Paleolithic Diet: How our bodies want to be treated.
The human genome has changed little over the past 40,000 years
. Our ancestors developed agricultural practices about 10,000 years ago (see a Timeline). The advent of agricultural marked a chaotic period for our bodies to adjust to these foreign
foods. The fossil record shows a massive decrease in average height, health, and rapid increase in disease, obesity, and population for cultures that survived the transition from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a
agricultural dependent one. Women on high grain/carbohydrate
diets become mature at an earlier age than their hunter-gatherer counterparts; thereby out-breeding and out-producing hunter-gatherers. Without this significant population boom, our diet as we know it could in fact be the same as it was before the advent of agriculture.
The diet of our pre-agricultural ancestors consisted of meats, insects, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. The advent of agriculture brought us potatoes, legumes (i.e. peanuts, beans, and soy), grains (i.e. corn,
wheat, rice, barley, and oats), and processed foods (i.e. sugar, bread, pastries, alcohol, etc.). Furthermore, we have bred our plants to produce the biggest and sweetest (highest sugar content) fruits. The best example
of this is the blueberry.
Compare a wild Maine blueberry to the modern grocery store blueberry and you will see a remarkable difference. The wild blueberry is small, and contains little sugar. It takes a handful of
wild berries to equal the sweetness of two or three large commercial berries. However, in that handful of wild berries you are getting a far larger amount of antioxidants and nutrients than you would by eating
commercial berries alone. Farmers didn't cultivate and breed our plants to grow the most nutritious fruit, just the best tasting fruit. This analogy can be said for most of our modern foods.
Chronic Illness: Diet Related?
A diet high in legumes, carbohydrates, and grains could be making you ill. Why
would a diet high in post-agricultural-era foods be detrimental to our health?
Because these foods are foreign to our bodies. Our genes have not had the time nor the evolutionary pressures to adapt to these new foods. Let's examine the reasons:
alternative to meat. The fact that they can cause gastrointestinal distress should be enough for our concern. Most legumes are poisonous if eaten raw. Legumes are high in lectins, protease inhibitors, and
phytates. Lectins are proteins that bind carbohydrates, been identified as being inflammatory and toxic, and have a casual relationship with auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Type I diabetes, and lupus.
Phytates or phytic acids, have been shown to inhibit the absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc in the digestive tract. Furthermore, the presence of protease inhibitors interferes with the
breakdown of proteins into amino acids. Vegetarians seeking protein from legumes, may actually be making their protein deficiencies worse! A diet high in legumes, at best, will give you gastrointestinal problems and
could result in a mineral deficiency. At worst, a diet high in legumes could induce an "auto-immune" response. Furthermore, the soy industry has been pushing the "health benefits" of soy. As a result, most of our processed foods contain a soy additive or
byproduct, in effect, lacing our foods with possible toxins.
Beans have been touted as the healthy
Carbohydrates: Dr. Wolfgang Lutz
of Austria would say no. His clinical experience with hundreds of patients suggests that diets high in carbohydrates are actually detrimental to our health. It is Dr. Lutz's opinion that carbohydrates are unnatural and harmful components of our diet and actually damage the mucosal layer of the gastrointestinal tract. Once damaged, antigens are free to enter the blood stream and cause all sorts of immune responses.
"Carbo-loading" has become synonymous with healthy. But are foods high in carbohydrates really
good for us?
But aren't carbohydrates essential for a healthy diet? The answer is no. Sam Singer, in The Biology of the People
writes, "The brain's energy requirements can be met by between 100 and 145 grams of glucose per day, and most diets contain enough carbohydrate to provide the brain and other tissues with this amount of glucose on a daily basis. But even if a person's diet changes so that it never contains enough carbohydrate to provide this much glucose, the concentration of glucose in the blood will not change. This is because natural selection has provided our bodies with a means of manufacturing it from molecules other than carbohydrates....The conversion of these dietary components into glucose is so effective that
Masai warriors, Eskimos, South American gouchos, and other peoples may live for long periods of time on foods that are exclusively of animal origin and that contain almost no carbohydrate. These people are vigorous
and healthy, and we learn from their eating habits that carbohydrate is not dietary essential, because they have normal levels of glucose in their blood in spite of the fact that their diets contain almost no
Some recent findings published in scientific journals have also shown a relationship between carbohydrates in diets and disease. A study plublished in Lancet
found an increased risk of breast cancer in woman as the intake of available carbohydrates increased. A study published in PNAS
demonstrates the dependence cancer cells have on glucose (for more studies click here).
Paleolithic Nutrition: Guidelines
"Be satisfied with the needs instead of the wants." -Teeton Sioux
principle tenet of a Paleolithic diet is simple: eat only the foods of our paleolithic ancestors. Before eating a food in question, ask yourself, would this food be edible in the wild, in the absence of technology?
Edible is key to this principle, because it eliminates foods such as potatoes and legumes that require cooking or processing before eating them. This tenet also eliminates many breads, grains, and processed foods.
not eat sugar, molasses, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, or any processed sugar.
All grains are not permitted, such as: corn, wheat, wheat germ, barley, oats, rye, rice, buckwheat, and others.
Legumes are not allowed: this includes peanuts, beans, and soy.
Starchy foods are not permitted, such as: potatoes, yams, and parsnips.
Seaweed byproducts, such as agar and carrageenan, are not allowed.
Processed meats fall into a gray area: if it at all possible try to choose processed meats without preservatives. Make sure processed meats do not contain any harmful additive such as corn, corn products, starch, and
sugars. Uncured bacon may be found from a local butcher, or bacon cured with honey can be found at
Dairy Products are not allowed.
Other foods that are not permitted include:
coffee, cashews, bread, pasta, other starchy foods, canola oil, commercial mayonnaise (because of additives), ice cream, candy, chocolate, carob, whey powder, margarine, commercial ketchup, baking powder, mixed nuts, and FOS (fructooligosaccharides) products.
Quantities are not restricted.
Honey is the only allowed sugar product.
Use small amounts of honey.
Most vegetables, fresh or frozen and raw or cooked, are allowed including:
asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, beets, Brussell sprouts, cabbage, carrots celery, cucumbers, eggplant, rhubarb, peppers, garlic, lettuce, spinach, mushrooms, onions, turnips, and watercress.
All unprocessed meats such as:
beef, pork, chicken, turkey, quail, ostrich, fish, shellfish, lamb, venison, rabbit, and eggs. Wild game is preferred as is eggs from free roaming chickens.
Some processed meats are allowed, but many require writing
letters to manufacturers to verify the absence of restricted foods.
Many processed meats contain starch, soy, corn products, and other disallowed foods. These foods are not entirely disallowed, just don't make them
a frequent staple.
Most fruits are allowed such as: avocadoes, apples, tomatoes, olives, apricots, ripened bananas, coconuts, dates, berries, cherries, citrus fruits, peaches, pears, tropical fruits, and grapes.
Most nuts and edible seeds are allowed, such as: Almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, chestnuts, filberts, and pecans. Remember, peanuts are not technically nuts. Cashews in
there raw form contain a toxin
and are not allowed.
The following foods are allowed: lard, olive oil, coconut oil, tea, mustard, and juices with pulp and without additives.
Again, if you are trying to lose weight, go easy on the
PaleoFood.com -great paleolithic recipes.
Neanderthin.com -the website of the book.
TheBear.org -essay about Vilhalmur Stefansson and the 'Eskimo' diet.
Great Site Detailing Our Evolutionary Diet