Whenever I read through posts criticizing the paleo diet I always see the same argument presented. Why would anyone want to mimic the diet of our prehistoric ancestors, when their average lifespan was only 25 – 30 years? There is of course, a very simple answer to this question (Otherwise I wouldn’t be on Paleo myself!) , cavemen (and cavewomen) lived a lot longer than this.
So why is this figure quoted? , surely we can trust major scientific journals when this information is quoted? The trick here is in understanding the statistics, and then also in understanding the causes of death. In fact after proper analysis , you may be surprised to know that a recent peer reviewed journal estimates the modal age of death for people in hunter-gatherer societies to be around 68 – 72.
If you’re wondering why there is such a difference in mortality figures quoted then let me explain.
The over-arching factor here is in the high infant mortality rate. Nearly 40% of hunter-gatherers died before the age of 15, and a large proportion of these died before the age of 5. Of those who reached adulthood, their expected lifespan was much higher than 30 (easily 60) and the cause of death was generally infection or trauma (not heart disease or cancers such as those which plague our modern culture).
If we look at modal age of death we get a much higher figure. Corrected modal age of death means the age at which most people died who lived past 15 years of age. By using this figure we correct for the higher rates of trauma and infection which skew the results when looking at ‘average’ life span in hunter gatherers and by correcting for infant mortality we get a better understanding of exactly how long our prehistoric ancestors really lived.
These figures are similar in modern hunter – gatherer societies and are also evidenced by estimates from fossil records from our prehistoric ancestors.
What’s even more interesting is that following the transition to an agricultural society, the average life span actually dropped (yes – dropped!) to 20 years. Not only did lifespan decrease, after we changed our diet, we became shorter AND had reduced bone mineral density (which gives a fairly strong argument against critics who say we need dairy for our bones). Average (corrected) life span then remained below prehistoric levels until well into the 20th Century and the advent of modern medicines such as antibiotics.
In other words, we might not want to mimic prehistoric approaches to medicine, but mimicking their diet provides health, vitality AND longevity.
So, if you’re concerned about your health and want to live a fuller longer life, then consider Paleo, and if you need an image to help convince you then check out the picture below of aborigines (take special note of the middle man) prior to the introduction of western foods into their diet. My grandfather never looked that healthy!
Hamburgers are definitely approved paleo food. Aside from not eating them on buns, you need not change most of the ingredients. It’s an opportunity to experiment with new taste combinations.1 lb. ground meat
1 sweet onion, sliced thin
1-2 tomatoes, sliced
1-2 bell peppers, sliced in strips
8 oz. mushrooms, any kind, sliced
Spices and seasonings, your preference
Fresh cilantro or parsley sprigs
Mix seasonings into meat before frying or grilling. For a slightly unusual spicy taste, try a bit of powdered ginger. Fry burgers with onions, peppers and mushrooms in avocado, olive or unflavored coconut oil. Use homemade paleo-ingredient mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard if desired. Garnish with cilantro or parsley, or wrap burgers in leaves of spinach and enjoy.
For a true paleo-burger, use locally raised and grass-fed pastured meat. Bison is preferable. Turkey, chicken or lamb are also good choices.
Is cheese acceptable? Many people in the Paleolithic era had milk from sheep, goats or cows. Try taking an “eat like your ancestors” approach. To make an informed decision, discontinue dairy for a month to six weeks, then resume and see how you feel.
Quick easy stir-fries are a wonderful way to experience paleo food. Broccoli is a nutrient-rich vegetable, first cultivated in Biblical times. Here is one of many possibilities for a paleo beef-broccoli stir-fry.
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive or coconut oil
1/4 cup crushed garlic
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1-2 tsp powdered ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Warm oil in a saucepan. Stir in spices and lemon juice. Heat thoroughly. Pour into a Pyrex or other non-reactive baking dish. Put meat in and refrigerate 6-8 hours.
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. grass-fed pastured beef (sirloin preferred)
1 head fresh broccoli, cut small
3 tbsp minced ginger and garlic
1-2 parsnips, peeled, sliced thin
1 cup sliced sweet or chopped green onion
8 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
Cilantro, a few sprigs, cut fine
1/2 cup olive or coconut oil
Cut meat into strips. Heat the oil and brown the meat. Add all other ingredients and cook on high, stirring constantly until tender. Serve over coconut flour noodles or the old reliable “cauliflower rice”.
A Paleo Diet does not have to lack flavor! The following is a recipe for garlic spiced chicken and sweet potatoes–all Paleo-friendly! Enjoy your protein and veggie intake with just a handful of ingredients and simple cooking instructions.
You will need the following:
*1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (feeds one)
*salt and pepper
*1 small lemon
*1 clove of garlic*
1) Warm about 1 tablespoon of cooking oil in a pan on medium heat. Mince your garlic and add to the pan.
2) Slice your small lemon. Lay half of the slices in the pan over the garlic. Season your chicken to taste with salt and pepper, then lay the chicken on top of your lemon slices.
3) Lay the second half of your lemon slices on top of the chicken. Cover the pan with a lid. Let the chicken cook for 8-12 minutes, turning to cook each side thoroughly. You will know your chicken is done when it’s no longer pink and the juices are clear.
You will need the following:
*1 medium sweet potato
*green onion (1 stalk is plenty for one serving)
*1/4 cup of your preferred milk
*2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
1) Steam your sweet potato on the stove. It should be soft enough after 20 minutes.
2) Mince your onion stalk.
3) Mash your cooked potat o while heating your milk (until it’s steaming). Pour the milk into a bowl of your mashed potato, then add your onion and cheese, mixing together.
In just a few short steps, you have your Paleo-friendly chicken and potatoes. Enjoy!
New York cut steak
Fresh red, green and yellow bell peppers
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup olive oil or alternateFor the marinade:
1/2 cup each lemon juice and oil
1/2 cup each tomato and onion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Marinate steak for 6 to 10 hours or overnight. Cut meat, peppers, mushrooms and onions in strips. Heat pan and add oil, then put meat and vegetables in when oil is hot. Stir fry until well done. Serve topped with fresh cilantro or parsley. Side dishes might be sweet potato or yam.
True paleo steak is usually grass-fed pastured beef or, better yet, buffalo. As always, the best vegetables are those grown in your own garden and harvested just before cooking.
Many people dislike olive oil or find it hard to digest. Acceptable substitutes are sesame, coconut, walnut, macadamia and avocado oils. Choose an oil that is high in omega-3 fatty acids if possible.
Going paleo doesn’t mean giving up your favorite pasta sauces — just use a little creativity! The most common paleo “spaghetti” is spaghetti squash. Noodles can also be made from buckwheat flour. A peeler or spiral slicer on a fine setting can create noodles from zucchini and other vegetables. This sauce is also great poured over sautéed portobello mushrooms or eggplant.
To use spaghetti squash, slice in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and set aside. Season the inside with Italian seasonings, salt and pepper. Steam or bake thoroughly. Strands should be very soft. Seeds can be roasted in the oven with salt as a snack.
1 lb. ground beef (pastured and grass-fed preferred)
1 small sweet onion, chopped fine
1-2 tbsp. crushed garlic
1-2 tbsp. olive oil (coconut or sesame oil can substitute)
32 oz. crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. each basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Heat oil, stir in onions and garlic. Cook for 5-10 minutes, add meat and brown thoroughly. Add other ingredients, stir well and cover. Cook on lowest heat setting for 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
12 hard-boiled eggs
8 ounces crab meat
Green onions, carrot and/or celery, chopped very fine
Fresh dill and/or cilantro, cut very fine
Salt and pepper to tasteFor the dressing:
If non-dairy, mashed avocado
If dairy is okay, Greek yogurt
Coconut milk is okay if you like the taste. Use full fat milk or coconut cream.
Dash lemon and/or lime juice. Stir well.A paleo “mayonnaise” can be made with nut oil or light olive oil, an egg and lemon juice. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Make dressing first and have well chilled. Slice eggs lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks. Set whites aside. Mash yolks in a bowl, slowly adding other ingredients. Stir in dressing a bit at a time until mixture holds together. It should be a firm paste and not gooey. Mix well and spoon into egg whites. Cover and keep cold until ready.Use eggs from pastured hens.
Try tiny amounts of red pepper instead of black.
Tiny amounts of powdered or finely crushed ginger or garlic.
Use fresh herbs from your own garden whenever possible.
2 lbs. of ground beef
2 cups onion, chopped small
½ tsp. garlic
2 tsps. Chili powder
¼ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
4 cups diced or crushed tomatoes
3 cups water
3 beef boullion cubes
30 oz. light red kidney beans, drained
1. Saute ground beef and onion in a large stock pot until brown. Drain well.
2. Add all spices, tomatoes, water, and boullion cubes. Mix well.
3. Boil mixture over low heat. Keep covered and stir occasionally for one hour.
4. Add beans and bring mixture back to a boil. Mix well.
5. Remove from heat and serve.
This recipe can be easily doubled or halved. This chili is also very easy to freeze.
Chicken mushroom soup is an old familiar favorite which is a meal in itself. It’s already paleo, with a couple of substitutions.
2 to 4 chicken breasts and/or thighs, boneless
8 to 12 oz. portobello mushrooms, sliced
8 to 10 oz. diced carrot
10 to 12 oz. diced onion
2 cups organic chicken broth
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. each dill, ginger
1 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro or parsley
Instructions:Boil chicken or fry in butter or oil and dice. Saute onions and carrots 10 minutes, add mushrooms and saute another 10 minutes. Stir in chicken, broth, coconut milk, spices and seasonings. Cover and simmer on lowest setting for 30-45 minutes. Garnish with cilantro or parsley.
Any vegetables you like can be diced and added to this delicious soup. Try including a blended avocado for a unique taste. Use a paleo-approved oil such as olive, coconut or avocado. Butter should be ghee or any natural grass-fed brand.