By PT Staff, published on May 1, 1997 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
It won't succeed the dreaded cabbage soup diet as the eating craze du jour.But it may be one regimen that truly benefits your brain. Technically it's called a paleolithic diet, but what it basically means is eating what our ancestors did 40,000 years ago: lost of meat, some fruit and root vegetables, and little or no grains or dairy products.
The "caveman diet" almost resembles the familiar nutritionists' food pyramid--turned upside down. So why adopt eating habits that contradict everything experts have been telling us? The theory is simple: Just as a car is designed to run best on a specific fuel, so "our species is genetically adapted to eating animal protein and fats," insists Colorado State University's Loren Cordaine, Ph.D. And anthropologist Boyd Eaton, Ph.D., goes so far as to call modern America's high-grain, low-meat diet, "affluent malnutrition."
Ironically, the meat-rich diet our ancestors ate was in many ways more healthful than our own. Elk steaks have only a fraction of the cholesterol-raising saturated fat that farm-raised beef has. And the wild stuff has far more omega-3 fatty acids, the "good fats" essential to a well-functioning brain. In fact, Cordaine believes our ancestors' switch from a vegetarian diet to meatier meals rich in omega-3s was key to our evolution, providing the nutritients needed to expand the human brain.
Cordaine's work isn't just theoretical: He's actually put volunteers on a paleolithic regimen. The results? Despite all that meat, the types and levels of fat in participants' blood became healthier. Still not hankering for a buffalo burger? Cordaine says that the meat industry could easily raise cattle whose nutrient profile resembles that of wild game--if consumers demand it.