You might have heard about the “Paleo Diet”, but if you haven’t, it’s not a new diet fad…it’s been around a few thousand years, literally! It’s essentially an eating pattern that mimics what our stone-aged ancestors would have eaten if they didn’t have microwaves and food processors, chemical and flavor enhancers such as refined sugar and MSG, fermentation processes like bread and wine making, or artificial coloring and preservatives. Depending on how far back you want to go back in time, I make the exception of including various rice preparations and a limited selection of Starbucks coffee to make my hypothetical stone-age whole-food eating caveman/woman philosophy slightly more tolerable (and sophisticated). Here are some benefits to reacquainting yourself to your long lost ancestor’s palate from the days of old…the time of mammoths and sabertooth tigers, loin cloths and mudhouses. Here we go!
Long before restaurants, grocery stores and refrigeration, foods were typically considered luxury items that had a very short shelf-life, and food preservation typically meant dried goods, often salted. Foods from this era consisted of whole fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, and grains, often prepared over fire by boiling or roasting. Today, paleo diets consist of whole foods prepared similarly over fire, cooked or roasted in the pans and ovens without additional flavoring or artificial seasoning. Instead, peppers, salt, and various herbs can naturally enhance flavors but maintain the integrity of the food itself, in its whole form. Micronutrients derived from whole fruits and vegetables, when consumed in adequate amounts, contain enzymes, bioflavonoids and digestive factors that modern nutritional scientists have identified, but are unable to reproduce in a laboratory setting. The use of iron skillets and pans added nutritionally viable sources of iron into paleolithic cooked foods. The lack of refrigeration also meant that foods were picked, gathered or hunted, and immediately prepared for consumption. All parts of the animal were consumed-its organs, cartilage, and animal fats used for cooking and flavoring. Many cultures still have this practice, but modern era eating has done away with animal byproducts. The revival of bone-broth, cartilage and animal organs like liver and kidneys have re-introduced rich vitamins and nutrients in food sources which many consider “superfoods” but are actually, just food.
Without soaps and disinfectants, the paleolithic foodies are likely to consume high concentrations of probiotics on a regular basis as well. Unwashed hands and food items contain Saccharomyces Boulardii, a soil derived probiotic that allows our gastro-intestinal system to digest and metabolize foods. A dairy sourced Lactobacilli, also known as the friendly gut bacteria of various strains, are present in milk and fermented products, and their presence in the GI system has also been shown to enhance and regulate metabolism, immune function, and even cognitive/brain roles as well. On the downside, minimal sanitation practices, and lack of hygiene can also result in food poisoning and frequent GI upsets, but not an issue for most of us sophisticated, hand washing Neanderthaleans. Our present day diets often fall short of these 2 categories of probiotics, which is why supplementing your diet with probiotics can have a clinically significant effect on health and wellness for the deficient individual.
The Paleo Diet has many benefits that essentially rely on whole food products, not just food particles. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain enzymes and digestive factors that are far more beneficial than their dried counterparts. Probiotic ingestion have an increasingly greater role in our health than we previously realized, and cooking over fire is highly gratifying! Grab your spears! Grab your knives! And don’t forget your coffee mugs for that unsweetened black coffee at your favorite caveman’s coffee house, and reacquaint yourselves with the taste buds of our ancestors! AROO!
By Dr. Adrian Pujayana