Why eat a Paleolithic diet

Stone Age. Detail 1

Paleolithic humans.

Diet crazes come and go. A quick search of the internet and you’ll see a bunch of them.  There’s the all-cookie diet, the one day diet, the three day diet, the Hollywood diet, the lemonade diet, the cabbage soup diet and many more.  The point is, most of them are not based on anything scientific other than the fact that significantly lowering calories generally results in weight loss.  While that might be true, it does not mean it’s healthy.

The diet that I routinely recommend to my patients is the paleolithic diet.  This is not a ‘diet’ in the way that most people think about a diet.  This is not designed specifically as a way to lose weight.  However, if you are overweight eating this way will likely help you lose weight.

I like to use the word ‘diet’ by its most simple definition – food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health. Think of the word diet simply as the type of food you put in your mouth.  Don’t think of diet as something people do when they want to lose weight.

A paleolithic diet incorporates certain types of foods and restricts others. From a scientific and evolutionary standpoint the paleolithic diet makes perfect sense. The paleolithic diet focuses on meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils

The paleolithic era in human history began about 2.5 million years ago and ended about 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture.  Over that period human beings evolved with a very specific diet. Up until 10,000 years ago humans were hunter gatherers.  They moved with the herds of animals and ate a diet high in animal protein and vegetables and fruit.  Grains were nonexistent in their diets because the farming techniques did not exist to grow and process grain.

So what does this have to do with you? Our genetic code has changed very little (if at all) since the end of the paleolithic era, yet our diets have changed substantially. Our bodies were designed to process meats, vegetables and fruits in high amounts.  They were not designed to process grains in high amounts.

Current dietary recommendations in which people ‘should get 6-10 servings of whole grains per day’ is in direct conflict with how we’ve evolved over the last 2 million plus years. Diets high in grain products lead to many health concerns including high triglycerides in the blood and diabetes.

You must consider what our ancestors consumed and how that drove natural selection.  Prehistoric humans at a diet consisting of lots of protein, fruits and vegetables and virtually no grain.  This drove evolution and genes were selected or deleted from the genetic code based on this type of diet and what traits were most advantageous for survival.  The ability to process high amounts of carbohydrate is not an ability that was likely to be selected and passed from offspring to offspring because it was not essential.

Today, unfortunately, we have a food guide pyramid that flies in the face of evolution and recommends too much carbohydrate and not enough protein and fat.

My rules for my patients are simple:

1. Eat lots and lots of vegetables.
2. Eat lots and lots of low glycemic fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, apples, pears, etc.)
3. Eat as many nuts and seeds as you want.
4. Keep dairy products to a small part of the diet, but yogurt and/or cottage cheese daily is okay. If you choose to consume milk make it raw milk.
5. Salt your food to taste, but do not eat processed foods as they are extremely high in salt.
6. Have protein at every meal – eggs, steak, pork, fish, chicken, turkey, buffalo, alligator, ostrich, whatever – it’s all good.
7. Eat regularly – eat every 3 hours. Remember, even if you’re not exercising your brain requires tons of energy and in a constant supply.  Your brain consumes energy at a rate that is equal to that of the energy used by a human leg muscle running a marathon!
8. Exercise! The importance of regular exercise cannot be over stated.  Our ancestors moved constantly! You must move!

If you follow these rules, you will have a healthy life free of the diseases of modern civilization such as diabetes and heart disease.  You might just lose a little weight as well!

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Why eat a Paleolithic diet

  1. Pingback: The New “Food Guide Pyramid” | The Vreeland Clinic's Blog

  2. I just heard about your clinic on Kixx this morning…How is it that we as a society that do not hunt or gather food to sustain life, can eat like this plan suggests? Most of us are sitting at our desks, and not moving with the herd in search of food. I’ve always operated under the assumption that you have to put in less than what you burn to lose weight, and to round out the variety, exercise and make healthy food choices. If my body only burns 1,300 calories per day then if I do not exercise and sit at my desk all day, then I should not eat much more than that, or I’ll be gaining weight. I do agree with you on eating from raw ingredients, and lowering the amount of grains we consume, but…I’m skeptical of how this way of eating would help improve my body shape and my overall health. I want to learn more! :o)

    • I am glad you’d like to learn more! Eating a paleolithic diet is not as difficult as you might first suspect.

      First, your goal is to have a source of protein at every meal. That means you must be prepared. It is not as simple as finding the nearest vending machine and getting whatever comes out, but it is not overly difficult either. I encourage my patients to cook extra servings of meat when they cook at night or perhaps throw come chicken breasts or hamburger in the oven or on the grill when you have time over the weekend. This will supply you with your needed protein for the week. My wife and I do this all the time.

      Secondly, with this protein you need to have a fruit or a vegetable as a side. I encourage my patients to have fruits that grow naturally in the Northeast as they are lowest in sugar. All veggies are on the diet! The exceptions are potatoes and corn. Those are okay in moderation, but should not be a staple.

      That’s it….the rules are simple: Eat a protein and a fruit or vegetable every time you eat. Try to eat every 3-4 hours. Keep grains as a small part of your diet, not a staple.

      Don’t focus so much on the calorie-in/calorie-out model. The body is very complex and it doesn’t do anything that linearly. It is not the most ideal way to diet or lose weight. I’ve had many patients who consume very little in the way of calories only to see the scale move in the wrong direction. It isn’t until we finally increase their calories that they are able to lose weight and improve their body composition.

      If you’re truly interested, give us a call at the clinic and I’ll be happy to speak with you for a free phone consult (802.649.3122). We do that for anyone interested in coming to our clinic!

  3. Pingback: Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet | FitChutney

  4. Pingback: Our Paleo Thanksgiving! | The Vreeland Clinic's Blog

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