RIGHT, SAID FRED
Eat like a Flintstone
WORDS BY MATTHEW WISHART
You are tracking a wild boar through the bush. Clasping your stone-tipped spear with one hand and a crude rock in the other, you make your way through the clearing with your pals Ug and Drok. You spot the Boar resting at a small stream, a mere stone’s throw away. You pull your arm back and throw your spear with a precise aim and, with a thud, the Boar drops to the ground.
Ug and Drok both run to the Boar, truss him up to take to the rest of the tribe. With a great big smile on your face, you wander behind them whilst scouting for any fresh fruit or fungi that you can take back for the daily feast.
This is a very brief explanation of what the Paleo diet consists of, well, not quite. But the diet itself is based on what the Troglodytes (aka –
Cavemen) ate back in the prehistoric era, lasting until around 10,000 years ago.
Hunters and gatherers were abundant in this era as the art of agriculture hadn’t yet been developed, and so they ate what they could find, be it animals or the fruit that hung off the trees and vegetables growing in the surrounding areas.
There were no processed foods, refined sugars or homogenized milk available. No grains or dairy products, it was whatever you could find, which did vary a bit depending on the location of the tribe.
The modern concept behind this diet was first brought to the public by a gastroenterologist, Walter L. Voegtlin. Walter stated that humans have adapted to the Paleolithic way of eating after many years of living on such a diet and claimed that there were many health benefits from eating as the Cavemen used to eat.
Numerous papers have been published over the years stating the benefits of living on such a diet, though it has also been dubbed a “Fad diet” by some dieticians and doctors and has been a hot subject of discussion for some time.
Seemingly sweeping the world by storm in recent years, especially in the new fitness fad called Crossfit, the Paleo diet promised healthier living by cutting out all the supposed unnecessary foods that do nothing for your health or nutrition.
A high protein intake is one of the many benefits of such a diet. Living on meat and veges alone, you can increase your protein intake by around 20%, along with lower carbs and a high fibre intake from fresh fruits and vegetables.
It is easy to see why many people jumping on to this diet do so – with fast foods featuring so prominently in wider culture, the desire for healthy living and eating is making a comeback.
Friends of mine started on the Paleo diet around six months ago, making the sudden change from eating what ever they liked to maintaining a strict diet which cuts out (in my opinion) a lot of the tastiest foods and snacks.
After starting on the diet they found their energy levels were low as their bodies adjusted to the sudden change in eating habits, going through a withdrawal of sorts. After a couple of weeks, they said that they were feeling great and that their energy levels were better than they had been before.
There have been doubts about the lifespan of the Troglodytes however, it appears to have been only in the region of thirty years, hardly a ringing endorsement at first blush. Whether this was due to lack of healthcare available or climate conditions and large predatory animals is not known but it is too early in the Paleo diet’s modern run to see how it affects human lifespan as proper testing hasn’t been done.
A different view of the Paleo diet could be that of the early Japanese in what is known as the Jōmon period which is thought to have begun after the last Ice-age around 12,000 years ago.
Seafood was abundant in Japan with Salmon being a staple, along with edible nuts and meats like deer and wild boar. Wild plants and shellfish were also an integral part of their diet with rice coming in at a later point after they had moved on to a more advanced style of agriculture.
This way of living has progressed on-wards to a diet consisting mainly of small dishes with rice being a predominant item along with fresh fish, vegetables cooked in broth, and green tea.
Comparing the two diets, the Paleo diet definitely has a similarity to the Japanese diet, though the Japanese diet has a high seafood content as opposed to the meat dependent Paleo diet.
Meat which contains a much higher cholesterol content as opposed to fish, can if eaten in copious amounts, give you a higher chance of a heart attack or a stroke.
The Japanese also serve food in smaller portions, meaning to be shared around instead of having one main meal. This means that in terms of keeping off the weight, you are generally only eating enough to gain all of the nutrients that you need instead of eating until you are full.
Rice has become the main part of every meal in Japanese culture, the reason being that rice is high in nutrients and makes a good filler for meals. Brown rice is a great source of nutrients and vitamins as well, more so than the more processed white rice, which lacks the higher levels of magnesium and other nutrients that get stripped in the whitening process.
On the Paleo diet, rice is considered as something you should not eat and if you do, it should be eaten in very small amounts. Almonds are seen as much more nutritious and the view of rice is that it is apparently barely a step up from refined sugars in terms of nutrient content.
It’s either one or the other and the Japanese have been living on a staple diet of rice for hundreds and thousands of years and been living far better than any other ethnicity or culture so I would say in this case that the Japanese have this one in the bag.
From what I have seen on the subject, the Paleo diet is better seen as way of thinking rather than a strict diet. The idea is to cut out all of the processed foods, especially takeaways, and get on track to eating a healthy meal every day.
I agree with eating healthier and if we can start supporting local organic produce and meat suppliers then we will all be better off for it. In saying that, perhaps a more modern view of what we are eating will work to our favour as well, grains like rice are an excellent addition to any meal and pasta is a great way to give your body the food it needs to keep you working hard.
It has also been argued that since the Paleolithic Era, human bodies have adjusted to processing new foods such as grains and legumes, pastas and breads. With the exception of lactose intolerance that is, as humans are the only mammal to drink milk after growing out of the baby stage. It seems that many people can’t seem to break down and process milk very well, which is especially true among the Asian population. As a result of that, the Japanese especially have taken to soy and tofu products as a healthy alternative and it seems like they have the right idea about diets.
The Paleo diet definitely has its benefits. There are many different Paleo variants you can choose from and you can either eat strictly Paleo foods or mix it in with your usual diet to a degree that suits you. At the same time, they are cutting out a lot of whole food groups which humans have eaten for many years and which provide nutritional benefits with many vitamins and minerals.
I myself wouldn’t switch to the full Paleo diet, though after researching the Japanese and their longevity I might start living off rice and fish instead.
But the message to take away from any diet really, is to make sure you are eating healthy, that you aren’t filling yourself up but instead eating in moderation. Fresh fruit and vegetables make a great source of energy and meats and seafood are an essential part every diet.
Paleo Banana bread – recipe courtesy of Paul Rumary – Wilder and Hunt in Auckland.
1 Tbsp Vanilla
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1/4 cup Coconut oil – melted
2 cups Almond flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp baking soda
Heat oven to 165.c
Whisk eggs lightly in a small bowl
In a food processor, blend the eggs, vanilla, maple syrup, coconut oil, and bananas
Add the dry ingredients and mix to a smooth batter
Pour into a baking paper lined loaf tin and bake for 40 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean