The paleo diet is hugely popular because for so many people it changes the way they feel completely and improves their health beyond measure, but it’s not exactly right for some people, hence the Ideal Cave Man Diet. The basic idea behind both of these diets is that your way-back ancestors (cave men in the paleolithic era) probably ate a diet that is closer to the optimal diet for your genetics. This is actually pretty sound logic, especially given how much food has changed in the last 100-150 years with the advent of the modern chemical era.
Paleo Diet Basics
- Based on an ancestral way of eating from the paleolithic era
- Human diet pre-farming and domestication of animals this means:
- No grains like wheat, oats, corn and rye
- No legumes like soy, beans, lentils
- No milk or dairy products because really how often would you hunt a nursing animal?
- No refined or unrefined cane sugar
- No artificial sweeteners
- No processed foods at all
- Diet based entirely on meat, veggies and fruit.
- It’s easy to see why people feel better with this type of eating because everything they’re getting is nutrient dense real food (my favorite – nutritarian eating).
Paleo Diet Limitations
For people with a tendency towards inflammation the paleo diet is a mixed blessing. Many of the inflammatory foods, like refined carbohydrates, sugar and GMO grains are excluded from paleo, which is awesome. The problem is, of the allowed foods (meat, fish, veggies and fruits, limited nuts) the one that most people coming from a standard american diet (SAD) eat is meat. So paleo for the novice eater or non-health-nut can often mean “meatatarian.” Worse, it frequently means “baconatarian” which god knows is delicious, but not so good if you have clogged arteries already and a family history of early heart attacks.
Because of this, I usually give my clients the caveat of eating a “veggie heavy paleo diet” but really, what does that mean? It often creates more questions than it answers. Hence trying to simplify to the Ideal Cave Man Diet.
What Is The Ideal Cave Man Diet?
This is essentially the paleo diet, but with a nod to keeping your levels of inflammation down because unfortunately meat in large amounts can be inflammatory – so it’s the even-more-anti-inflammatory version of paleo. It’s not really a separate diet, but a modified way of looking at ancestral eating. Here’s what’s different:
- More veggies – Veggies and fruits should be the centerpiece of every meal, with roughly twice the amount of veggie to protein (protein being meat, fish, some eggs).
- Grains – Research has shown that people living in the paleolithic era did actually have some grains, some legumes and some starchy roots in their diet (which is not in the strict paleo diet). Keep in mind these would have been eaten in amounts you could stumble across in the wild, not amounts you would get from a farmed crop. This means very little and infrequently. So for ideal cave man eating this means:
- Tiny amounts of healthy non-GMO and non-selectively bred grains or legumes, eaten infrequently. So an occasional small serving of lentils, black beans, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat or teff is acceptable.
- The majorly “bred” grains and legumes are still out – this would include wheat, corn, soy.
- Tubers – paleo diet has been pretty clear about no starchy tubers, like potatoes. This makes sense because often potatoes make a good grain replacement and so people go crazy with root veggie starch when grain starch is taken out. Research is clear though that tubers, albeit different ones, were actually a part of the true ancestral diet – with nut sedge being a clear example. Like grains I feel this gives some wiggle room to add tubers and root veggies back into the diet in moderation – this would include things like yams, sweet potatoes, beets, Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes and turnip. Not perhaps as the center point of a meal, but in small amounts here and there.
- Your Family History – If you or members of your family have serious inflammatory diseases including heart and cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and even cancer then the ratios of veggie and fruit to protein should be different than those of a person without severe inflammatory disease. Ideal Cave Man Diet essentially tailors the ratios of these foods to keep the diet more strongly anti-inflammatory for those who need it.
- Dairy – The strict peleo people are going to hate this, but there is really great evidence from the Price-Pottinger Foundation that small amounts of raw or fermented dairy in the human diet is linked to better structural growth, more bone stability and better reproductive success. Provided there is not a specific food sensitivity to dairy (which would make it unhealthy for you in particular) then small amounts can be added in to the ideal cave man diet, especially fermented dairy like yoghurt, kefir, cheese and fermented butter.
Sound Complicated? Hopefully This Graphic About Ideal Cave Man Diet Will Help…
My whole take on nutrition is that every way of eating has to have some flexibility to take into account your particular needs – that means your genetic predisposition based on your family history as well as your own personal disease risk. Outside of that, there must be a little bit of wiggle room generally because it just isn’t healthy to eat exactly the same things all the time. There must be some variety and some variation and the ideal cave man diet makes a little more room for that than classic paleo. For more information about ways to personalize this type of diet you can also check out this article on personalized paleo.