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Real Men Ate Their Veggies | Feb. 4, 2009

When we think of “Real Men,” we often think of the caveman; you know, the big, burley, hairy, hunter type that carried a club and spent most of his time stalking the Wooly Mammoth to provide for his clan. Well our vision is a little off. The truth is the caveman was a small, muscular, salad-lover. Okay, he still hunted with a big stick, but the majority of his diet came from fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meat and seafood.

This semester I am teaching a Global Nutrition course, and after investigating prehistoric diets-- also known as the Paleolithic, Stone Age or the Caveman diet--the consensus of my students is that the Paleo Diet Rocked . Well, minus the raw meat.

Much attention and research has been given lately to the diets of our “hunter gatherer” ancestors. As much as 60 percent of their calories came from fruits and vegetables. Now, I’m not suggesting eating raw, wild game, but we do need to consider how consuming most of our calories from fruits and vegetables might benefit us. Here is what we know: foraging was hard work, obesity didn’t exist, only two percent had cavities and they probably didn’t die of heart disease. On the flip side, the average life expectancy was only 25 years, but you can bet the 25-year-old caveman’s arteries were in better shape than the 25-year-old of today.

Somewhere in the course of the last 10,000 years we have forgotten the importance of fruits and vegetables in our diets. The average American consumes only two to three servings of fruit and vegetables per day. That number includes french fries. The caveman consumed closer to 10 to 20 servings.

Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is linked with decreasing chronic disease, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Respecting our Paleolithic Genome might have merit. Incorporating a high-fiber diet, rich in fruits and vegetables (especially green, leafy vegetables) would be a good place to start.

Ideally, we should be consuming some source of fruits or vegetables at each meal, or around 5 to 9 servings per day.

Tips to increasing intake:

1) Keep bowls of cut-up fruit available in the refrigerator.
2) Keep veggie trays and low fat dip available in the refrigerator for quick snacks or to add to lunches.
3) Always serve a salad at dinner, along with other vegetable side dishes.
4) At dinner, make sure half of your plate is vegetables and the other half carbs and protein.
5) Make fruit desserts.
6) Add fruit to lunches.

Make a conscious effort for every meal to contain fruits and vegetables and there you have it—the “modern” caveman diet. And please avoid the raw meat.