Urban Cavemen: Eating Like Our Ancestors Did

Many people have made the shift in the past decade from processed foods to simpler, fresher offerings. But as The New York Times reported recently, one group of people is taking this push for simplicity to a whole new level — by eating like our ancestors did. And by ancestors, I’m not talking about your great grandmother — think way back, before sliced bread, and even the wheel: The time of the caveman.

The so-called ‘urban cavemen’ — also known as ‘hunter-gatherers’ and ‘paleos’ — are doing their part of go back to basics with their eating. But pre-historic eating in a post-modern time is challenging — you’re not supposed to consume anything developed after the invention of farming. So, things like bread and sweets are out. What’s in? Meat — and lots of it. Vegetables and fruits are allowed, too.

Another characteristic of the caveman lifestyle? Long periods of fasting. Back in the day, our ancestors might manage a good kill every few days, so they would fill up on food when they could knowing that it’d often be a a few days before they’d have another a chance to feast. Cavemen today fast for up to 36 hours between feedings.As for fitness, the Cavemen generally agree that the CrossFit approach to exercise — a program that promotes functional fitness through a combination of weights and compound movements — is best suited to their lifestyle. Exercise is an essential part of the program, since cavemen were undoubtedly much more fit than the average population today.

Long periods of fasting, little to no carbs, grueling workouts — it doesn’t sound like much fun, and more importantly, is it even healthy? Registered dietitian Elisa Zied, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of “Nutrition At Your Fingertips,” isn’t convinced. “I don’t think loading up on high cholesterol meat is a healthful dietary strategy, nor do I support the idea of fasting, especially if it’s routine and not medically supervised,” she said. “It’s never a good idea to overemphasize [protein], or any foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol.” What’s more, she said, “Avoiding whole grains and low fat dairy foods can make a person miss out on key nutrients including fiber and B vitamins.”

And how can a group of office-dwellers from the big city of New York refer to themselves as hunter-gatherers when, in fact, they’re neither? Picking up a slab of beef from the organic market isn’t exactly the same as killing an animal to feed your hungry family. Some urban cavemen have shown their dedication to the diet by investing in meat lockers for their apartments — but don’t expect this one to to catch on any time soon. “I don’t think that making room for a meat-locker in a New York City apartment (or any city residence for that matter) is realistic, affordable, or even desirable for most people,” said Zied.

And what about the city setting? Perhaps a more remote, wild location would better match their principles? Surprisingly, the paleo-types that the Times interviewed all considered the Big Apple to be well-suited to their lifestyle because living in the big city makes it so convenient to walk everywhere, and we all know cavemen didn’t have cars.

Think you can handle being a modern caveman? Wannabe paleos can refer to The Paleo Diet, a program and series of books developed by Dr. Loren Cordain of Colorado State University.

A good reason to avoid processed foods? As Dr. Oz tells us, chemicals could be ruining our diets.