meat, while those lucky coastal tribes subsisted on seafood, and while still others were likely to be periodically vegetarian due to hardships in finding and killing animals. Regardless of this, it is generally accepted that the only possible food available during this lengthy time of human evolution was meat/fish, vegetables, fruit, seeds and nuts. The common denominator here is that these are all foods that you don’t have to cook or process in order to enjoy… unlike, say, grains which you would have to mill and then cook before they become edible. Eggs are a more controversial inclusion to the Paleo diet and will be addressed in a later posting.
So, because this is the food our bodies evolved to eat, this is also the food that will keep us healthy and potentially prevent chronic diseases, right? That’s the idea, which has been corroborated with personal stories and case studies, and research is starting to catch up as well. For me, this just screams out common sense. Paleo is based on real, whole foods as close to nature as possible, and it makes people feel better when they consistently eat this way. More filling and typically lower in calories, Paleo tends to promote leaner bodies while supplying all of the necessary nutrients to sustain health. So why not give it a go?
Stay tuned for more on the benefits of Paleo and how to get started in the next two posts.
Food list (http://altmed.creighton.edu/Paleodiet/Foodlist.html) *Note: I don’t particularly agree with the exclusion of fatty meats, or the inclusion of canola oil from this list. More on my big fat opinion later.
Official CrossFit nutrition prescription: (http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/start-diet.html)
Nerdy Nutrition Blogs I like:
Mark’s Daily Apple (http://www.marksdailyapple.com/)
Whole Health Source (http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/)
The Healthy Skeptic (http://thehealthyskeptic.org/)