The act of eating like a caveman has never been so delicious.
Brad Barry and Lou Mangino, both 28, moved about their Kingston kitchen in an almost rehearsed manner while prepping dinner on a recent Tuesday. On the menu: lamb, asparagus, veggies and some duck fat for good measure.
“A little over two years ago I quit smoking and was on a health kick, and I discovered this paleo/primal thing and fell in love with it,” Barry said of the new method of eating he has adopted.
The paleo and primal diets are known as the caveman diets. Paleo was popularized by Loren Cordain, researcher and author of “The Paleo Diet,” and Robb Wolf, biochemist and author of “The Paleo Solution,” and the primal way of eating was developed by Mark Sisson, who published “The Primal Blueprint” and whose website marksdailyapple.com is what got Barry started.
“In a nutshell, the paleo/primal diet is eating what our ancestors, when we were hunters and gatherers, ate,” Barry said. “So generally plants and animals. You stay away from processed food and things like wheat, grain and sugars, or anything in a box.”
The main difference between the two diets concerns the inclusion of dairy products. Paleo suggests eliminating them, particularly in the beginning, but primal doesn’t reject good-quality, full-fat dairy products and recommends products from pastured animals that should be consumed raw.
The method of how to start both diets also differs. Wolf suggests a strict exclusion of all non-Paleo foods for at least 30 days, while Sisson employs an 80/20 rule, suggesting primal foods 80 percent of the time and “cheat” foods the other 20.
“The whole idea of the diet is high-fat, low-carb, but healthy fats,” Barry said.
This deters many people, who hear the words “high fat” and run. Sisson claims that, contrary to popular belief, neither saturated fat nor dietary cholesterol has been linked to cardiovascular disease, citing sugar, refined polyunsaturated fat oils and trans-fats as the things to avoid. Fat is also great because it burns slowly and evenly, providing steady energy levels, whereas carbohydrates burn quickly and leave a person groggy until more carbs are consumed.
“I find that I do eat more often, though not necessarily more in quantity,” Barry said. “You would because you don’t have the carbs to make you stuffed, so you are hungry more.”
Barry has gone all-in with the diet from the start, though he knows that’s not for everyone.
“My advice would be to go cold turkey on junk food,” he said. “I can’t have cheat days. When I fall off the wagon, it’s like I fall off the wagon, down a hill, and, like, hit a creek, and that’s not worth it.”
Barry said the differences of being on and off the way of eating are extremely noticeable – and mostly unpleasant.
“When I’m off it I don’t sleep well, your skin gets all oily and gross, your hair feels …weird. It’s hard to explain. But when I’m on, I immediately fall asleep, and when I wake up in the morning I’m awake. It’s not like I walk around for an hour, have two cups of coffee, and then I’m up around noon. Everything naturally just feels better.”
Mangino, who does not adhere to the paleo lifestyle as strictly, sees another major upside.
“Cooking like this makes it more fun,” he said as he assembled a carrot, red onion and apple slaw with ginger dressing. “We go to the grocery store and brainstorm. We walk around, see what’s fresh. We have no idea what we’re getting before we go there. Or if there’s a lot in the fridge it’s like, ‘What can we make using up that?’ ”
“You do have to love cooking to do this,” Barry said as he slathered duck fat on asparagus before popping the spears into the oven. “I’ve never wanted to cook every day of my life until I started doing this.”
“And, honestly, there’s nothing tastier than a good-looking meal.”