News / Health

Eat Like a Caveman

Paleo-diet focuses on lean meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts

Whole Foods Supermarket is one place paleo-dieters can shop for produce.
Whole Foods Supermarket is one place paleo-dieters can shop for produce.

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Rosanne Skirble

Robert Keeling says he's never felt better in his life. He never gets sick.

"I don't have colds anymore," he says. The 35-year-old Washington lawyer attributes his good health to exercise and diet. He likes the high intensity group workout he gets at CrossFit, a gym affiliated with 1200 such sports facilities nationwide, that also promotes an eating regimen known as the Paleo-diet.

Eating like a caveman

CrossFit coach Melody Feldman says the diet is based on what a prehistoric human might have eaten 10,000 years ago during the Paleolithic Era, which came before the domestication of crops and animals.

"Unprocessed natural foods, lean meats, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, no starch, no sugar, no dairy, no beans," says CrossFit owner John Main. "The diet leaves out anything that is processed or refined or comes in a box."

Washington lawyer Robert Keeling says regular workouts and strict adherence to the paleo diet keeps him healthy.
Washington lawyer Robert Keeling says regular workouts and strict adherence to the paleo diet keeps him healthy.

Hungry after his workout, Keeling heads home for a paleo-stir-fry with shrimp, broccoli, mushrooms and yams. He has rarely strayed from the basic diet for the past two years. As a result, he says, he sleeps better, remains healthy and doesn't gain weight or even crave food forbidden in the paleo-diet, such as pizza or pasta.

"On the few times I have those types of foods, my body has a very bad reaction and I just feel terrible afterwards," says Keeling.

Debate over dairy and grains

Artemis Simopoulous is the author of the "Omega Diet book", from which much of the paleo-diet is drawn. She says today's human genetic profile is the same as our ancestors yet the modern diet has radically changed. "I think it's important to understand, from the evolutionary standpoint, what we were like and try to modify our environment with the evolutionary aspects of diet," says Simopoulous.

Simopoulous, who also heads the Washington-based Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, parts company with paleo-diet purists who reject dairy and grains. She says humans have evolved with the ability to adapt. "Otherwise if we were entirely dependent on the gene for environment interaction we would not be here today," she says. "But because we are able to adapt, you don't need to go to extremes but you need to go along with a diet which is consistent with all traditional diets around the world."

Keeping it simple

Simopoulous says she's especially troubled by the overload of sugar, starch, red meat and processed foods in the modern western diet. These foods, she says, are associated with a rise in heart disease, cancer, obesity and depression. She recommends eating more fruits, vegetables and fish while at the same time cutting down on saturated fat, oils and sugar and salt.

Robert Keeling says the secret of his success with the paleo-diet is consistency. "This is the diet we've evolved to eat. It's the diet we all should be eating. I recommend it to everyone."

Keeling's wife is not on the Paleo-diet but she does like that he does all the cooking and food shopping.

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