What does it mean to be “Paleo” or “Primal?”
Here’s my simple “Good Nutrition in 100 Words” (I created this for both this blog and Steve’s PaleoGoods):
Alternatively, I like to call my OWN interpretation of this way of life “Ancestral.” This is founded on an awareness of not only our evolutionary history, but more recent cultures who achieved health and extraordinary fitness using a variety of “macronutrient ratios,” with the commonality of those “macros” being from whole, local, unprocessed (or “traditionally processed”) foods.
You don’t need to know any of this stuff to reap the benefits of eating pastured meats, lots of vegetables (greens, roots, tubers) and spices, and fats from appropriately-raised, pastured animals, as well as avocados, olives, and coconuts. But if you want more info…
They all generally mean the same thing: Living – above all, eating – in-line with what’s most beneficial for our physiology; and with an awareness of not just the way we evolved (“Paleo” and “Primal”), but with an eye toward what we can learn from more recent healthy, traditional cultures (“Weston A. Price”). We can certainly learn from a woman in a remote corner of the Amazon who has lived for over 120 years on a diet that is quite close to ideal, at least by my estimation, because it’s based on local, unprocessed foods – and probably includes plenty of hard work and sunshine. Research by Dr. Weston A. Price indicates that cultures untouched by modern, processed, industrialized foods enjoyed similar health and longevity, as well as virility and resiliency. These achieved health in a semi-modern – albeit isolated – context, because they had minimal exposure to what Dr. Kurt Harris calls “The Neolithic Agents of Disease.” (Note: My links to other blogs does not indicate their endorsement of my website.) My business partner and I talk about these things in our Balanced Bites Workshops.
Some of these “traditional” diets included dairy and other products that, admittedly, were not available to a “Cave Man.” Some of these diets were extremely high in carbohydrate (low-carb is not a panacea).
(So if this is all true, why do I call this blog “Cave Girl Eats?” … Because it’s cute. Duh.)
In general, we evolved and maintained health when eating real, whole foods – grass-fed meats (no support for factory farming here), veggies, including roots and tubers, delicious healthy fats from the animals we hunted (and later domesticated), and some fruits. Yup, we evolved eating organ meats too (I’m working on that one). Many traditional cultures thrived on raw, unpasteurized, grass-fed dairy products – a rich source of the vital Vitamin K2 (seriously – get your K2.)
Different cultures ate fat, protein, and carb in varying proportions, so there’s no right or wrong way to go. You figure it out by eliminating modern, processed foods, then, upon the physiological balance that inevitably comes from eating REAL FOOD, listening to your body and evaluating your goals. (Fertility? Leanness? There are different priorities for maximizing each, though all approaches rely on REAL FOOD.) There is no nutritional substitute in a box, a bag, or a capsule (well, except for this capsule). Eating the way we are adapted to eat keeps us healthy, strong, and capable – not unhealthy, tired, and confused.
Our bodies are built to work most effectively when they receive the fuel they recognize. There is evidence that fueling appropriately can determine and mitigate the expression of genetic conditions as well. Read this if you’re interested in the evidence, this if you’re up for paying for more evidence, and this if you’re interested in what the right exercise adds to the mix. (Thank goodness for blogging biochemists.) Incidentally, I’m utterly grateful for the benefit of having not just the historical perspective, but our modern knowledge of nutrients – and what we need to survive. Luckily, both roads lead to REAL FOOD!
The former USDA “Food Pyramid,” (now cutely re-packaged as “My Plate”), does NOT meet its own standard of nutrition. Why? Not only because it recommends processed foods like low-fat dairy (which is vastly different from raw, grass-fed, full-fat dairy) but because what you put in your mouth isn’t necessarily what your body can work with. This is a problem inherent to grains! The flawed USDA diet, which shadows much of the “plant-based” propaganda we see often, is the one recommended by most doctors and government entities. Is it any wonder there’s a doctor’s office on every corner?
It seems buzzwords like “vegan!” and “plant-based!” are splashed across media outlets constantly, but I don’t really buy it. Yes, vegetables are healthy (although grains are not). But eating with an eye toward evolutionary biology and the physiological needs of the body (vitamin B12, please! Pre-formed vitamin A! Choline! Cell-building Cholesterol!) just seems to make more sense to me.
Just one more reason to always think for yourself, distill information for its real-life application, evaluate “pop diets” (and their foundations and motivations) and studies (including their sponsoring entities), identify biases, and test theories on yourself – rather than accepting the conclusions drawn by The News – or worse, a Blogger.
To boil it down: I eat a diet of varied meats (including organ meats), veggies (including roots and tubers), fats (including animal fats), berries, spices, and “traditional foods” like Cod Liver Oil, fermented foods and bone broths. I tweak macronutrient content to my level of comfort and activity. Easy. Yum. Health-promoting.
“This diet doesn’t furnish enough calcium.” Actually, what’s most important is calcium retention and proper assimilation and distribution. See here.
“My nutritionist recommends the Food Pyramid.” Like I said – no thanks.
“I don’t need animal protein.” Can’t agree with you there. Read this book.
“Fat is bad for me.” I’ve written on fat quite a bit, most recently here.