Is Paleo Really the Caveman Diet?
When people talk about Paleo, they often refer to it as the caveman diet. It makes for a really simple way to explain Paleo to people who know nothing about it too. Just tell them you don’t eat anything which a caveman wouldn’t have been able to eat. This means meat, vegetables, nuts, fruit, seeds and berries.
Is this really sound logic though? Or is it what causes many people to lash out and call followers of Paleo wrong?
In my opinion, referring to Paleo as the caveman diet is a gross oversimplification of what is actually taking place. It makes for an easy way to explain it when you don’t have a lot of time, or don’t have much invested in the relationship with the person who’s asking you about Paleo, but it ultimately makes all the claims about the benefits of Paleo come off as much less credible.
Here’s the main thing: there’s no way for us to live like a caveman anymore. Cavemen didn’t have cell phones, laptops, electronic gadgets or all of the other things that make our day to day lives so much easier. I’ve also never met a follower of Paleo who was ready to give up those creature comforts, in an effort to live their life more like a caveman.
Another misconception is that cavemen were much healthier than us, simply because their diets were much more natural. While this is largely true, because cavemen didn’t have access to fast food, pizzas and other types of processed foods, it doesn’t mean their diets were at all ideal.
One of the benefits of living in the modern world is that we’re spoiled for choice, and can pick and choose the things which are healthiest for us. We are easily able to get a good balance of meats, vegetables and fruits into our diets. The caveman however, might have only eaten meat for weeks at a time, when he had already picked all the vegetables dry in his area. Cavemen also knew a whole lot less about how much protein he should be eating compared to fats and carbohydrates. He simply ate what was available, although the choices he had available were inherently much healthier than the choices available to the modern human.
So if Paleo isn’t the caveman diet, then what is it?
Short and simple, Paleo is a great metric in which you can judge whether or not the foods you’re eating are actually healthy. While these foods should feasibly have been available to the cavemen in the Paleolithic era, it’s important not to get too hung up on that fact.
Another difference between the caveman and the modern man, is how we prepare our foods. Cavemen ate very simply, with way fewer ingredients than even the strictest adherer to Paleo. Their dinner may have consisted of just unseasoned grilled meat and raw vegetables they had picked.
A modern person following Paleo would never force themselves to eat only unseasoned meats and raw vegetables (although they might when in a real hurry). Instead, a follower of Paleo would use many of the Paleo approved spices, cook the meat up in some delicious, creamy coconut milk, and throw the vegetables in there with it all for a nice Paleo curry. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It makes for a great Paleo meal.
There are also things that fall perfectly with Paleo guidelines, such as Bulletproof Coffee. This is mixing in grass fed butter and coconut oil or MCT oil with your coffee, for a big brain boost early in the morning. While some extremely strict followers will not eat butter, most have accepted it as OK, and very healthy, as there is very little lactose in it.
While we can’t ever know if the cavemen truly drank coffee, let’s just assume for a second that they did. They would not have had the thought process or means to have added butter or coconut oil to their coffee. Does that mean that drinking your coffee this way is wrong? No, of course it doesn’t. The cavemen just didn’t have access to doing things that way.
Some followers of Paleo will take things to the next level as well, and only want to do exercise that the cavemen could have performed. They argue that cavemen chased down animals on a regular basis, and that they should only be performing exercise that mimics that. While I certainly won’t argue that sprinting is great exercise, it’s far from the only one available.
While most people who know about health and fitness would advise you not to use the types of machines which are featured in standard gyms, as they balance the weights for you, you would still need some sort of equipment to make your workouts optimal. Even just a barbell and some weights will do you just fine. A caveman obviously didn’t have access to barbells and weights, and while they could have cut down a tree and lifted that, it’s unlikely that they did.
What all this means is that it isn’t necessary to be too extreme about what the cavemen did or didn’t do, because the caveman’s life isn’t applicable to your life now. We have too many X factors available to us now that the cavemen simply didn’t have, and at the end of the day, there’s no need to stress yourself out over that.
The best thing you can focus on doing, is eating as healthy and as clean as possible. Don’t worry about what the cavemen did, because we’ll never truly know what the cavemen did. On top of that, comparing ourselves to the cavemen too often only leaves ourselves open to criticism from those who already feel the need to attack the Paleo way of life, for their own personal reasons. Eat clean and healthy because it makes you feel good, today in our modern world, and not much else will matter. Leave all the cavemen nonsense to people who feel the need to make their lives more complicated than they already are.