New evidence suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate more like rabbits than wolves….and they may have even enjoyed—Egads!—grains.
Paleo, also called caveman, Stone Age, Neanderthal, primal or ancestral diets, have been all the rage for the past several years, but the foundation of the diet—meat—may have been a rare treat for the caveman.
There are several variations on the Paleo diet theme, but the basic tenets include eating a diet rich in meats and vegetables; avoiding grains, dairy products, legumes and packaged foods; eating some fresh fruit and enjoying nuts and seeds and other healthy fats.
There are some published studies that show that following a Paleo-type diet can help reduce markers associated with type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and promotes weight loss. Since the diet provides about twice the protein of a typical diet, the protein helps keep hunger at bay.
Several biological anthropologists studying the hunter-gatherer diets now say that the diet was much more plant-based than animal-based. In fact, most anthropologists say that the stone-age humans ate diets that were 65-85% vegetarian. Eating meat was a rare treat for the hunter-gatherers and was thought to contribute up to about 25% of our ancestors’ diets.
If you really want to really understand where we evolved from nutritionally, look at our closest living ancestors, chimps, and you’ll get a sense of what’s healthy for us. According to a recent editorial about the true ancestral diets published in Scientific American, “The diets of nearly all monkeys and apes are composed of fruits, nuts, leaves, insects, and sometimes the odd snack of a bird or lizard.”
Another problem with believing that there is one specific Paleo diet is that depending upon where humans were in the world, their diets varied. We ate an opportunist diet: Whatever was available to eat, humans ate. With advanced DNA tracking, experts say some of our ancestors ate grains and others even had fermented items—alcohol?
If you want to follow a diet that extends your life and reduces your risk for chronic conditions, you may want to eat from the ground up.
Researchers at Loma Linda University found that vegetarian men live about 9.5 years longer and women live 6 years longer than their meat-eating counterparts. Vegetarians are also significantly lighter and less likely to be overweight, compared to omnivores.