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 amounts that our bodies were not designed (or evolved) to process. The foods that cavemen ate, like 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 will provide the basic steps toward independence from obesity, fatigue, diabetes, chronic disease, and cancer.
All foods on this diet were not consumed by cavemen, but rather are similar in macronutrients to those 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 the caveman ate. Milk, on the other hand, is full of simple sugars, like lactose, and would violate this diet theme.
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 to evaluate the data. Often, it’s 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, it’s as easy as getting right back into it. Remember a slip up for you is just a slip up, and no longer 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 beef, and non-vegetable oils (olive, coconut, macadamia, etc.).
- 3. Aim to eat 75% of your weight in grams of protein (i.e. if you weigh 200 pounds, aim for 150 grams of protein a day). A simple rule of thumb is to aim for a quarter to a third of your diet (in grams) as protein. Odds are you will end up consuming less than you aim for. Bodybuilders and heavy lifters may try to get a little more. 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, though 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, at first you should be closely followed by your physician. See how your body responds, but ideally aim to rarely go over 150g of carbohydrates per day. However, if an infrequent day over 150g (a cheat day) happens, don’t beat yourself up over it. Frequent days less than 50 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 pretty easy to know how many carbs you are getting based on instinct. 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 that generally follow 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 – so try to avoid them and recalibrate your sweet tooth to crave non-sugary foods.
- 7. Remember that you are decreasing your amount of daily carbohydrates, much unlike what you have eaten in the past and unlike many 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 to limit is carbohydrates. If you are not replacing them adequately, you will likely feel run down!
- 8. Just as we like to get adequate sleep and not be stressed, eat animals that are also 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 and unhealthy for anyone who eats their eggs, meat, etc. It is also unhealthy for the environment, which needs these animals roaming around and fertilizing the ground and 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 feel run down and have switched to a low of very low-carb lifestyle, you are probably losing more sodium through your kidneys and need to eat more salt. This can be done through broths or bouillon. 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 50 for a couple days every once in a while (or more often if you like). Cavemen did it all the time when food wasn’t around, 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 rarely consumed for a cheat meal, though preferably are 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 piece of bread basically the same. Of note, corn is a grain, not a vegetable. (See here, here, here, and here). Grains are nutrient-empty foods and must be fortified with vitamins. They often end up spiking your insulin and leave you craving more foods (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 (full of mostly processed foods for longer shelf life) and stick to the outsides.
- 5. Generally avoid foods your grandfather 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. They are difficult for our bodies to digest. Have you ever noticed how much gastrointestinal upset you get after eating these? Hardcore Caveman Dieters should avoid. Animal sources for protein may be more beneficial. This is at your own discretion, but Caveman Doctor passes.
- 7. Dairy fat is similar to legumes. Tailor it based on your body’s reaction. Milk is full of lactose (sugar) and skim milk has all the healthy fat removed. However, cheese and heavy cream are mostly fat with little or no lactose in them and do have health-promoting and cancer-fighting components. Caveman Doctor consumes these, but many caveman dieters and Paleo dieters do not.
- 8. Never count calories. It’s a waste of time, and totally unnecessary if you are eating right (like 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. Frankly, if you are questioning the minutia, like whether it is OK to put sugar in your coffee or if you can eat a desert say 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 that’s OK – Rome wasn’t built overnight.