Looking to the past for answers
This blog post explains what it means to “go primal”, what the motivations are for doing so, the foods to include and exclude and what you can expect to gain by following this lifestyle. I use the word “lifestyle” intentionally because it is more than just a diet or way of eating. It incorporates principles for exercise, sleep and play as well. More on that in future posts though.
I would like to start by asking you the following questions:
- Do you often feel tired and lethargic?
- Do you suffer from bloating and cramps?
- Do you feel the need to eat every couple of hours?
- Is there a spare tyre inflating around your middle?
- Is your complexion full of pimples or acne?
- Are you often moody or depressed?
- Are you often sick with colds and coughs?
- Are your blood test results heading in the wrong direction?
Keep your answers to these questions in mind as we delve deeper into this topic.
Our ancestors, those that lived between 10, 000 and 2.5 million years ago were genetically almost identical to us, bar a few minor mutations. These minor differences however, have had no impact on the basic ways we all metabolize food or respond to exercise.
“We are basically Stone agers living in the Space age” Loren Cordain
Humans who lived during the Palaeolithic era were stronger, leaner, taller and healthier than we are today. So what has gone so terribly wrong? Why are we fatter, shorter and sicker?
Photo to the right: Historical Aboriginal hunter gatherer. Lean and ripped.
Let’s take a closer look at what they ate.
Why we are designed to eat this way
Our very distant relatives ( and I mean very distant…) were hunter gatherers, meaning that their diets consisted mainly of meat, fish, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables. For 2.5 million years our ancestors thrived on a Paleo diet. For 333 generations, every human being on Earth ate this way. This diet has been built into our genes. It is how nature intended for us to eat. It is the diet that enabled human beings to evolve and survive in the harshest of climates and conditions.
What happens when we don’t eat this way
If you had to put diesel into your car that was designed for petrol – the consequences could be pretty disastrous. Well the same applies to our bodies, except our equivalent of “diesel” are grains, sugars, trans fats and processed food.
Photo to the left: Modern day Aborigine following a Western diet. Quite a stark contrast to his predecessor.
No-one ever got healthier eating burgers and fries, pizza, sugary breakfast cereals or fizzy drinks.
I am even going to convince you in my next post that whole grain bread is poison to our ancestral genes.
Eating these foods that our bodies have not been designed to eat is making us sick. Our genes have simply not adapted or evolved fast enough to cope with the onslaught of such foreign foods. Heart disease, diabetes and obesity have reached epidemic proportions all around the world. What’s even worse is that our children are getting sicker too.
A good place to start
So, are we to don our loin cloth, grab a spear and head out into our urban forests to hunt some deer for supper? How about some foraging for berries and roots in the park. Not likely!
But if you can head off to your local supermarket, pop some free range eggs, meat (preferably grass-fed), fish (preferably wild caught) and vegetables and fruit (preferably organic) into the trolley, then you are half way there.
Stop by the nuts section (preferably raw and unsalted) and then walk right past the bakery and cereal aisle.
Pick up a bottle of quality olive oil, close your eyes and speed walk through the chocolate alley at the tills – then you are home and dry!
Note that I have excluded rice, pasta, bread, legumes, sunflower/canola oils, biscuits, cakes and sweets. They are just not primal and shouldn’t make their way into your trolley – or hardly ever at least.
I must admit that I still throw some cheese, full fat Greek yoghurt and milk into my trolley, which isn’t strictly Paleo but we don’t consume much and none of us seem to be lactose intolerant.
What you can expect to gain
To end off, I would like to share some of the benefits I have gained personally from adopting a “primal” way of eating:
- Reversed the onset of type 2 diabetes
- Lost weight – still a ways to go
- Skin is brighter and clearer
- Stronger immune system as I hardly ever get sick
- No longer suffer from chronic hay fever
- More even moods
- Way more energy – no more afternoon energy slumps
- No more bloating or cramping after meals
- Lowered my LDL (bad) and increased my HDL (good) cholesterol
- Lowered my triglyceride levels and reduced my risk of heart disease
- Reduced inflammation evidenced by much lower homocysteine levels
I hope I have given you something to think about. Look out for my next post where I will go into more detail about why grains are not good for you.
- The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain
- The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson