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Eating like a caveman

Andrea Lugue
'Caveman' diets call for an open mind — not controversy

WHAT WORKS FOR YOU? Different kinds of diets work for different kinds of people. For Dr. Davis' patients, it's getting rid of wheat. Screen grab from YouTube

MANILA, Philippines – It’s one thing to posit that organic lechon (roasted pig) may in fact be healthier than transfat-logged fastfood meals. 

It’s quite another to be advocating an ample amount of meat in one’s diet.

The hypothesis is more than enough to raise a few people’s eyebrows in curiosity, and yet is easily dismissed due to age-old correlations between meat, cholesterol and heart disease.

Yet this is exactly what a new wave of nutritionists are doing. The startling thing about it: the way these nutritionists champion eating food that has traditionally been deemed “unhealthy.”

They also fight against what people have considered to be a staple in many countries around the world: grains, whether they come in the form of steaming hot rice or the breakfast pan de sal (bread of salt).

Cardiologist Dr. William Davis is quick to suggest the elimination of wheat in his patients’ diets whenever they have an unexplainable ailment. He narrates in his best-selling book Wheat Belly how his patients quickly lost much of their unhealthy weight, effectively cured their diabetes, regained energy and even slowed down their aging process by doing so. A myriad of glowing testimonials are also included in the book;  they’re almost too good to be true.

He suggests that much of the United States’ obesity problems started when the country’s Food and Drug Administration began to advocate wheat products. 

Dr. Davis noticed a pattern among his patients who consciously tried to live healthy lifestyles with proper diet and exercise. “Most will say, ‘I don’t get it. I exercise five days a week. I’ve cut my fat and increased my healthy whole grains. Yet I can’t seem to stop gaining weight,’” Davis writes. 

He cites many reasons as to why wheat is a culprit of poor health: the wheat we eat today is not the wheat that our grandparents used to consume (thanks to rampant and uncontrolled cross-breeding); high glycemic indices in wheat products that raise blood sugar more than table sugar or a bar of Snickers; wheat’s addictive properties that cause overeating, and more. 

Other health experts push the envelope further by campaigning for the elimination of other grains and legumes entirely from the diet, not just wheat. 

Enter the Paleo and Primal diets, which are have slight differences but essentially call for the elimination of grains from the diet. They’re quite the fad in the United States, with many books on Paleo and Primal eating currently on the bestseller list of 

The proposed diet comes in many names and bears many similarities: gluten-free, low-carb, dairy-free, paleo or primal. It is essentially all about foregoing processed foods, man-made fats and grains for tastier and more natural dishes. 

Paleo and Primal are popularly known for mimicking the diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The premise is that our stomachs and intestines have not evolved so much from the first man, and so processed foods today are not digested in our bodies as well and as much as we’d like to expect. 

The hunter-gatherer diet consists of meat (Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet Cookbook, prefers lean meats, but doesn’t bar you from the Filipino cultural mores of using up every last edible part of the animal), seafood, fowl, fresh vegetables and fruits.

These (should be) free from man-made fats and unhealthy preservatives that plague society today and cause obesity and diabetes. No grains that are unpalatable without some degree of processing or cooking is included in the list.

The Paleo and Primal diets also consider natural fats healthy. “Although frequently and falsely maligned, certain select fats offer key nutrients unavailable in other foods — nutrients critical to the functioning of many physiological systems,” says Mark Sisson in The Primal Blueprint Cookbook. 

It’s also important not to take “the Caveman diet” too literally, which made it the target of many jokes about eating raw meat and more.

Cordain writes: “It is not crucial to exactly duplicate hunter-gatherer diets. This would be a next-to-impossible task in our twenty-first century world, as many of those foods are no longer in existence, are commercially unavailable, or simply unpalatable to our contemporary tastes and cultural biases.”

These diets, however, place a premium on organic, locally-sourced ingredients for optimal freshness and nutrient density.

Have you tried eating like a caveman today? –

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