When we think back to how we have evolved as humans it is quite remarkable how technology and science have moved on so quickly. We were a species that learnt to survive on a diet of wild animals and plants for thousands of years. The foods we consumed varied depending on our geographical location and climate. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 17th Century when the agricultural revolution hit England (1) that our diets began to change more rapidly and we were introduced to manufactured foods.
Our ancestors before the revolution lived on minimally processed foods, as they simply didn’t have the technology we have, to create the foods that are now available to us 24/7. Thousands of years ago tesco’s didn’t exist and access to: dairy sources from other animals, cereals, refined sugars, vegetable oils and alcohol (2) just weren't available.
Dairy didn’t become visible in our diets until 6100 as animals were not farmed, so catching and milking them would have been difficult. Therefore, our Paleolithic ancestors only had milk from their mothers until the weaning period (2). This is why some people now suffer from dairy allergies, as the enzymes that help to break down the sugar in milk decrease after weaning. This has an effect on the bodies’ ability to digest milk and then leads to an allergy (3).
It is only in the last 10,000 years that we have been consuming grains (4) and these now form a major part of our staple diet. It is amazing how we have all become so dependent on these grains. Cereal grains are low in nutrients including vitamin A, C and B12 (4). If we are eating good sources of meat, fruit and vegetables then we can get these vitamins from here. However, generally most people’s diets are very beige in colour! Alongside this, grains also contain the protein gluten, which can cause intolerances, as it is quite hard for the body to digest and can irritate the gut (5).
We have all seen the news more recently about sugar and how our intakes have risen dramatically over the years. It is recommended in the US that a person has a maximum of 10 teaspoons per day, on average however, a person is consuming around 52 teaspoons per day (6). Our ancestors never had access to sweets, cakes, coca cola amongst many others yet we seem to be producing and eating them in huge quantities.
With all this in mind lets now look at what this diet asks of us. It’s rules are pretty simple. If you can’t kill it, dig it from the ground or pull it from a tree, you can’t eat it. This way of eating encourages us to cook from scratch, use seasonal produce and ditch refined processed foods that can be detrimental to our health. Your protein and fibre intake will naturally increase and this should help you to feel full and energised. Whilst a strict paleo diet can feel restrictive I have been following the basic principles for 3 years and I have noticed a massive difference in my energy levels, bloating and eczema. All positive I should add! I follow the diet strictly during the week then allow myself some treats at the weekend. So I would say 90% of the time I am strict then allow myself 10% off. I am also gluten and dairy free so my treats are usually homemade gluten free and dairy free ones. I will make sure I add some more yummy recipes to the website.
For more information on the paleo diet please click here.
- Overton M. Agricultural revolution in England: The transformation of the agrarian economy. Cambridge University Press; 2006.
- Cordain L, Eaton SB, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins B, O’Keefe J, Brand-Miller J. Origins and Evolutions of the Western Diet: Health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nut. 2005;81:341-354.
- Swallow D. Genetics of lactase persistence and lactose intolerance. Annual review of genetics. 2003;37:197-219.
- Cordain L. Cereal grains: Humanity’s double-edged sword. World Rev Nutr Diet. 1999;84:19-73.
- Sanz Y. Effects of gluten-free diet on gut microbiota and immune function in healthy adult humans. Gut Microbes. 2010;3:135-137.
- USDA. Profiling food consumption in America. Agriculture fact book. [Acessed 5th August 2014]. Available from: http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf