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The Paleolithic diet (Paleo for short) , or caveman diet, is founded on the basic principle that our bodies are better suited to eating like our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors. With stable isotope analysis of bone and dental records suggesting that our Stone Age relatives were healthy and strong, primarily due to diet and exercise, it is no wonder that the paleo diet is now a popular craze in America. Endorsed primarily by followers of the exercise trend CrossFit and others who engage in other high-intensity workouts, the paleo diet, in which 10,000 years ago was a necessity, has now become one of the leading weight-loss and fitness diets in America.
The Paleolithic time period is located within the second half of the Stone Age beginning somewhere between 750,000 and 500,000 BC, when people began using tools, and ending around 8,500 BC, or the modern geologic era. Archeologists and anthropologists studying the period use bone records and dental evidence to determine dietary history and the health of our ancestors at various periods.
According to anthropologists and the creative lay-person, Paleolithic ancestors would have been following a diet of gathered fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that were easily found in the wild and food that was caught while hunting. Wild meat would have been primarily lean muscle rather than the fatty muscle from factory-farmed, sedentary cattle and poultry found in today’s diets. Also, Paleolithic people would have been able to find eggs and small game to supplement their diets when hunting and gathering yields were slim to modest.
Researchers, such as paleo-enthusiast S. Boyd Eaton, find that the general diet attributed to Paleolithic people may have been a significant factor in brain expansion as well as a healthy physique and a significantly lower rate of serious illnesses and diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. These findings caused a recent surge in the diet’s popularity.
With the breeding of emmer wheat in approximately 8,800 BC, the paleo diet began its steady decline. It was not reintroduced to modern minds until 1975, when Dr. Walter L. Voegtlin published The Stone Age Diet, a book touting the diet’s healthfulness. Shortly thereafter, S. Boyd Eaton, now widely considered the father of the paleo movement, published The Paleolithic Prescription. It wasn’t until 2002, however, when Eaton’s The Paleo Diet was first published, that the diet gained widespread notoriety. In the years since, the paleo diet has attained a positive reputation and, with its foundation in fresh, whole foods and lean meats, has gained support from doctors, fitness experts, and nutritionists alike.
In recent years, CrossFit, an extreme fitness regimen started by Greg Glassman in Santa Cruz, California, became linked with the paleo lifestyle. For ultimate fitness and athleticism and the ability to make it through the workouts with plenty of energy, Crossfit trainers across the nation find that the paleo diet works well. The diet provides enough protein and carbohydrates to fuel intense workouts while helping to cut out the bad foods, such as sugar and simple carbohydrates, to create a lean and muscular physique.
The history of the paleo diet begins with our Paleolithic predecessors’ need to survive in some of the harshest conditions our species has known. Today, the diet is coming full circle. A whole host of extreme athletes, medical professionals, and dieters have set out to ensure that history repeats itself, arguing that the paleo diet has stood the test of time, offering the right balance for health and optimal physical performance.