If you’re like me, you enjoy keeping up on the latest fad diets just so you can make fun of them. Usually, they involve bizarre practices such as eliminating anything white from your diet, or eating a dozen oranges before the next full moon. They are fun, but rarely last longer than a week.
My most recent fascination is with the Caveman Diet, also known as the Paleo diet. The trick here is to eat like a caveman or a cavewoman. The logic is that our ancient ancestors in prehistoric and Paleolithic times did not suffer from obesity, diabetes or unhealthy eating practices. They ate only what they could hunt and gather, and we should too.
Let’s remember that our Paleolithic friends had serious dietary limitations. They did not choose their food as much as they captured it. Do you think the cavemen would have stopped fishing and fighting for their food if there was a pizza place that delivered? I do.
According to the Caveman diet, we should be eating only proteins that come from land and sea, such as fish and beef and chicken and eggs and pork. We should also eat what is grown and can be gathered, such as fruits and vegetables. I have read conflicting reports on whether oils and nuts are permitted. Regardless, there is no room in this diet for packaged foods, processed items or low fat popsicles. Don’t eat anything that you would not have had access to thousands of years ago.
My feelings are mixed on this one.
On the one hand, I like the theory behind eating what is natural, local and organic. Hard-core Paleo plan followers do not eat anything that comes from a factory farm, and I like that approach. By now, just about everyone agrees that food looks, smells and tastes better when it comes from a local farm instead of traveling to your grocery store by boat, plane and train. Eating fresh foods whenever we can is also something I like. My grocery budget stays manageable because I focus my shopping on what is seasonal and abundant. I also like the ban on processed foods. Most of what you find in a microwaveable package does more harm than good.
However. I have the same misgivings with the Caveman diet as I do with other popular plans that have people flocking to books, websites and meal plans. That’s the bad rap that carbohydrates get. There is no bread or pasta permitted when you eat like a caveman; these are seen as empty carbs that will only upset your blood sugar and slow you down. Not good for a caveman who has to be on constant watch for enemies and natural predators such as dinosaurs.
Carbohydrates will always have a place in my diet, even those that are scorned by healthier people, such as white pasta, yellow rice and Kaiser rolls. I will eat a brownie once in a while, and I feel sad for the cave people who never knew the joy of a butterscotch sundae.
Here’s the thing: We have evolved.
True, we are dealing with the complications of an advanced lifestyle. We have diabetes and obesity and a culture that relies too heavily on fast food and diet pills. But we’re all smart enough to know how to make good food choices, even if they are hard choices. Our options for healthy food have grown just as abundantly as our options for bad food. And even with all the ghastly eating, our life expectancy rates far outweigh the number of years your average caveman lived. So there.