How a Primal Diet Can Help You Thrive and Feel Alive - and Where to Start?
Most modern-day diseases are a side effect of our poor nutrition choices - diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases to name but a few. Although we live in a world of abundance and choices - unlike our ancestors having to hunt, fish, and gather to eat and sometimes having to face famine - we are now spoiled by so many choices and options that this food abundance is sometimes literally killing us. Our modern society has led to an increasing number of overfed but under-nourished individuals. To restore our macronutrient (fats, proteins, carbs) balance and avoid micronutrient (water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, and minerals) deficiencies, adopting (or rather re-adopting) our ancestors’ diet might be the solution.
The paleo/primal diet – sometimes called the “Caveman” Diet – is one that mimics the diet of our ancestral hunter-gatherer ancestors before the advent of the agricultural revolution. I prefer to think of this « diet » as a way of eating or a lifestyle choice rather than a diet per se. Primal living – and its way of eating – is based on getting as close to the source (nature) as possible and removing all industrial toxins.
Making primal/paleo food choices means being aware of the food that we (as a human race) evolved on and with, million years ago - and to (re)adopt it. This (re)adoption can be a challenge in today’s fast-paced, industrialized, processed, man-made, plastic-wrapped, sugar and refined carbs-loaded, trans-fats-filled, long-life shelf “food.” To adopt a more Primal Diet, one does not have to go back to living in a cave, but a certain level of awareness is necessary to make wiser food choices!
These are my top ten tips to eat as our ancestors would have done, but in a modern way:
1. Clear out the fridge, freezer, and cupboards (this is the elimination process)
Strictly eliminate consumption of refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils/seed oils (canola, corn, soybean, etc.) and the many processed foods that contain them, including buttery spreads and sprays. This means avoiding fast food, processed and packaged snacks, most frozen meals, and most dressings or ready-made sauces.
2. Remove and eliminate all refined sugars and grains
Sugar is considered one of the most addictive substances and the number one enemy when it comes to the Primal diet. Eliminating the consumption of sweets, sweetened beverages, and snacks is crucial to clear out the toxic elements but also to break out of the sugar addiction pattern and carb dependency cycles.
3. Emphasize healthy fats and trust that good fat will not clog your arteries!
Contrary to conventional wisdom, fat (good fat) – does not make one fat. In fact, a low-fat diet can be quite detrimental to health as our body does necessitate good fat to be optimized our brain. The key is to incorporate more good fats into your lifestyle (grass-fed butter, virgin coconut oil for cooking, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil for seasoning, and natural meat fat such as duck fat, bacon grease, fatty cuts of beef).
4. Become mindful of what the animal you are eating ate and boost your natural omega-3 intake.
Adopting a primal diet does not mean eating just any animal flesh/products. Choose animal meat and its source very carefully. It is important to avoid grain-fed meats; choose truly grass-fed animals from small and local farms, organic if possible. The quality of the food the animal ate has a direct impact on the quality of that animal’s flesh which in turn impacts on the nutritious quality of the animal we eat.
5. Eat organ meat
Organs, also called offal, were treasured by our ancestors and considered the superfood.
Ancestral wisdom followed the principle that “like supports like” and therefore consuming certain animal organs would ensure health in the corresponding organs of the human body.
It is the nutrient-dense qualities of organ meat that delivers the health benefit. Offals high in protein and good fats, vitamin C, and B-vitamins as well as magnesium, selenium, zinc and fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E, and K and also iron (in its most bioavailable form it), CoQ10 and Choline (which is an essential nutrient for cell membranes, neurotransmitters, muscles, and the brain). Few organ types of meat to start including in your diet: liver, heart, brain, kidneys, tongue, bone marrow, intestine.
6. Adopt a nose to tail philosophy when it comes to eating
Nose to tail simply means consuming as many - if not all- parts of the animal as possible, using up the whole animal carcass. Not only is this practice great for the environment, as consuming all animal parts helps to reduce food waste but it is also more respectful to the life of the animal and increases awareness/connectedness with our food.
7. Shop frequently local, organic & seasonal
Have fresh foods around your home at all times for meal preparation. Shop local if you can, find a farmers market, local butcher, make it a social family occasion and ritual, take a stroll and morning trips to the local market or get the catch of the day from the local fishermen.
8. Slow food and not fast food
When adopting a Primal diet an important aspect is spending more time in the kitchen and learning the art of cooking yourself. Make cooking a social event and slow down and savor the process of cooking as much as the food on the table. Resist the temptation of fast food - the financial price tag may seem low but the health price tag is very high.
9. Relax & eat consciously
Transform your unconscious eating “routine” into a mindful and conscious food ritual. Focus on the enjoyment of the experience of cooking and eating rather than a “must do quickly” tick boxing exercise. Chew slowly, perhaps even close your eyes for a second and savor the taste.
10. Fast regularly!
To mimic our ancestors between hunts – your body cognitive functions are optimized during intermittent fasting. Try to adopt an intermittent fasting routine and remove the conventional idea that you need to eat multiple times a day! Fasting is a fantastic natural bio-hack and a great way to boost the immune system as well as overall resilience, as it improves mental, physical, and spiritual discipline.