They didn’t have names at first. Indeed there is little evidence that Paleo man could even speak. Although, like many of the birds and animals around us he probably made certain noises that were understandable by his family group and likely made sounds that warned a neighboring group to get lost.
How Did the Paleos Live?
Mr. and Mrs. P were squat, hairy, and muscular and eventually dressed in animal skins (PETA wasn’t around back then). Mister Paleo spent his days running around with his friends doing his best to trap animals, find eggs and catch fish, while Mrs. Paleo stayed home, looked after the kids and kept the cave clean.
In her spare time she gathered edible green plants, roots, nuts, berries and firewood and fetched water. A difficult job without anything other than animal skins or possibly a hollowed out gourd to tote it in, so the Paleos tended to settle and live near rivers such as the Euphrates in Turkey after they migrated from Africa, or lakes such as Lake Zaribar in the Zagros mountains of Iran.
The Paleo Diet Explained
What’s for Dinner Mrs. P?
To understand what Paleolithic man used to eat, we have to disregard just about all the foods we are familiar with today. Animals had not been domesticated and farming as we know it hadn’t even been thought about. Instead Mr. Paleo and his friends had to spend their days hunting beasts such as giant tortoises which couldn’t have been too difficult, so they soon wiped them out. They ate the eggs of whatever it was that laid eggs back then…all high protein stuff.
With the climate changes happening at the time as well as continental drift, as groups of Paleo people moved around they became cut off from each other and their diets thus diversified to whatever they could find in their particular location.
Most of the varieties of fruits and vegetables we eat today did not exist back then. Apples would have been tiny and unpalatable and the dangers of consuming poisonous berries would have been great. Most modern fruits and vegetables have been a result of cross-breeding and hybridization.
In Africa they would have dug up fibrous roots to add to their meat diet. Cassava is still a staple today in some areas. It is fibrous, starchy and full of carboyhydrates but it was imported much later from the Americas. It was a long time before he learned to pound roots to a pulp or actually cook anything because he had no pots to cook in! Instead these roots would have been eaten raw. In the beginning Paleo man was more animal than human.
It takes a Village
Most animals back then were big…really big – and often dangerous. So if Mr. Paleo and his buddies went off and speared a woolly mammoth it would have been a cause for much celebration. But… how to get it back to Mrs. Paleo and all the Paleo-ettes?
Part of the activity in the evenings would have been to fashion stone tools so they could cut up the meat into convenient portions and strip the hides from the animals where they fell. On a cold, wet night one of them probably realized that getting under a hide afforded warmth and protection, and camping was invented.
Perhaps a runner went and brought the rest of the family to the site of the mammoth kill to make things a bit easier, and so the first barbecue party was thrown. The meat, if cooked, was baked in hot ashes.
Back home in the cave, sated with barbecue, followed by some nuts and berries for dessert, Mrs. Paleo, a little bored with digging up roots and being pregnant all the time, probably decided that the cave could do with a little freshening up.
During the long dark evenings she likely wanted to know where Mr. P had been for the past 3 days. Fed up with all the nagging, and because he couldn’t express the tremendous day of hunting he’d had by howling and beating his chest, he painted murals. Maybe some of them look a little peculiar to us today because he’d also eaten a few too many hallucinogenic mushrooms…
Early Paleo man didn’t have much to work with at first. He dug up root vegetables with wood and bone implements and speared animals with sharp sticks, with a little help from his friends. But with the basic nutritious foods he ate (if he was lucky), early Paleo man was able to develop from something more similar to an ape – ridged brows and all – into something more akin to the people we are today, and began walking upright.
The weather played a large part in Mr. Paleo’s family habits. Animals are much more attuned to the seasons and migrate from areas where they know the food supply will become poor to more abundant areas. After a few decades of coming home empty-handed, and sick of hearing the kids whining that they were hungry, Mr. P built a raft and set out for warmer climes…perhaps the first “cruise” if you will.
But because Paleo man thus became nomadic he was able to discover different foods and may have encountered local friendly tribes that invited him to eat things he had never tried before. These nomadic people may have lived in huts fashioned from wood with grass roofs, or tents made from hides, so the first bed and breakfast came about. Being a social creature, he kept learning.
All the time Mr. P was figuring things out, his brain was developing and he was getting plenty of exercise chasing animals, climbing trees and trying to figure out the best places to live and how to protect his family. He learned to make better tools such as harpoons. All the protein he was getting from meat and eggs was helping his brain.
He didn’t drink cow’s milk, so couldn’t make cheese. A cow wouldn’t last five minutes in the African savannah. Early on he had no idea what bread was. It took thousands of years for him to figure out how to grind the skinny grain he found into flour and yeast was discovered thousands of years after he made unleavened bread.
He developed incisors so that he was able to rip meat more efficiently, unlike his early monkey relatives who were strictly vegetarian. Other carnivores had already developed some serious flesh-ripping teeth and so he was always dodging them if he could.
So meat-eating was vital to the development of early man. Mr. P and his buddies were probably responsible for wiping out vast populations of many land animals (especially slow ones), along with climate changes, meteor strikes, volcanic eruptions and isolation factors. His meat was eaten anywhere from fresh through various stages of decay, cooked or uncooked depending on circumstances. All of the food he ate was unprocessed, often raw, completely natural and of course organic. But not very palatable.
So How Can the “Paleo Diet” Benefit Modern Man?
Studies have shown that Paleolithic man did not suffer from many of the diseases that are now common to us, such as hypertension, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, or obesity. It’s obvious why not. In the short time we’ve been on this planet, our digestive systems haven’t adapted fast enough to process many foods efficiently and it certainly hasn’t adapted to processing alien chemicals that have become such an insidious part of our diet and the large and varying amount of fats and oils we eat. Not to mention salt and sugar.
Paleo man spent most of his days fending off predators, trying to catch food in the form of fish, bird or animal and climbing trees to retrieve fruit and nuts. He was active, and if he was clever, he was well-nourished. Many Paleos weren’t, and evidence of malnutrition can be found simply by studying the teeth of Paleo people.
The basic idea behind the Paleo diet is quite logical. Early man developed relatively quickly, within 50,000 years compared to the 3,000,000-year time span of the earth. Because of his diet and his high level of activity and if he was fortunate, he lived to a reasonably ripe old age.
The women, who were probably pregnant or nursing for most of their lives definitely suffered most, and infant mortality was extremely high.
Could a Paleo-type diet benefit modern man? It would be impossible to reproduce it or know exactly what it was and it would have varied by region. But the idea of eating lean meat and fish and un-processed and raw foods does have a sound basis. They are simply better for you than foods containing chemical additives such as preservatives and lots of salt and sugar. Paleo man got his sugar naturally from fruits, nuts and berries and may have only encountered salt (which became a precious commodity, even to the Romans) when he stumbled across a naturally-occurring salt pan.
He did eat meat, and lots of it. It was full of nutrients which eventually led to the rapid development of the human brain. It has been genetically proven that early man came out of Africa and migrated to other parts of the world. As climate changed, forests in Africa receded and there was a lot of competition between early man and vegetarian animals for nutritious fruits, nuts and vegetation, so many Paleos left.
Although the Paleo Diet has caused a lot of controversy, there may just be something to it. If you lead an active lifestyle like Paleo man was forced to do, then go for it – cut out all the things you know you shouldn’t be eating in excess, such as dairy products and processed foods. Eat plenty of those hunter-gatherer things such as mushrooms, fruits, nuts and berries and green leafy vegetables and root vegetables, then balance your plate with fresh fish and lean meat.
The Paleo animals that Mr. and Mrs. P dined on had very little fat. The animals they ate were as active as they were. They were always on something else’s menu, so they were either mean, poisonous or could run, climb or fly – pretty much as it is today in wild Africa.
Oh and if you can’t find a woolly mammoth to hunt, adopt a nice domesticated dog and chase him around the park every day, take a stick and pretend it’s a spear and you’ll both probably live a longer and healthier life. Try a few weeks of that and eating as near to you can get to the Paleo diet and you’ll probably start slimming down rapidly. It’s the exercise combined with this diet that’s beneficial. Eliminate the noxious chemicals from your body and you’re bound to start looking and feeling younger. As for the rest of the caveman lifestyle, go fake fur…so much more PC in today’s world…
What do you eat to lose weight? Have you tried the Paleo diet? What were your results? Share your thoughts with us!