The basics…in which Paleo/Primal is explained.
To clear up any confusion if you are not familiar with Paleo or Primal: the difference between Paleo and Primal is minimal, so I use them fairly interchangeably. I believe the Primal Blueprint to be one man’s (Mark Sisson) very common-sense take on some of the basic tenets of paleo. He has more ‘wiggle room’ that meshes more closely with what this Cavemom personally believes/what makes the most sense to me. Bonus: I find his breakdown and information to be very thorough and fairly entertaining.
Please note: Some of this information is from me being smart and fairly well-edumacated on Paleo/Primal. But largely this information is gathered from other websites and books. I make no claim to any of this being all my own information, and thus I can’t be held responsible if something goes wonky.
WARNING: Semi-scientific stuff!
The premise of the paleo diet is that the Paleolithic Era is what formed our species. Evolution being a slow process, humans had 2-3 million years to adapt to the environment. With the advent of agriculture, about 10-15,000 years ago in the Neolithic period, there was a fairly sudden and dramatic shift in diet and environment for many human cultures. Foods like cereal grains (wheat, rice, barley), legumes (beans, peanuts) and dairy not only appeared, but became dietary staples, when earlier they would have been rare to nonexistent. Genetically, we are still the same species we were 100,000-500,000 years ago (with some adaptations, of course), but we no longer live the way we used to. It should not be surprising to see problems emerge from this upheaval: we have not had as much time to adapt to these overall dietary changes.
The complex of problems that come from ‘Neolithic’ foods are often known as the “diseases of civilization.” These chronic diseases are virtually unknown among aboriginal people before contact with the modern world, and then appear rapidly as they adopt “Neolithic” foods. These diseases include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, “metabolic syndrome”, tooth decay, scurvy, gout, dementia, …and more.
Paleolithic man, we can estimate, existed largely on animals as food, including land animals (game), birds, fish, mollusks, small mammals and insects, and moderate consumption of plant foods, fruit, and nuts/seeds, particularly that which could be harvested easily.
The identified ‘problem’ foods (as defined/observed repeatedly over the course of scientific study and observation by different, independent scientists and dieticians and physicians in the last 150 years):
- grains (wheat, barley, rye, corn, rice) It doesn’t matter if it’s whole-grain or white flour as both contain certain problematic/damaging chemicals, namely Gluten, Phytates, and/or Lectins. Gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) is now known to cause significant damage in the human gut and body.
- concentrated forms of sugar (white sugar, brown sugar, fruit juice, HFCS). Fruit juice delivers a powerful, concentrated dose of sugar without the water/fiber found in whole fruit
- legumes (beans, peanuts, soy). These are known to contain significant antinutrient lectins, which may be partially deactivated by soaking/sprouting prior to consumption but may still cause problems in the gut. Legumes are known to aggravate many autoimmune diseases.
- vegetable and seed oils (soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, safflower/sunflower oil, shortening, hydrogenated oils). These oils are high in unstable omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which are highly inflammatory in the body and are prone to oxidation in the body. They are among the primary causes of heart disease.
Some people (though not all) may react to the following foods and may see improvement with an elimination diet:
- modern dairy products, especially conventional pasteurized milk. RAW milk contains lactase which helps digest the milk sugar (lactose). Pasteurization deactivates this enzyme, leaving the body with undigestible lactose that can cause irritation. Casein (milk protein) is another known gut irritant. However butter and fermented dairy products such as yogurt cause much less problems due to their reduced lactose content.
- nightshades: Tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant and peppers are all New World plants that some individuals may not be adapted to; these usually trigger autoimmune problems and so those with known autoimmune disease may see improvement with these foods removed from their diets.
- eggs: especially egg whites, which contain gut irritant proteins
- nuts/seeds, which contain some antinutrient lectins
Gosh, don’t you just LOVE science? <insert eye-roll here>
This is the general concept of Paleo/Primal. Now read The Foundation: What to Eat, What To Avoid
NOTE: Comments for this page have been turned off. If you feel an error has been made, please contact me with the information and credible sources to point me in the right direction. Thanks!