The Modern Caveman Diet: What Would a Caveman Do?
The Modern Caveman Diet is a dietary and lifestyle routine with its principles rooted in the fact that we have spent over 99% of our existence on earth as hunter-gatherers. Agriculture is a new phenomenon (less than 10,000 years old) and has introduced many new foods in large quantities into our diets that our bodies were not designed (or evolved) to process. The foods that cavemen ate, such as animal-based fat and protein and wild fruits and vegetables, are the ideal fuel for humans. As a result, eating the right foods will optimize our health and happiness. It can provide us with the basic steps towards independence from obesity, fatigue, diabetes, chronic disease, and cancer.
All foods that are part of this diet were not consumed by cavemen, but rather, are similar in macro-nutrients to those foods of his era. For instance, while dairy was not around, when eaten as cream, cheese, or butter, it is mainly fat and resembles similar foods that cavemen ate. Milk, on the other hand, is full of simple sugars, like lactose, and violate this diet’s ideals.
Health, nutrition, and dietary information have been turned into an extremely complicated and confusing topic within the field of medicine. Few quality studies actually support the recommendations by our government and health and nutrition authorities. Obesity rates are climbing, and people are becoming more and more unhealthy.
CavemanDoctor.com serves as an easy way to look at health and nutrition topics and evaluate the data. Often, it is as simple as asking: “What would a Caveman do?” The following are only guidelines, and when broken, do not doom the entire diet and lifestyle. When slip-ups occur, you can just get right back into it. Remember a slip-up for you, is only a slip-up and no longer serves as the basis of your diet.
The Do’s of the Caveman Doctor Diet:
- 1. Eat bold-colored fruits, like berries, and leafy vegetables that would have caught the eye of a caveman (ideally that can be consumed with the skin on, as skin on = more nutrients and more fiber than sugar).
- 2. Eat good sources of fat: grass-fed beef, eggs from pastured chickens (which means they roam the pasture, unlike caged or even cage-free chickens), butter from grass-fed cows, and non-vegetable oils (olive, avocado, coconut, macadamia, etc.).
- 3. Aim to eat a small portion of your meals in the form of protein. While the exact number is controversial, a simple rule of thumb is to aim for a fifth to a third of your diet (in grams) depending on your goals. Odds are you will end up consuming less than you aim for. Bodybuilders and heavy lifters may try to get a little more in their diet, however, if you are getting good sources of animal fat with your meals, you are likely getting enough protein and don’t need to count.
- 4. Aim to limit your daily intake of carbohydrates to a maximum of 150 grams. Although, depending on your goals, you can fluctuate in between 50-150 grams. Be your own natural insulin sensitivity meter: If you are losing too much weight, eat closer to 150g. If you are gaining too much weight, eat closer to 100g or even 50g. Depending on your goals, you can go less than 100g frequently, however, if you go below 50g in a day, you will likely enter ketosis. While there is nothing wrong with this level, at first you should be followed closely by your physician. See how your body responds, but ideally aim to rarely go over 150g of carbohydrates per day. If an infrequent day over 150g (a cheat day) happens, don’t beat yourself up over it. Frequent days less than 50g are fine, and Caveman Doctor has them very often, but remember, you may go into ketosis. While it may be annoying to count carbs, after a couple days it becomes fairly easy to know how many carbs you are consuming based on instinct alone. Since this lifestyle favors limiting carbs by eating satisfying and filling fats, it is much easier than you think.
- 5. Eat animals (and animal products) that are fed diets generally following this list (i.e. avoid beef from grain-fed cows and chicken and eggs from grain-fed and caged chickens). The animals we eat should also be eating the diets that their bodies have been programmed to process.
- 6. Eat foods that you can control, and eat in moderation. For example, if eating one cookie makes you eat the entire dozen, you likely lose control when eating cookies. Try to avoid them, and re-calibrate your sweet tooth to crave non-sugary foods.
- 7. Remember that you are decreasing your amount of daily carbohydrates, very unlike what you may have eaten in the past and unlike many other modern dieters. As a result, you will need to replace these carbohydrates with good sources of protein and especially fat. This is not a diet of starvation, and the only thing limiting is carbohydrates. If you are not replacing them adequately, you will likely feel run-down!
- 8. Just as we enjoy getting adequate sleep and lowering our stress levels, eat animals that have been treated humanely with less stress. While packing animals in small spaces, feeding them unnatural foods, and giving them antibiotics is clearly unethical, it is also unhealthy for these animals, anyone who eats their eggs, meat, etc., and the environment. The environment also needs these animals roaming its pastures and fertilizing the ground, providing nitrogen for the soil and minerals.
- 9. If you find yourself hungry, you most likely need to increase your protein intake a little and your fat intake a lot.
- 10. If you find yourself feeling run-down and have recently switched to a very low-carb lifestyle, you are likely losing too much sodium through your kidneys. To help with this, increase your salt intake through broths or bouillon or sea salt on your food. Give it a try, and you may perk right up.
- 11. Finally, for those that are hardcore, fast every once in a while for at least 12 hours, but up to 18 or more if tolerated. Also, drop your carbs to less than 50g for a couple days occasionally (or more often if you like). Cavemen did it frequently when food was not available, and it actually causes our cells to recycle or get rid of their garbage through autophagy.
The Don’ts of the Caveman Doctor Diet:
- 1. Avoid (ideally eliminate) sugars and foods based on sugar (candy, bakery goods, etc.) that cause a large spike in insulin. They can be consumed for a cheat meal rarely, although are preferably never eaten. While this seems difficult, if not impossible, after steadily consuming a modern caveman diet, you will stop craving sweets.
- 2. Avoid grains and cereals, including wheat, breads, pastas, and oats. Grains are full of simple carbohydrates and are often no different from consuming sugar. For instance, your body will process a cup of sugar and a piece of bread essentially in the same way. Of note, corn is a grain, not a vegetable. (See here, here, here, and here). Grains are very nutrient-empty foods and must be fortified with vitamins. They often end up spiking your insulin and leave you craving more food (and carbs). Instead, consume nutrient-dense foods.
- 3. Avoid foods that are processed, such as margarine, vegetables oils (processed and refined), instant meals, etc. Cavemen never ate these and our bodies don’t even recognize these frankenfoods.
- 4. Generally avoid the center of the supermarket (which is full of mostly processed foods for longer shelf-life) and stick to the outsides.
- 5. Generally avoid foods your grandfather or grandmother wouldn’t recognize.
- 6. Legumes (beans, peanuts, etc.) contain higher amounts of food sources that cause allergies and often stress the human body. They also are a large source of carbohydrates with little protein. Legumes are especially difficult for our bodies to digest; have you ever noticed how much gastrointestinal upset you get after eating them? Hardcore Caveman Dieters should avoid. This is at your own discretion, but Caveman Doctor passes and chooses animals sources for protein instead.
- 7. Dairy fat is similar to legumes. Tailor your intake based on your body’s reaction. Milk is full of lactose (sugar), and skim milk has all of the healthy fat removed. However, cheese and heavy cream are mostly fat with little to no lactose in them and have health-promoting and cancer-fighting components. Caveman Doctor consumes these (sticking to raw, unpasteurized, and pastured), but many caveman dieters and Paleo dieters do not.
- 8. Never count calories. It’s a waste of your time and totally unnecessary if you are eating the right foods (such as following this list).
However, these are only guidelines, and I understand if you slip-up because I understand when I slip-up. Having a “cheat” meal or food item here or there is fine as long as there is a healthy balance. Frankly, if you are questioning the minutia, like whether it is okay to put sugar in your coffee or if you can eat a dessert once a week or less, you are most likely in a good position with your diet. If you are having trouble getting under 150g (or lower) of carbohydrates per day, then you probably need a little more work. But it’s okay, and as they say – Rome wasn’t built overnight.