This is a follow up post to: I am not Primal.
I’ve heard a lot of arguments against the paleo diet or the primal lifestyle. Mostly it’s always from people who haven’t tried it because when most people they try it out, they realize how much better they feel and try and stick to it in some form or the other.
Also a lot of you who write to me asking about the diet do comment on how hard it all seems, so this post aims to make it all easier on you.
I wrote a post on why and how I had moved away slightly from the primal lifestyle and how I had adapted it to my current situation. And how I still try and do things naturally and ‘primally’ or from the ‘evolutionary’ perspective when it comes to most aspects of my life, and definitely when it comes to child raising.
One of the arguments against paleo is that even the staunchest paleo or primal lifestyle advocate cannot really live like cavemen because everything has changed today. The nutritional value in produce has changed (which is why we have to consume supplements), we do not move as much (even though some of us mindfully try), we don’t hunt for our own food (and I’m not sure we really want to) and we consume foods like high fat dairy (though it was not available pre agriculture) just because of the composition, and how easy it is to get fat into out system (butter anyone?) not to mention delicious.
Another argument, which makes sense to me, is that evolution did not stop 10,000 years ago, we are still evolving, and here are some signs. That being said there are still some of us that react very badly to grains (bad skin, bloating, headaches, metabolic syndrome, painful period etc.) but some of us can consume a little bit here and there without any adverse effects.
Despite all these arguments, paleo / primal/ evolutionary lifestyle is really helpful as it trains you to look at everything through an evolutionary lens and not get carried away with modern scientific research or propaganda.
Frankly, it’s hard to relate to what cavemen ate because we don’t know exactly what their composition of food was, though we do know the food was probably really simple and basic. But, without even looking that far back (100000 plus years), we can look back as near as 200 years pre- industrial revolution, and at traditional societies before mass production became the norm. People ate grains but were still far far healthier than we are today.
1) They moved about a lot. Whether it was people from the Paleolithic era or people even 200 years ago, they moved a lot. People did a lot more manual labour. Women worked at home and in fields, scrubbed floors, built railroads, walked a lot, because there was barely any other mode of transport, etc. Of course today professions have changed and we are sedentary.
So even if our grandparents’ parents ate grains, just the fact that they were so active had immense health benefits, which cannot be ignored.
This is non negotiable for a healthy lifestyle. Incorporate movement even if it’s walks everyday and heavy lifting and sprinting once in awhile.
2) Nutrient dense food. Today when we talk about the paleo diet we talk a lot about avoiding processed foods, sugar, grains etc. But more important than that is eating food chockablock with nutrients. Before industrialization people ate produce, which had natural vitamins and minerals found in the earth. Cattle ate grass, which they were designed to eat by grazing and fowl foraged for worms. All of this added rich nutritional value to the food they ate. Also they consumed far more calories, as physical work required it. Because they ate higher quantities of superior quality food, the macronutrient content was far higher than today’s diets.
Not only is our calorie intake lower but so is our quality of food. Therefore it is even more important it seek out high nutrient foods. If we eat enough and more nutrient dense foods most of the times then it doesn’t matter if we eat some nutritionally poor food now and then (Pizza or pasta)
3) Local and seasonal produce. Before the world became such a tiny place, produce wasn’t transported to various corners of the world. As a result people ate food they grew themselves and most produce ripened before it was picked, which made it rich in macronutrients. For example, when mangoes were in season they would eat them and then when the next fruit appeared they would eat those next.
What happens in that case is that instead of growing only cash crops, which depletes the soil of minerals, the natural minerals in soil would get replenished with crop rotation, because another crop had another set of requirements for growth.
Try and eat as local and seasonal as possible. Pick Kashmiri apples over New Zealand ones, that too only when they are in season.
4) Fat was a loved food. People until recent times did not fear fat. Ghee in India was considered sacred and eating food cooked in ghee was considered healthy. They ate pure fats found in nature without counting calories.
In other parts of the world they at foods rich in coconut oil, olive oil, fatty fish, butter, whatever was available from the natural resources of the land. Only recently did governments and scientists wrongly point to fat as a cause of degeneration of health, and that’s when health degenerated at an accelerated rate. The problem is not natural fats but hydrogenated vegetable oils that have gone through tons of chemical processes to make them edible.
5) No processed foods. Processed foods were non-existent till recently. And to think today children (babies included) are recommended heavily processed, packaged toxins at such tender ages makes me cringe. Packaged, processed, ready to eat foods have so many hidden chemicals and harmful ingredients that when you see the label saying ‘low fat’ or ‘slim’ you should run the other way.
There you have it. Without going as far back as paleo times, without having to become a hunter gatherer, or without having to worry whether what you’re eating is primal or not, just remember these basics and you can have a super healthy lifestyle.
You could still get away by eating grains (specially fermented ones like dosa or idli) if you can tolerate them, but if you eat nutritious foods, seasonal and local produce, and natural saturated fats and avoid processed foods 80 % of the time, you’re pretty much on the right path as long as you are have an active lifestyle of course!
Change your composition of food to natural, high nutrient, high fat, high caloric real foods and eat the other stuff just because, and watch your body change (Hurrah!) And a bonus, if you are eating this rich food 80% of the time, you won’t have much space for much of the nutrient bereft grains and pasta! :0)
Thanks for reading. As usual I would love to hear what you think in the comments!