Paleo & Primal 101

So, interested in what Paleo and Primal means? Look no further.

The entire premise behind this lifestyle is our Paleolithic ancestors. We try to emulate them for basic health.


Well, because if you stood a modern human next to one of our paleolithic ancestors, there would not be any differences. At least, there shouldn't be. While our ancestors ate what was around back then (fruits, veggies, meats, seeds, nuts), we do not. We eat grains and starches, dairy and nightshades, and worst of all we eat sugar in everything. Literally, everything. If you don't believe me, just read this post (Sugar, What Is It Good For?). Our bodies are not meant to be eating sugar in the large quantities that we are eating on a daily basis. Nor are our bodies meant to be consuming grains. Yes, without the domestication of grains, humanity would not have been domesticated and have been able to create the modern world that we live in, but becoming domesticated has its price. I, personally, like to look to the Hadza people:

What the Hadza appear to offer—and why they are of great interest to anthropologists—is a glimpse of what life may have been like before the birth of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Anthro pologists are wary of viewing contemporary hunter-gatherers as "living fossils," says Frank Marlowe, a Florida State University professor of anthropology who has spent the past 15 years studying the Hadza. Time has not stood still for them. But they have maintained their foraging lifestyle in spite of long exposure to surrounding agriculturalist groups, and, says Marlowe, it's possible that their lives have changed very little over the ages. 
For more than 99 percent of the time since the genus Homo arose two million years ago, everyone lived as hunter-gatherers. Then, once plants and animals were domesticated, the discovery sparked a complete reorganization of the globe. Food production marched in lockstep with greater population densities, which allowed farm-based societies to displace or destroy hunter-gatherer groups. Villages were formed, then cities, then nations. And in a relatively brief period, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle was all but extinguished. Today only a handful of scattered peoples—some in the Amazon, a couple in the Arctic, a few in Papua New Guinea, and a tiny number of African groups—maintain a primarily hunter-gatherer existence. Agriculture's sudden rise, however, came with a price. It introduced infectious-disease epidemics, social stratification, intermittent famines, and large-scale war. Jared Diamond, the UCLA professor and writer, has called the adoption of agriculture nothing less than "the worst mistake in human history"—a mistake, he suggests, from which we have never recovered. 
The Hadza do not engage in warfare. They've never lived densely enough to be seriously threatened by an infectious outbreak. They have no known history of famine; rather, there is evidence of people from a farming group coming to live with them during a time of crop failure. The Hadza diet remains even today more stable and varied than that of most of the world's citizens. They enjoy an extraordinary amount of leisure time. Anthropologists have estimated that they "work"—actively pursue food—four to six hours a day. And over all these thousands of years, they've left hardly more than a footprint on the land. 
Traditional Hadza, like Onwas and his camp mates, live almost entirely free of possessions. The things they own—a cooking pot, a water container, an ax—can be wrapped in a blanket and carried over a shoulder. Hadza women gather berries and baobab fruit and dig edible tubers. Men collect honey and hunt. Nighttime baboon stalking is a group affair, conducted only a handful of times each year; typically, hunting is a solo pursuit. They will eat almost anything they can kill, from birds to wildebeest to zebras to buffalo. They dine on warthog and bush pig and hyrax. They love baboon; Onwas joked to me that a Hadza man cannot marry until he has killed five baboons. The chief exception is snakes. The Hadza hate snakes. 
The poison the men smear on their arrowheads, made of the boiled sap of the desert rose, is powerful enough to bring down a giraffe. But it cannot kill a full-grown elephant. If hunters come across a recently dead elephant, they will crawl inside and cut out meat and organs and fat and cook them over a fire. Sometimes, rather than drag a large animal back to camp, the entire camp will move to the carcass.

These modern people are what our ancestors were.

How Do We Emulate our Paleolithic Ancestors For Health?

We first of all stop eating grains (for a very good guide of grains, check out this blog post from Mark's Daily Apple). Secondly, we remove all sugars from our diet, as well as legumes, dairy, and nightshades.

What does that leave?

Meats, which are pork, beef, chicken, seafood, insects... basically anything that is living. Some people try to eat only grassfed beef and organic, but to be honest, thats neither always available or in price range. So try to get meats from grocers and meat-markets that do not have a solution added. Why? Most of the solution is crap like MSG, Corn products like HFCS and protein, and salt. Our paleolithic ancestors did without salt and while we can not do without it completely (unless you are the type to watch over what you eat always with a fine tooth and comb), we do try to minimize our salt consumption.

Eggs, which ere eaten by our ancestors and are full of healthy proteins and fats. I tend to go for the cage-free, organic eggs, as well as those with Omega-3 added, but again, you don't have to be all that picky.

Vegetables of all types are good to eat, except for potatoes due to the amount of starch that they have (starch is sugar remember). So try to eat potatoes occasionally, not daily. Otherwise, if you like the veggies, dig in. Some of the more hard-core Paleos do not eat nightshades like tomatoes since they were not around back in paleolithic times, but thats going a bit too far I think.

Fruits were around with our paleolithic ancestors, but they were most certainly not as sweet as their modern counterparts. The recommendation is to consume mostly berries if you desire fruit due to their lessened sugar content, which is what I do, but to each their own.

Nuts and Seeds are also great to eat, except for peanuts because they are legumes, remember?

Flowers are extremely healthy and are Paleo. But you have to be careful, since not all are edible. Check out my post to see which flowers are consumable.

Fermented Foods are also great to eat since our ancestors did quite a bit of fermentation in their time, especially drinks.

What about Dairy? Well, thats an area of contention between people who follow this lifestyle. Paleos are those who stay away from dairy due to intolerance or choice, and Primals are those that consume dairy, albeit the full-fat versions only. The recommendation, especially if you have allergies, skin conditions, or intestinal problems, is to go without dairy for 30 days and then re-introduce it back into your diet. For example, I am intolerant of liquid dairy items, but can handle firm dairy like cheese if it is eaten with a protein source (can't do cheese with veggies, sadly). I realized that many of my health problems that i had were due to dairy consumption, so I do not miss it very often.

Fats and Oils are also meant to be consumed, but you have to still watch out. Saturated fats are the best types of fats to eat, meaning animal fats are good to eat (one of the reasons why those following this lifestyle go with grassfed and organic is due to the fact that the antibiotics and crap feedlots give to the animals are stored in their fat, raising their Omega-6 levels through the roof). Lard and tallow, pig and cow fat, are some of the best things to cook with. If you are curious about Lard and if it is really healthy or not, check out this post. As far as oils go, Coconut is the best due to its high saturated fat percentage, then Olive Oil and the other seed oils. Well, except for Canola Oil. Canola oil comes from rapeseed, a completely unpalatable seed rich in erucic acid, which is bitter and rather toxic. Canola oil is rapeseed oil stripped of erucic acid and it gets a lot of attention from doctors as a “heart healthy” oil (one of the “good” fats) rich in omega-3s, but the fact that canola processing generally uses upwards of 500 degrees means a good portion of the Omega-3s could be rancid on the shelf. Which is why you should stay away from it. In fact, just read this post by Mark over at Mark's Daily Apple.

Alcohol is something that many people have questions about in regards to this lifestyle, well, at least my father did. You can drink it, just go easy. Especially since most people who are Paleo or Primal have lower resistance to the stuff, meaning you will more than likely get drunker, faster, on less. Just stay far away from the mixers and the sugary alcohols like hard lemonade and Kahlua.

This is the diet that we humans are genetically adapted to eat. The paleolithic age is the same as the Stone Age - so this is a stone age diet or life style. This has been humanity's preferred diet for something like 2.5 million years, and humans have only genetically changed 0.005% since the introduction of agriculture (the Neolithic). As a rule, agricultural (and technological) products are not healthy to eat, and we should predominantly try to eat only those whole foods that are healthy in their raw state (though almost all humans, including hunter-gatherers cook their food).

Basically: if our ancestors could pick it from a bush or catch it with a spear, you can eat it. The rule is that a food is healthy, if you could have eaten it in its raw state. This is a naturally occurring "low to medium carbohydrate" way of eating.

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