By now you’ve probably heard of the Paleo diet, and you may be wondering how eating like a caveman could make you healthier. Or maybe you just want to know what the heck cavemen ate, and if you have to forage it for yourself.
Fortunately, the Paleo lifestyle does not involve hunting and clubbing your own meat. Instead, think of it like a return to the basics. “Focus on fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, grass-produced meats and poultry, fresh fish, fresh seafood, free-range eggs, nuts, and certain healthy oils,” says Loren Cordain, Ph.D., founder of the Paleo movement. “Avoid processed foods, refined sugars, refined vegetable oils, refined and whole grains, salt, dairy products, and legumes.”
That sounds reasonable—especially because fit guys probably already skip refined sugars and processed foods. Plus, Paleo guidelines suggest that about three non-Paleo meals can be consumed per week (preferably with a pint of your favorite brew). As for cooking Paleo, most spices are permitted, vinegar is acceptable (as long as it’s made without salt), and even some healthy, fatty oils—like olive, avocado, walnut and coconut—are permitted.
The Paleo diet outlaws popular vegetarian protein staples—legumes, dairy, and even oft-toted “healthy” grains like quinoa are out, Cordain, says. But Paleo dieters replace those with higher doses of meat—about 19–35% of ancient hunter-gatherers’ daily caloric intake was protein, Cordain says—and encourages non-starchy vegetables and fruits aplenty (ideally, 35–45% of daily calories). Some nutritionists have expressed reservations about the Paleo diet, though, citing concerns that it could lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals—notably calcium and vitamins B and D—without disciplined nutritional planning.
So who should take a swing at the Paleo lifestyle? Cordain suggests obese Americans—an ever-growing population—would make great candidates. Of course, heavy-duty weightlifters and CrossFitters alike have long been drawn to the Paleo diet’s high-protein, no-junk-food approach.
Still not convinced? Try it for a day by whipping up these easy Paleo meals. They’re relatively quick, simple meals. You probably have the ingredients in your pantry already.