It’s been called the Caveman diet, the Paleolithic diet, the Darwinian diet, and a whole slough of others pre-historic names. But however you may refer to it, the paleo diet is gaining momentum and not just in the diet and health realm, but in the medical realm as well.
For those unfamiliar with the paleo diet, it mimics the habits of our ancestors 10,000 years before us who were primarily hunter-gathers. Historians propose they lived off the land, consuming mostly animal meat and any fruits and vegetables they may be able to forage.
For followers of the paleo diet, that means eating a lot of meat and produce and absolutely no sugar, dairy, grains and beans. This sometimes extreme way of eating – and living – obviously isn’t for everyone. But proponents of the diet remain that it works, it makes sense, and it’s worth sharing.
One such proponent is Loren Cordain, a professor at Colorado State University, who holds a doctorate in exercise science. Cordain is also the author of the book paleo eaters swoon over: The Paleo Diet.
For Hayley Mason and Bill Staley, cooking together was an important part of their relationship from early on. Hayley introduced Bill to the paleo diet, and although he was willing to support her eating choices when they were together, he didn’t follow the diet strictly at first. However, the new way of eating made him feel great, and it wasn’t long before the couple was cooking and eating paleo all the time.
They began sharing their paleo creations on Facebook, and soon came up with the idea of writing a cookbook together. But on the path to this ambitious goal, Make it Paleo was first a blog, The Food Lover’s Primal Palate. “We cooked a recipe every week, and shared it with our friends,” says Hayley. “For fun, we started working on a blog together, it was something that we were doing together as a couple and we wanted to inspire other people to stay on track with healthy eating.”
As the title suggests, many of the recipes in the book are grain and dairy-free adaptations of standard American recipes, often drawing inspiration from family recipes. Many of the dishes in Make it Paleo were created with special occasions in mind like weekend brunch and birthdays, something the authors feel fills a need in the paleo community. “I think one of the things that people struggle with when following paleo is not so much the everyday food,” says Bill. “It’s pretty simple to cook meat and vegetables for dinner, everyone can find their way.” On the other hand, holidays are a time when many people find it hard to stick to a paleo diet–or any diet for that matter.
The oldest set of human remains that scientists study is nicknamed the Nutcracker Man, and an examination of his teeth revealed that he ate a diet that was mostly grass plant based. There have been countless diets that follow the same principles, such as the Caveman Diet and the Paleo Diet, which base eating habits on those that were followed many years ago by humans.
Diets like the Caveman Diet and the Paleolithic Diet focus on the idea that if a food wasn’t available to ancient humans, you shouldn’t eat it. This eliminates a lot of unhealthy and processed foods that we’ve grown used to eating like bread, bleached flour, refined sugars, processed oils and anything that came after the development of agriculture.
Professional caveman John Durant makes a pretty convincing argument for eating like hunter-gathers. “Anybody with a lot of inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, they would do very well on the paleo diet. Anybody overweight, I mean, name your medical problem–I feel like a snake oil salesman.” Cure-all or not, it doesn’t hurt that Durant himself is outgoing, energetic and fit, a kind of walking advertisement for his lifestyle. He is the author of the blog Hunter-Gatherer.com, and is writing a book with the working title Live Wild: A Survival Guide to the Modern World.
The basic idea behind the paleolithic diet, also known as the caveman diet, is that humans are best adapted to eat and live like hunter-gatherers before the time of the agricultural revolution. “If you look at these hunter-gatherer cultures, in reports that date back to the 19th century and early 20th century, they’re actually remarkably healthy,” says Durant. Followers of the paleo lifestyle argue that the agricultural revolution led to a marked decline in health, in part due to less diverse sources of nutrients. “Our diet became very narrow, very quickly. We went from eating a wide variety of animal foods and plant foods driven by seasonal eating, to a very narrow set of foods.”