The Caveman Diet, also more commonly known as the Paleo Diet, is based on the theory that our ancestors from the Paleolithic/Stone Age era subsisted on whole foods. While a diet based on whole foods has always been widely accepted as among the healthiest diets, the Paleo Diet excludes many natural foods that proponents have theorized could not have been available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors before agriculture began.
Read on to learn more about the Caveman Diet food list and whether or not it’s worth a try.
Caveman Diet – A Return to Unprocessed, Natural Foods
To eat like Stone Age cavemen and cavewomen is supposed to be an effective way to lose weight and prevent certain diseases, particularly those that are associated with modern-day foods.
Our Stone Age ancestors only ate whatever they could hunt and gather. The invention of agriculture was still thousands of years in the future, so the Stone Age diet mostly consisted of whatever plant and animal foods were available.
The modern Paleo Diet, of course, does not involve any hunting and/or gathering. It is a relatively flexible diet plan that simply promotes eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods, including grains and some dairy products. A lot of followers of the Paleo Diet have also chosen to use it more as a template for healthy eating, instead of a strict guideline, so they have included some food products to the diet that have been scientifically proven to be healthy.
Caveman Diet Food List
To qualify for the Paleo Diet, the whole foods in your shopping cart should be organic, pasture-raised/free-range, grass-fed, and/or wild-caught, if possible, or have undergone the least amount of processing. Below is a list of foods that you can eat on the Paleo Diet:
- Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, wild boar.
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey, quail, goose.
- Game meat: Bear, moose, rabbit, duck, elk, deer, reindeer.
- Fish and seafood: Salmon, trout, haddock, shrimp, shellfish, etc.
- Nuts and nut butters: Almonds, cashews, Macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts
- Healthy fats and oils: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, etc.
- Unprocessed salt, herbs, and spices
- Sweeteners: Coconut sugar, date sugar, maple syrup, and raw honey.
The following can also be consumed by individuals following a modified Paleo Diet:
- Organic red wine. This should be good quality wine and should only be consumed in limited amounts as it undergoes fermentation.
- Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content. This should also be consumed in limited amounts.
- Coffee and tea. These beverages offer antioxidant benefits.
Aside from pre-packaged, processed foods, the Caveman Diet also excludes specific agricultural and dairy products because, according to proponents of the diet, these products were not part of our Paleolithic ancestors’ diet and their introduction into modern man’s required nourishment has supposedly led to the development of certain diseases. Below is a list of the foods to avoid when following the Caveman Diet:
- Grains (whether whole or gluten-free), including wheat, spelt, rye, barley, and products containing grains, such as breads, pastas, and beer. According to Caveman Diet experts, avoiding grains will help prevent chronic digestive and inflammatory diseases. But studies have shown that healthy individuals who do not have an intolerance/sensitivity to grains do not have to avoid eating grains.
- Legumes, including beans and lentils. Legumes, as well as some nuts and seeds, contain phytic acid which can block the absorption of iron and zinc during digestion. It has been established through several studies, however, that an individual following a well-balanced diet does not have to worry about this hindering effect of phytic acid. Additionally, legumes also contain other compounds that are beneficial to health.
- Dairy. Because certain conditions, such as lactose intolerance and Crohn’s disease, are associated with dairy, Paleo Diet followers should also avoid most dairy products.
- Sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other artificial sweeteners, as well as all products that contain them, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, table sugar, candy, pastries, ice cream and many others.
- Some vegetable oils, including soybean oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, and safflower oil.
- Trans fats.
- Pre-packaged, highly processed foods. Basically any food product that has gone through processing and contains artificial additives.
- Fast food.
Is the Paleo Diet Safe for Everyone?
Those who have underlying health conditions should consult a doctor before starting the Paleo Diet. Individuals with type 1 diabetes, heart disease, or kidney damage should avoid the Paleo Diet.
With its promotion of eating more whole foods and complete restriction of processed foods, the Paleo Diet is definitely on the right track towards healthy eating. But the exclusion of some food groups that provide important health benefits means that following a strict Paleo Diet long-term will deprive your body of important nutrients and compounds and their associated positive health outcomes.
The best way to adopt our early forebears’ mode of subsistence is by modifying it to include whole grains, legumes, and other agricultural products that are already known to be healthy.
The Caveman Diet – Final Thoughts
Modeling a diet after that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors who only subsisted on whole foods can serve as a great starting point for healthy eating. However, following a strict Paleo Diet, with all its exclusions, has not been found to actually produce the benefits claimed. In fact, some of the excluded foods offer their own health benefits and little to zero risk for health issues, as long as you follow a well-balanced diet.
The Caveman Diet can be easily modified to also include whole grains, legumes, and dairy without compromising the invaluable advantages of eating more whole foods. Whenever possible, choose organic, free-range/pasture-raised, grass-fed, and/or wild-caught products; or the least-processed foods. Avoid any food products that have been heavily processed and contain artificial ingredients.
When you follow the Paleo Diet, you don’t have to keep track of your calorie and carb intake; you also do not have to follow a strict eating schedule. As long as you stick to the approved foods, even with a modified Paleo Diet, you can stay fit and healthy or lose weight.