Can a civilization that lived more than 10,000 years ago – before the invention of farming, pharmaceuticals and the treadmill – be healthier than people today? With the exception of modern medicine, the answer is yes. Cavemen ate nutrient rich, natural foods that they had to hunt for in the wild. We, on the other hand, eat mostly processed foods and grocery shop when we’re feeling especially ambitious.
However, the growing popularity of the all-natural “Paleo” diet means that we’ve started to grasp the health benefits of eating like cavemen. A cultural shift from a sedentary to an active lifestyle is slowly taking shape. Here are ten reasons why we should get back to basics and live like our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
1) Exercise was part of their lifestyle
Cavemen had to be incredibly fit to survive. They couldn’t take down wooly mammoths or forage for food without some serious cardio and strength training. At an early age, young men were trained to fight, wield weapons and hunt for their food. Their nomadic lifestyle meant they were constantly on the move – and not glued to the couch.
2) They ate a lot more veggies
According to recent studies, early humans regularly ate up to 100 different varieties of plants. Approximately two-thirds of a caveman’s diet was made up of plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, roots and seeds. As farming hadn’t been invented yet, their meals were 100% organic and pesticide-free. Take that, Whole Foods!
3) They used natural healing remedies
Cavemen were the unwitting pioneers of Earthing, the modern practice of connecting to the Earth’s natural electric energy. Since they were barefoot and slept on the ground, they were constantly benefitting from the Earth’s healing “free radicals.” Recent studies have shown that Earthing can improve restfulness and relieve chronic pain. Cavemen – 1, Modern Man – 0.
4) They only ate lean meat and fish
Cavemen had a strict diet of lean meat and fish, free from antibiotics, growth hormones and excess fat. As a result, their cholesterol levels were significantly lower. They only hunted free-range and grass-fed game animals (not out of principle, but out of lack of options). Nonetheless, PETA would likely approve.
5) There was no such thing as “bad” carbs
We love our carbs. Pasta, cereal and candy are a handful of our carb-heavy guilty pleasures. Without farming, cavemen couldn’t produce refined “bad” carbohydrates from corn, white grain and “added” sugars. Still, cavemen had a healthy intake of “good” carbs through natural plant foods like vegetables and fruits. The “good” carbs provide fibre and nutrients that would boost their energy levels.
6) Their diet was (mostly) sugar-free
Today, people consume an average of 42.5 teaspoons of refined sugar per day – approximately 30 teaspoons more than the recommended amount. In the Stone Age, early humans only ate natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables and wild honey. A caveman with a “sweet tooth” is about as oxymoronic as “fat-free ice cream.”
7) They didn’t eat food that rot their teeth
Cavemen couldn’t fathom the invention of the toothbrush, yet their gums were in better shape than ours. According to a recent study in Nature Genetics, the Neolithic shift to farming carb-heavy, processed foods contributed significantly to the rise of poor oral health. The caveman’s all-natural diet left little to no plaque build-up on their teeth.
8) No fast food
You would’ve been hard-pressed to make a hamburger in prehistoric times. There were no buns, because there were no crops. There was no dairy, because there was no livestock. Instead, cavemen benefited from the exercise of hunting and gathering nutrient rich wild foods. Consider that when “hunting” your next drive-thru meal.
9) They didn’t suffer from diet-related disease
In the prehistoric era, the leading causes of death were predators, bacterial or virus infections. Studies suggest that they didn’t suffer from any weight-related complications. Today, many of the most common chronic diseases – obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc. – are related to or caused by excess intake of processed foods.
10) They weren’t party animals
Despite the discovery of Stone Age “beer jugs” dating back to at least 10,000 BC, cavemen didn’t drink nearly as much as we do today. They also didn’t smoke tobacco or do recreational narcotics. Drug addiction, lung cancer and beer bellies are unfortunate by-products of a contemporary lifestyle.