As we grunt along, happily enjoying our dinners, we all sound a little Paleolithic at times. The Paleolithic Diet is a raw food diet that has been growing in popularity. The idea behind the Paleo Diet is remarkably similar to that espoused in The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Add the word “raw” to that sentence, and you have the diet that many of our ancestors might have eaten: fresh leaves and berries gathered from the bushes, nuts and seeds, complemented by preserved or foraged roots and animal products when we could get them.
People are omnivores. In some places in the world, like the
Eating like our ancestors means that we cook very little and preserve using root cellars, fermentation, and processes like yogurt-making that involve very small amounts of heat to process food. This keeps the micronutrients intact and the fiber still present in the food. Cooking like a caveman involves eating foods that are processed as little as possible. While people have always processed items like manioc into edibility, in most cases it is easiest to eat foods as they come. Eating fresh berries, leaves, and the occasional raw egg or milk product is part of the Paleolithic diet.
Is the Paleolithic Diet a sensible one for the body? Eating whole, unprocessed foods and living foods like sprouts is certainly a sensible nutritional choice. The Paleolithic Diet also reduces the amount of grains and animal products that many people eat. In wealthy countries where grains and animal products are found in cheap abundance, many people eat far too many carbohydrates that are often fried in processed animal or vegetable oils.
Is the Paleolithic Diet a sustainable one for the earth? It may reduce the consumption of animal products. Raw eggs, raw dairy, and raw meat may be less palatable or available to some and may become a smaller part of the diet. The focus on unprocessed, unpackaged, and uncooked fruits and vegetables is certainly a lower-impact choice. However, for northerners eating raw and vegetarian in the winter time, finding local food can be challenging, since many fresh fruits and vegetables are flown in from far away. Like other raw food diets, the Paleolithic Diet is a concept that holds the promise of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, but it can be a hard sell in these days of packaged and processed foods.