In Paleolithic Prescription, the authors suggest that “modern disease is a result of
a mismatch of our genetic makeup and our lifestyle.” Dr. Eaton calls our twentieth century diseases “afflictions of affluence” or “diseases of civilization.” These include atherosclerosis, hypertension and heart disease, heart attacks and strokes, adult-onset diabetes and cancer.
Following a hunter-gatherer diet is not an easy task in this Day and age. Grains, both whole and refined, and milk products are readily available, and the two very common foods, wheat and cow’s milk get into a great variety of foods found in our commercial stores. The wild game and uncultivated vegetable foods are not found in our supermarkets. Meats are domesticated and high in fats and potential chemicals. Most all grains and vegetables are cultivated and sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals. More organic foods and meats with lower concentrations of chemicals are available but these are not always easy to find, and they are still not as clean as
foods were in regard to chemicals and heavy metals of the preindustrial cuisine. So, it is a chore to adapt our diet and eat in a way that’s close to our Paleolithic, Stone-Age, Cro-Magnon ancestors.
Some suggestions for eating this more natural diet will blend together Paleolithic nutrition with some more modern foods. This will clearly reduce fat intake and reduce the incidences of many of our “diseases of civilization.” We should bake, roast, and steam our foods instead of frying or sautéing them. Eating more raw, organic foods is helpful. We need to reduce the fatty meats and all processed meats as well as most of the whole milk products. We can eat a good breakfast of whole grain, fruit and juice, or skim milk. Lunch is a good meal that we prepare and eat at home or carry to work or school. It may include a protein like fish or poultry with vegetables or a sandwich and soup. Dinner is a lighter meal of raw salad and soup. Late eating is minimal and our main beverage is water. Many of these suggestions will be incorporated into my Ideal Diet of Part Three.
Exercise is as key an issue for good health as is diet. Our Paleolithic brethren had a good level of physical activity incorporated into their daily lives. If we are tilling, planting, growing, and harvesting our own foods full time, we all experience that similar benefit, especially if we did a little distance running as the ancient hunters did. Construction workers probably have that level of physical labor though they are possibly not as aerobically active and are exposed to more pollution in regard to noise, dust, and chemicals.
Most of us need to develop and maintain a lifelong exercise plan that will blend with our more sedentary work lifestyles. This should include a natural seasonal variance that ideally coincides with the cycles of light and darkness in our area. Our activity should be outdoors and energy expending during the warmer, lighter months; energy-gathering exercise, such as yoga, done indoors is best in the colder, darker times. Our exercise program should provide a balance that leads us to our optimum weight, good strength, and adequate endurance—and should be an integral part of our life—as it was with most of our ancestors.
The industrialized diet is very different from the natural foods and Paleolithic diets. By industrialized, I am referring not to the foods eaten by people who work in industry but to the trend of our times toward mass production and factory processing. The industrialized diet contains a large proportion of refined foods. Many of the basic grains and sugar containing plants are stripped of their fiber and nutrients, leaving the concentrated sweet or starch powder that can be used to make or flavor other foods. Refined white flour and white sugar are the two basic components. These “new” foods often have additives and preservatives to allow for packaging, shipping, and “shelf life.” They fit in with the mass production ideology and fast-paced lifestyles of not only the American culture but many other technological and urban cultures of the world. Rural peoples still tend to eat more basically and naturally.
An interesting fact is that when the industrial or refined foods diet was introduced to different tribal cultures throughout the world, a general degradation of their health followed, usually within one generation. Tooth decay and diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer increased to levels that correlated with those in industrialized societies. One of the people who had observed and described this phenomenon was Dr. Weston Price, a dentist, who studied native cultures eating such diets and compared them to like tribes who were still eating their classical diet. Dr. Price has reported on the descriptions of the tribal people themselves regarding the changes they have experienced, as well as his own observations. This whole story is contained in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: A Comparison of Primitive Diets and Their Effects (Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, 1948).
Modern medicine and technology have made some fantastic advances that have affected the lives of almost every being on Earth, but the greatest dilemma now is how to balance these industrial changes with a healthier diet. The refined and fast food diet has been one of the greatest economic supporters of our currently expensive medical system and has made medical doctors one of the richest professions because of all the acute and chronic disease that this technological diet generates. And herein, I believe, lies the dilemma. The Western economic structure is dependent on mass production, corporations, fast food restaurant chains, and refined, packaged foods. The American consumer must consume them in even greater quantities, as more are being produced all the time. It is very possible that if more people cultivate foods and go back (or ahead) to eating more natural, chemical-free foods, it will either bankrupt or totally transform our current big business economy and health care system, instead of so many farms going bankrupt. But there is a lot of resistance and dollars preventing that from happening. Billions are poured into advertising to brainwash people into buying and eating these nonfoods. Also, sweet and salty flavors are addicting, making it harder for the people eating all those pre-made snack foods to eat more naturally and enjoy it. I do not have the answer to this dilemma (maybe more advertising for apples and sunflower seeds) other than writing this book. Time will tell. Change is usually slow, and adaptability and survival are timeless. It is ultimately an individual choice. As more of us choose to eat more healthfully, more new and natural products will be developed and made available. Good luck to all of us.