By Khadijah Khogeer
[Trigger Warning: this article discusses diet-restriction.]
Over two million years ago, our primal ancestors roamed the earth, searching forests for game animals and making fires in caves. This is called the Paleolithic period, when humans were close to nature and hadn’t begun farming. With the advent of agriculture, humans began domesticating animals and growing crops such as wheat and barley. Farming transformed the way humans live and eat — too quickly for the human body to adjust.
This is where the Paleo diet, also known as the caveman or primal diet, comes in. Why would anyone choose to essentially eat like cavemen? Well, this diet is meant to get humans back to eating in a way that’s compatible with their biology rather than their modern lifestyle. Instead of restricting the amount of food you eat, the Paleo diet focuses on eating foods available to humans before modernity disrupted our way of living.
My grocery list was limited to the following Paleo-friendly items:
- Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, carrot and bell pepper
- Fish: salmon and tuna
- Fruits in moderation: oranges, kiwis and berries
- Nuts: cashews, walnuts and almonds
- Healthy fats: olive oil, avocado and coconut oil
Although it’s not required, followers of the Paleo diet try to find grass-fed meats and organic or fresh produce.
Here’s what to avoid according to the Paleo diet:
- Wheat, rye, barley, oats, brown rice
- Processed foods
- Artificially low-fat foods
- Sugars and fruit juices
Since Paleolithic humans were more active compared to the average modern man, I made sure to exercise at least three to four times during the week while I was dieting. The Paleo diet also emphasizes that participants get enough Vitamin D from the sun and only eat when hungry. While it’s difficult to avoid sitting down all day as a college student, I tried to spend the daytime outside and walked as my main mode of transportation.
Overall, I enjoyed the Paleo diet. I found that by focusing on being active and eating whole, organic foods felt naturally good for my body and mind. The Paleo diet is low in sodium and glycemic load and high in fiber, protein and healthy fats. Although I love carbs such as bread and pasta, I surprisingly didn’t miss eating them during the week, as the protein and fat-heavy meals were very filling.
However, the Paleo diet isn’t suitable for vegetarians or vegans, or anyone who doesn’t enjoy animal protein. It was also expensive to purchase grass-fed beef, but I didn’t consume it every day. I somewhat loosely followed the Paleo diet by incorporating some carbs and reducing consuming fats. Our ancestors’ diet was interesting to follow, but it’s important to recognize that our way of living is completely different now. It’s best to adapt our eating habits to our own health needs and lifestyle.