Until 10,000 years ago all humans ate wild and unprocessed food. These last 10,000 years represent roughly 500 generations of mankind – this recent blip in our long history is the era in which agriculture, farming and civilisations developed.
Even though modern Man may be civilised and intellectually superior to pre-historic Man, our genomes are remarkably similar. There is a fair bit of evidence to show that switching to a meat-based diet was one of the evolutionary factors which paved the way for humans to develop bigger brains. Adding calorie-dense meat to low-calorie plant foods meant Man spent less time looking for food, and subsequently had more time to pursue non-essential activities (such as painting).
Fire, standing upright and cooking are purported to be the other factors which led to the development of the human brain. Have a look here for a more detailed explanation of this theory.
How likely is it that millions of years of evolution shaped our diet incorrectly? Surely it makes sense to continue eating foods that accelerated the growth of the human intellect and to reject those that are associated with a decline in our physical health?
The premise of the Palaeolithic Diet is that abiding by the diet that we have evolved to eat will optimise our health. I am not saying that eating all modern foods are harmful; what I am saying is that the chances of being healthier are greater if we eat foods similar to the ones that pre-historic Man ate.
Caveman clearly didn’t dine on corn flakes for breakfast; nor did he snack on bagels and lattes, and then end his day with a pizza.
What Caveman most likely did eat was wild game if he managed to catch some; fruit if it happened to be in season; and insects or nuts if game and fruit weren’t around.
I’m not for a minute suggesting that we live like cavemen. So you don’t need to go foraging for wild foods and hunting for wild animals; my aim is to convert you to the Paleo way of eating with ‘normal’ foods from your local supermarket. Even though most modern fruits and vegetables have been engineered to be sweeter and less toxic than their wild equivalents, we can still aim to mimic the diet that pre-historic Man ate with what’s currently available.
Diets in pre-historic times varied considerably from Arctic regions to the Tropics because certain foods were more available than others in these diverse parts of the globe. What they all had access to was plants (fruit, vegetables, tubers); fish; meat; eggs and nuts.
Near rivers, seas and lakes Man ate more fish; in colder climes Man ate more meat; in the tropics Man ate more insects and plant matter.
So in Arctic regions Man lived well on 90 percent animal and 10 percent plant food; and in the tropics Man lived well on 90 percent plant and 10 percent animal foods.
Or to look at it another way, you could say that the Paleo diet is partly defined by what all these different communities didn’t eat: grains, dairy products, refined fat, sugar and salt were all absent in tropical and temperate climes.
Across the globe pre-historic people ate similar foods – albeit in very different amounts.
The take home point is to not worry about the proportions of carbohydrate, fat or protein that you are eating; instead concern yourself more with the source of the carbohydrate, fat and protein that you are eating. Click here for more information on The Healthiest Diet.