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January 3, 2010

The Caveman Diet


My daddy was bulky, specially around the waistline. I inherited that. While I'm not and never have been obese, I certainly could afford to lose a few more pounds. Until recently it was mostly a question of looks but now it has become a question of health so I have been doing something about it.

I have always been fascinated by The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris, a study of Man from a zoologist's point of view. It is quite clear that while we no longer eat like our caveman ancestors, our metabolism has not yet evolved to deal with industrial food which has been in existence for only five to seven generations.

My earlier weight-loss dietary experiments were mostly eliminating sugar, which works quite well, but otherwise I ate a "balanced" diet quite heavy on animal protein which does not work so well. The pounds don't come off with this diet, rather, they accumulate.

Eventually I came to realize that while our caveman ancestors ate everything they could get their hands on -- we are omnivores -- the amount of meat must have been quite small. According to one book I read, I believe it was by Jared Diamond, some civilizations turned cannibals because they lacked sufficient animal protein. Mentally reconstructing a day in the life of our caveman ancestors it becomes clear that his diet must have been fairly rich in fiber, not having refined foods such as wheat flour or sugar. Before agriculture, even starchy roots must have been somewhat scarce. Agriculture is over 450 generation old so we must have adapted somewhat to concentrated starches but not to sugar which developed into mass production with the introduction of sugar cane to the Caribbean about 13 generations ago.

My version of the "caveman diet" features chicken, pork, fish and milk for animal protein but in small quantities with an occasional egg thrown in for variety. I estimate that one quarter pound of lean pork or one chicken breast provides about half my daily requirement of protein. The rest has to come from plants: fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, legumes, anything edible, really.

I won't go into the details of my daily menu plan at this time but I want to mention that an ideal meal will have seven vegetables in it including some of the following: onions, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, rice, potatoes, beans, carrots, sugar beets, bell peppers, tomatoes, herbs like garlic, parsley, cilantro, green onions, basil, and leeks as well as an assortment of spices including marine salt, low sodium salt (for the potassium), black pepper, paprika, fine herbs, cinnamon, all spice, cloves, caraway seeds, and others. This list is not exhaustive by any means, it all depends on what's available fresh at the market.

I used to believe that starches were fattening. While I have cut back bread almost entirely, I'm eating quite a bit of pasta, rice and potatoes. It seems that by reducing the intake of animal protein these starches become less fattening but this is just a guess on my part.

During the year I plan to submit several of my "Caveman Dishes" as well as a description of Denny's Frugal Kitchen: Helping Ends Meet in Lean Times.

Denny Schlesinger


References
History of Agriculture Link expired Rice University
How Sugar is Made - the History The International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists
The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal by Desmond Morris




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