Diet Of The Stone Age as a model?

In the pivotal age of evolution, humans ate natural foods: fruits, leafy and root vegetables, nuts, and the occasional bird egg, fish, and meat from small animals. The original diet of these hunter-gatherers serves as a model for a growing number of followers of the “Stone Age diet” (Paleo diet). Because the natural mix of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and the simultaneous avoidance of grain, dairy products, and all industrially produced foods should lead to the ideal body weight and protect against various diseases of civilization.

Nutrition of the indigenous peoples

In the fight against obesity and diet-related diseases, more and more people in the western world are looking for optimal nutrition for maximum health.

The more modern life becomes and the more “advanced” the food industry, the more people suffer from health problems and focus on an original, natural diet that is free of all artificial interventions. Many, consciously or instinctively, turn to an ancient diet known by nutritionists as the Stone Age diet or the Paleo diet.

This is human nutrition as it was probably composed in the Paleolithic, a time before agriculture and animal husbandry were practiced. From an evolutionary point of view, this may seem backward. In fact, such a return to the diet of our ancestors could represent a major step forward for the current health situation in the “modern” world.

Stone Age Nutrition – Progress in Regression?

The Paleolithic diet is a science of its own dedicated to the dietary habits of our Stone Age ancestors who lived 750,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Dealing with the way of life of these hunters and gatherers is not only interesting in terms of human history. In particular, many health experts point to the typical diet of this age as a decisive factor in human evolution.

Thus, the composition of this original diet is said to be the healthiest for humans as a species, covering all nutritional needs and conforming to our genetic adaptation.

Just as zoo animals are given as much food as possible that they would find and eat in the wild, more and more nutritionists are coming to the conclusion that a diet that has prevailed for most of the human evolution is still the one that best suits our nature today. Conversely, they blame modern industrial food, to which we are not physically adapted, for various lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

The introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry over the last 10,000 years has brought about changes in diet and physical activity that the human body can hardly cope with in this short period of time from an evolutionary point of view, which demand their price in the form of civilization diseases.

Modern vs. original diet

Before the development of agriculture and animal husbandry, food choices were reduced to minimally processed wild plants and animals. Due to the changed lifestyle of people who have settled down, the supply of nutrients has also changed. Since the technological advances brought about by the Industrial Revolution, the foods we consume have steadily moved away from their natural origins – with a significant impact on our very physical makeup.

In fact, modern man consumes countless foods that did not exist in this form during the Stone Age. Dairy products, grains, refined sugars, refined vegetable oils, and alcohol account for more than 70 percent of the daily energy consumed in Western countries on average.

Milk and milk products in particular are repeatedly questioned as suitable foods for humans. Like all mammals, we can digest milk during infancy. However, the consumption of milk from alien creatures was rather unlikely for Stone Age people, especially since the keeping of sheep, goats, and cows for milk production began 6,000 years ago at the earliest.

The fact is that over 80 percent of adults worldwide cannot (properly) digest milk sugar (lactose) due to the lack of the enzyme lactase, which manifests itself in a variety of gastrointestinal complaints.

Similar skepticism is increasingly being directed toward grain.

Since wild grains are very small, difficult to harvest, and difficult to digest when raw, it is assumed that Stone Age people consumed very little grain at best. Even the cultivation of the so-called ancient grains emmer and einkorn only began around 10,000 years ago as part of early agriculture (in south-eastern Turkey).

The amounts of grain that we consume today in the form of bread, pasta, pastries, etc. would be unacceptable for the digestive tract of a Stone Age man – almost as unacceptable as for our “modern” minimally adapted organism.

Not surprising are the increasing cases of gluten intolerance and celiac disease, two reactions of the body to the protein mixture gluten (particularly wheat) found in various types of grain.

Add to that the fact that most grain products consumed in the western world today are heavily processed.

It is often a question of flour, extracts from the original grain for longer storage life. What remains is primarily starch, while the vital substances and dietary fibers that are mainly found in the germ and in the silver skin are removed from the grain.

These simple, high-glycemic carbohydrates from refined flour enter the blood very quickly and increase blood sugar levels, which increases the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but also affects the intestinal flora.

Stone Age Nutrition – Healthy without grain and sugar

Scientific comparisons between the Stone Age and modern diets suggest that today’s high consumption of simple carbohydrates in the form of industrially processed grains and sugar promotes inflammatory intestinal flora and is the main cause of obesity.

A Stone Age-oriented, a grain-free diet made of wholesome, natural foods (especially fruits, roots, and leafy vegetables), on the other hand, can equip the gastrointestinal tract with a bacterial flora that corresponds to our evolutionary systems. This also explains the good health of non-Western peoples and the efficiency of their original food in terms of metabolism and satiety.

In contrast to foods in the western world that contain flour and sugar, typical Stone Age foods have a significantly lower carbohydrate density and, according to studies, encourage weight loss. Even sweet fruit as part of a Stone Age diet does not have a negative effect on weight, contrary to the glycemic index that is widely propagated today. The same applies to the generous consumption of high-fat nuts and seeds.

Indigenous peoples do not know being overweight

Studies on the diet of primitive peoples living today have made it clear that a “primeval” diet in accordance with the climatic conditions not only gets by without western foods but also excludes typical western phenomena such as obesity.

Members of these peoples generally have a lower body fat percentage and generally enjoy excellent health, although the weighting of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) differs regionally.

Primitive peoples in the equatorial region such as the Kitavan island people of Melanesia in the Pacific obtain 60 to 70 percent of their energy from carbohydrates in fruits, vegetables, and tubers (e.g. yam, sweet potato).

They absorb fats mainly in the form of coconuts. Although the fat content of this natural diet in particular corresponds roughly to the fat content of an average western diet, you will look in vain for fat people here.

The diet of the traditionally living and also slim Eskimos, which consists mainly of animal sources (mainly fish, and whale meat), is even richer in fat. In both cases, it becomes clear that it is not the quantity of the food that is decisive, but the quality in terms of its naturalness. This is because natural fats appear to have a different effect on the body than industrially modified fats such as refined vegetable oils and hydrogenated fat spreads.

How can we as the “Stone Age Diet” integrate into our modern world and free ourselves from our health ailments?

Stone Age diet in the modern world

People who base their diets on Stone Age realities can experience a variety of health benefits.

This is demonstrated not only by scientific studies but above all by personal statements on general well-being. Participants in a comparative study who were allowed to consume unlimited amounts of nuts as part of a Paleo diet lost more weight than those who ate the same amount of nuts as part of a typical Mediterranean diet.

At the same time, the Paleo group confirmed a greater feeling of satiety despite automatic calorie reduction, which is probably due to the high proportion of fiber in fruit and vegetables, among other things.

In the private implementation of Stone Age nutrition, we should pay attention to our individual needs. While some people do well on a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and nuts, others may prefer higher levels of fat and protein from animal products (eggs, fish, meat). In any case, the food should come from organic farming or, even better, from nature’s wild garden.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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