You might have heard of the Paleolithic (or Paleo) regimen as the “caveman” or hunter-gatherer diet, and that description isn’t too far from accurate. The idea of the Paleo diet is to consume only foods and beverages that could have been consumed in the Paleolithic period (10,000+ years ago).
It sounds simple enough, but if you think about it, we didn’t have much technology back then – no agricultural or animal husbandry techniques to speak of. So all those grains and dairy products most Americans have been eating are a big no-no in the caveman’s book.
But fortunately for vegans, dairy is already out of the picture. For the most part, the Paleo diet isn’t so different from the vegan diet, and research shows that at least 14% of hunter-gatherer societies derived more than half of their subsistence from plant foods. It’s possible to be a Paleo vegan – but there are some elements of the vegan diet that wouldn’t have been on the caveman’s menu. To find out more about what’s okay to eat and what should be thrown out to the wild dogs, check out the following vegan Paleo diet lists.
What’s on the Menu?
1. Nuts & Seeds: Available during the Paleolithic period, nuts and seeds would have been rich in potential energy, filling a substantial role in vegan hunter-gatherers’ diets. While they probably didn’t choose to be vegan, their diets depended heavily on the environment – and without any animals, the default vegan rule would have applied. Today, you can get valuable protein and healthy oils from nuts; and seeds can be used to add flavor and texture to bland dishes.
2. Vegetables & Fruits: As far as veggies go, you should choose ones that can be eaten raw. You can still cook them, but try to avoid anything that couldn’t be eaten raw. Your best options for authentic fruits are berries.
3. Oils: Plant oils like olive, flax seed, and nut varieties are encouraged.
4. Beverages: You can drink water, tea, coffee, limited amounts of fruit juice, and alcohol in moderation. After all, those cavemen could have made some kind of rudimentary moonshine still.
The Junk in Your Diet That Has to Go:
1. Meats, Eggs & Dairy: You already know this part – stay away from the animals and anything that comes out of them. In the Paleo diet, cows, pigs, and any related products (this includes all things dairy) are officially wiped from the menu. Technically, wild chickens and turkeys would have been available to hunter-gatherers, but they’re not quite vegan-friendly. You can strike them from your list of vegan Paleo foods.
2. Vegetables & Fruits: Potatoes and legumes (like peas and green beans) are off-limits. You should also try to avoid overly sweet fruits and excessive consumption of dried fruits. Remember that cavemen did not eat breads, pastries, oatmeal, bagels, processed cereals, doughnuts, or baked goods of any kind.
3. Beverages: Limit your alcohol intake, avoid too much sugary fruit juice, and avoid any artificial drinks.
Because a lot of your protein comes from whole grains, it might be tough to go Paleo – you won’t be consuming the meats and animal products that hunter-gatherers might have had access to. If you’re having trouble getting the nutrients you need, you can cheat with peanut butter, legumes, and potatoes (which are allowed in some of the less stringent Paleo diet regimens). As long as you add processed grains and baked goods to your vegan list of inedibles, you should experience the benefits of the Paleo diet.
Why Eat Like a Caveman?
The Paleo diet has been growing in popularity as more and more people have realized that modern food is dragging us backwards rather than helping us advance. While it can be difficult to follow at first, the health benefits are outstanding: your risk for cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, gastrointestinal disease, and other currently prevalent health issues can decrease significantly.
You’ll also experience increased athletic performance, clear skin, natural leanness, and general good health. As a special bonus, you’ll feel as if you’ve been freed from the overly consumerist society that’s built on mealtime. You’ll be buying local produce and avoiding fast food and most other restaurants; so you won’t be contributing to the horrors of animal mistreatment – a benefit you already enjoy as a vegan. With the Paleo diet, you’re doing the best thing for your body and for the planet, so get out your caveman club and beat down some lettuce.