People on both sides of the Paleo fence get very heated about grains. The hardcore paleo crowd associate grains with refined white sugar, trans fats and chemical preservatives. Those who don’t appreciate Paleo tend to say that whole grains are so obviously healthy that it is foolish to ignore them. So what exactly is the truth? Well, as in many cases, it is a bit of both. In this article, we aim to provide some kind of response to “Did cavemen eat grains?”
Clearly, most modern paleo dieters don’t eat grains. The logic goes that cavemen didn’t eat it, so we shouldn’t. We are supposedly ill-adapted to digesting any sort of grains, so it is silly to eat them and not good for our health. I definitely agree with this, at least up to a point. Stuff like burger buns, breakfast cereals, and chips are all made from grains as well as a bunch of other nasty ingredients. And there is no doubt in my mind that removing these foods from every shop in the country would be a fantastic first step towards reducing a host of diseases and improving the quality of life for many.
There are a couple of points worth thinking about here.
Firstly, and somewhat disappointingly for the hardcore, grains have actually been found in the stomachs of primitive man. Whilst this is rare and it is difficult to see exactly how important a part of their diet it may have been, grains weren’t off-limits. Hardly surprising really, is it? Cavemen weren’t thinking about healthy diets, weight loss or irritable bowel syndrome. They were simply trying to stay alive! Before agriculture, man certainly wasn’t cultivating grains or making flour, but would happily eat anything growing naturally that he found. If this was a grain, I don’t think our friend in mammoth skin clothes could have cared less!
You might think that I am getting anti-Paleo here. Believe me, I love Paleo! It has been great for my health and for my waistline. However, I do think some people miss the point a bit. Many people do just fine with some grains in their diet. This is particularly true for people from certain parts of the world and less so for others. In the same way, that Nordic countries tend to tolerate dairy a little better than southern European countries, Mediterranean civilizations where bread is central to most meals often show lower rates of grain intolerance.
I think that modern man has gone way overboard when it comes to whether to eat grains or not, and particularly with refined grains. There is a world of difference between having some natural whole grains in your diet and eating white bread three times a day! And here is the problem. Today, there is such an excess of flour in everything (meat with breadcrumbs! Really?) that it is causing real health problems, from obesity to diabetes.
If you are feeling a little bit confused, don’t be. In my opinion, most of us should start off by getting rid of all these nasty, inflammatory modern foods and, at least initially, grains and diary. See how you feel. My bet is that most people will feel great on this ‘pure’ paleo approach. After a few weeks on this, try re-introducing a few whole grains like quinoa or spelt into your diet rather than brown rice. Don’t go wild, just try some one day and see how you feel. Is there any bloating or gastro-intestinal distress? If so, grains in any form aren’t for you and you need to eat more gluten-free foods including gluten-free bread. However, for most people, this will be fine.
Without heading back down the road to burgers and chips, adding a little variety into a paleo diet isn’t really such a bad thing. Don’t get too extreme about things. Remember, the aim is a natural, healthy lifestyle and whatever fits this recipe for you is fine, regardless of what others say.