THE PALEO DIET
Quick Start Guide
The Paleolithic Diet is based on eating foods that our Paleolithic ancestors ate. The "Paleolithic" refers to the Paleolithic Era, which is a formal time period on Geologic Time Charts from about 2,500,000 years ago to about 10,000 years ago.
During this recent time span mass agriculture, grains/grain products, sugars/sugar products, dairy/dairy products, and a plethora of processed foods have all been introduced as a regular part of the human diet.
We are not eating the foods we are genetically and physiologically adapted to eat (99.9% of our genetic profile is still Paleolithic); and the discordance is an underlying cause for much of the "diseases of civilization", "syndrome X", obesity, and "diseases of old age" that are so epidemic in our society today.
The basic idea of the Paleolithic Diet is to eat as similar to our ancestors as possible. Our genetic makeup is designed for those foods, so to be in the best state of health we should eat accordingly. By examining what humans ate more than 10,000 year ago we can create a dietary theory to follow today. This Paleo diet is in stark contrast to the average American diet. The main differences are based on the intake of:
: The carbohydrate rich diets that we eat today would have been completely foreign to our ancestors. Think about where do most of our sugars and starches come from? The answer is grains. Foods like corn, rice, wheat, barley and oats are all types of grains. History indicates that the grain we eat today was domesticated from wild grasses. This occurred between 10,000 and 3,000 years ago in various parts of the world. Before this time there was no farming as we know it. People lived as hunter-gatherers. In this lifestyle humans ate a lot of meat and whichever wild fruits and vegetable they could find. They did not have access to grain. And remember, our genetic makeup is 99.99% identical to those people because humans did not have ready access to grain until recently (in a genetic time frame), our bodies are not well adapted to grain based diets. In the Paleo diet, carbohydrates intake is minimized to represent this idea. The carbohydrates that would have been available were nuts and berries, fruits and vegetables. There were no processed sugars or plates of pasta. To eat a Paleo diet, these must be decreased significantly.
: Hunter-gatherers did not have domesticated livestock. The meat they ate was from what they could catch. There were no livestock in pens, hogs in confinement lots or turkeys in huge barns. Studies show that animals that run free and are not commercially raised have a different composition of fat. “Free range” animals have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and lower levels of omega-6. This means that less of the human fat intake would have been of the omega-6 type and more of the omega-3. The average American diet has about 10 times as much omega-6 fatty acids as omega-3. This ratio would have been closer to 3 to 1, or maybe even 1 to 1, in the prehistoric period. Today, we can get more omega-3 fats by eating nuts, deep-sea fish and free-range meat. A lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is a key component of this diet. Many researchers recognize it as a more healthy balance of fat intake.
: Anthropological research shows that the Paleolithic people ate more meat than the average American. Meat is a good source of protein and fat. Increasing the amount of protein intake is an important aspect of the Paleo diet. Because of the way our bodies use protein, the actual source is not critical. But because fats are so often found mixed in protein, some thought must be given to selections. Free-range meats, because of the more favorable fat profile are preferred over other sources.
The goal of this sheet is to provide general information about the theory of the Paleolithic diet. Please consult a medical doctor before beginning any new diet, or making any significant lifestyle changes, especially if you have any serious medical conditions.