While I dont entirely advocate eating a caveman diet, it raises some interesting points:
All About Caveman Nutrition: 25 Reasons to Eat Like Your Ancestors Did
Humans have had a dysfunctional relationship with food way beyond modern man’s fascination with Doritos and Peeps. Royalty during the Middle Ages feasted for days on greasy meats while poverty-stricken communities throughout history have starved or suffered from malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. But the idea, or ideal, of a purer nutritional lifestyle practiced by more technology-ignorant communities is tempting when you think of all the chemicals and artificial additives poured into our food and all the really good food we overlook.
Hormones, genetically engineered foods and artificial sweeteners are threats to our health that cavemen never had to deal with. Avoid these additives when selecting food items.
- Potassium bromate: Potassium bromate is a chemical added to foods, like rolls, to make them bigger. MSN Health reports that potassium bromate causes cancer in animals and "even small amounts in bread can create a risk for humans." An article in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal also states that potassium bromate "induces renal cell tumors, mesotheliomas of the peritoneum, and follicular cell tumors of the thyroid" in rats.
- Aspartame: Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used in NutraSweet and Equal that contains phenylketonuria (PKU), a chemical that cannot be metabolized in one of out of 20,000 babies. If a baby cannot metabolize PKU, it can cause mental retardation. Mercola reports that aspartame also "accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA" including nausea, irritability, fatigue, headaches and more.
- BHA & BHT: Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydrozyttoluene keep packaged foods like chips and cereal fresh by preventing oxidation; however, they are suspected of increasing the risk of cancer in humans.
- MSG: Many food companies are just now starting to advertise that they have stopped using MSG in their products. The FDA approved a study that found that MSG can cause nausea, headache, facial pressure or tightness, numbness, a burning sensation in the chest and back of the neck, weakness and other symptoms "in otherwise healthy MSG-intolerant people."
- Pesticides: Pesticides are found in all types of foods, including meat and fresh vegetables and fruits. They can seep into fruits and vegetables through the soil, even if the pesticides have not been used in some time, according to Cornell University’s Sprecher Institute.
- Olestra: Olestra is the controversial additive found in some potato chips that can cause severe diarrhea, cramps and gas, because it stops your body from digesting the fat from the chips. MSN reports that olestra also "inhibits healthy vitamin absorption from fat-soluble carotenoids that are found in fruits and vegetables and thought to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease."
- Bisphenol A: Bisphenol A is suspected of causing cancer in humans and animals and is found in plastic products, including baby cups and bottles. While it may not be realistic for you to carry around a hollowed-out gourd for your baby to drink out of, look for plastic products that do not contain bisphenol A.
- Hormones: Harmful hormones found in foods are caused by special meals farmers give animals to make them gain weight faster, allowing them to maximize their profit in the shortest amount of time possible. The Sprecher Institute at Cornell explains that these "synthetic steroid hormones used as pharmaceutical drugs have been found to affect cancer risk." Six hormones are currently approved by the FDA for use in cattle and sheep, but it is still controversial and unnatural.
- Genetically Engineered Food: Genetically engineered food is unnatural and possibly harmful to humans, as well as to the environment and the species that are undergoing genetic transformation. Though there are currently no laws against genetically engineered foods, The Center for Food Safety maintains that "human health effects can include higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer." It is expected that up to 45% of U.S. corn and 85% of soybeans are genetically engineered.
From portion control to over-snacking to eating disorders, modern man’s relationship with food has become dysfunctional.
- Eating for necessity: Ancient man ate primarily for necessity, which kept his weight down and preserved his health. Today, many Americans are bombarded with a surplus of foods and are tempted to indulge in snacks all throughout the day, leading to poor nutritional choices and overeating.
- Portion control: Perhaps because ancient man had to be more careful about rationing out his food, he was more adept at portion control. Americans, however, are known for attacking buffets and heaping piles of food on our plates for every course. By paying attention to portion control and serving sizes, it’s possible to lose weight and make more heart-healthy choices.
- Snacking: Not all snacking is bad. Healthy snacks speed up our metabolism and can keep us focused and energized throughout the day. But constantly going for chips and junk from the vending machine when it isn’t meal time creates a harmful relationship with food. If we try to view food as a source of nutrition and energy, rather than a past time when we’re bored, or an emotional crutch when we feel stressed or sad, then we are more able to control cravings, keep our weight down and have a healthier relationship with food.
- Too many choices: Choice frees us to become picky eaters and make poor nutritional decisions. From cereal to chips to cookies to bread to tomato sauce, it’s hard to filter out the attractive-looking, additive-riddled choices and zero in on the best nutritional choices.
- Understand what food does for your body: Being more tuned into your environment and the foods you eat means that you are better able to understand how the foods you consume help or hurt your body. Those with unhealthy images of themselves or unhealthy relationships with food can get carried away with the calories in food and their own weight, rather than the nutritional benefits and necessary energy they gain from food.
- Eliminate waste: Ancient man hunted and harvested only what he needed to survive, and often used every piece of meat or fruit or vegetable for a different purpose. Eliminating waste helps the environment and gives you a greater appreciation for your food and what you do have. Only buy what you absolutely need at the store, and be sure to use any leftovers instead of throwing them out prematurely.
Fresh foods, organic foods and plenty of water are just a few more reasons why ancient man may have been healthier–at least from a nutritional standpoint–than we are today.
- Avoid packaged foods: Packaged foods contain more harmful additives since they’re designed to last longer. These additives are unnatural, and even if they aren’t particularly harmful, they’re not as nutritious as fresh foods.
- Raw: Adhering to a raw food diet means that you will only eat "living" and raw foods, like uncooked fruits and vegetables, sprouted grains–like flaxseed–nuts and seeds. While men and women from older civilizations certainly cooked meat and other foods, a very simple raw food diet ensures that you are consuming highly nutritious foods that promote good digestion, a sensible weight and the intake of heart-healthy vitamins and ingredients.
- Natural and organic: By eating natural and naturally produced foods and avoiding overly-processed items, you can reduce your intake of artificial ingredients and increase your intake of fresh foods, like fruits and vegetables. Foods that are produced naturally are not genetically engineered, do not have pesticides or preservatives and do not include unnatural hormones.
- Fresh foods: Eat foods that are in season to ensure that you are eating the freshest possible foods, just like your ancestors did. A fresh food diet also means that you will avoid packaged and processed foods, and will eat foods that are richer in natural flavor.
- Lighter cooked: Because caveman kitchens weren’t well-equipped with the latest fryers, waffle makers or ovens, food wasn’t overcooked as often, leaving the majority of vitamins and nutrients in the food.
- No fried foods: Certain types of American home-style cooking rely on frying techniques for flavor. Frying foods, however, removes a lot of the nutritional value, or at least cancels it out by adding grease and breading. Eliminating fried foods will ensure that you reduce your harmful calorie intake and eat fresher, more nutrient-packed foods.
- Caffeine: Caffeine was most certainly consumed by ancient man, but in the form of tree bark, seeds, and later, tea. But today, caffeine dependency leads to headaches, irritability, the inability to sleep, and even bloating and weight gain–as one of the most popular sources of caffeine is soda. Limit your caffeine intake to green tea once or twice a day if possible.
- Grow your own meals: Take charge and grow as much of your own food as possible, whether you start an herb garden on your patio or kitchen shelf, or an entire vegetable garden. By knowing exactly what you’re eating, you’ll be able to adequately limit harmful pesticides and additives, limit waste, consistently eat fresh food, and have a greater appreciation for the environment and your food.
- Drink more water: Ancient man may have drunk tea, but he also consumed lots of water. Sodas, Kool-Aid and other sugary drinks weren’t invented, and ancient man benefited from the lack of choice. Drinking water flushes out your system, clears up your complexion, reduces your chances of getting infections like UTIs, helps you stay hydrated (especially during illness or physical activity) and keeps you more energized. Drinking lots of water also increases your metabolism and can decrease bloating from soda.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables: Because ancient men and women had fewer choices, they were more inclined to eat the foods that were available, particularly fruits and vegetables. The next time you visit the grocery store, prohibit yourself from buying too many extra snacks and sides that you don’t need, and fill up on fruits and vegetables.