Dr. Loren Cordain took the health world by storm with his book The Paleo Diet, which quickly became a trend on par with buzzy diets like South Beach and Atkins. But how did this throwback approach to eating become part of the cultural conversation?
How Did Cavemen Eat?
Cordain traces his interest in how our ancestors ate back to his youth and to stories his father used to tell him about how Stone Age people lived off the land. During Cordain’s education, he became increasingly interested in diets — in particular how they can affect athletic performance. And he received his PhD in Health from the University of Utah in 1981. Cordain observed that society has moved away from the foods our bodies are designed to eat: lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. Instead, we’ve moved toward salt- and sugar-packed diets that heavily feature simple carbohydrates. It is no coincidence that this shift was accompanied by a dramatic increase in obesity and heart disease.
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The Paleo Diet uses everyday modern foods to mimic the eating habits of our pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer ancestors. The name itself comes from the Paleolithic Era, which ended when humanity developed agriculture and domesticated animals. There are seven fundamental characteristics of this hunter-gatherer diet. These include higher protein intake and lower carbohydrate intake. The diet also recommends high fiber intake and moderate to higher fat intake (focused on very specific kinds of fats). Other Paleo recommendations include higher potassium and lower sodium intake. Following such a diet also recommends balancing dietary acid with dietary alkaline. Practitioners should also participate in higher intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant phytochemicals.
Paleo Says No
If you’re thinking of trying The Paleo Diet, start by cleaning out those kitchen cabinets. Get rid of cereal grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, salt, refined vegetable oils, and any sort of processed foods. Many Paleo newbies with eliminating caffeine and alcohol from their diet. But, hey, if the cavemen lived without coffee breaks and happy hour, ostensibly you can too!
Paleo Says Yes
So what’s left? Cordain suggests grass-fed meats, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds. Healthy oils like those of olive, flaxseed, macadamia nuts, avocado and coconut are also allowed. To prove that there’s still plenty of good eating to be done once you’ve gone Paleo, Cordain has created The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, which offers 250 recipes endorsed by the “godfather of Paleo” himself.
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Last modified: April 29, 2019