The Paleo Diet- Why Eat Like A Hunter-Gatherer?

11:44 AM Posted by jo

When I first heard about the Paleo, hunter-gatherer, or caveman diet a few years ago I thought it sounded strange. The more I looked into it the more thrilled I was about it. I have never liked milk, and I always felt bloated eating grains and starchy foods, so I was intrigued and willing to give it a try. 

The Paleo Diet is a lifetime program of eating, and it is not a quick fix weight loss diet, even though most people following the Pale diet lose weight and become more lean and muscular. A couple of years ago my husband and I followed the Paleo diet as closely as we could. My husband is an endurance athlete, and the whole family do various sports so we used the book, The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain, PhD and Joel Friel, MS for guidance. The book's focus is on the dietary needs of athletes.

According to the book:
"The fundamental dietary principle for the Paleo Diet for Athletes is simplicity itself: unrestricted consumption of lean meats, poultry, seafood, fruits, and vegetables"

We felt great eating according to the Paleo Diet, and after a move across country and somewhat interrupted routines (hm), we recently decided to do our best to eat as close to the Paleo Diet again. Today I cover general information about the Paleo Diet, but more detailed information about Paleo and athletes will be posted shortly on our Naturally Sports & Wellness blog.

By eating according to the Paleo Diet you'll be eating the diet you are genetically programmed to eat. Only 500 generations ago people ate like this:

The Paleolithic people:
  • did not salt their food
  • hardly ate cereal grains
  • didn't eat dairy food
  • didn't eat refined sugar, only occasionally honey
  • ate lean animal foods and their protein intake was quite high
  • ate carbohydrates from non starchy wild fruits and vegetables
  • ate monosaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega 3 fats

Why would anyone want to give up processed foods, grains, dairy, salty foods, refined sugars, and legumes for a diet full of lean meats, fish, seafood and all the fruit and non-starchy vegetables one can eat? 

Loren Cordain PhD, also wrote the book, The Paleo Diet Lose weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Meant to Eat. This book has tons of convincing arguments why you should favor a hunter-gatherer diet: 
  • by eating the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate you can lose weight and regain health and well-being.
  • the Paleo Diet is the only diet that fits our genetic make-up. DNA evidence shows that genetically humans have hardly changed at all in 40,000 years.
  • before the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago, just 500 generations ago, everyone on the planet ate lean meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables. It has been only 5-7 generations ago if you happen to be an Eskimo or Native American.
  • our Paleolithic ancestors were very lean, fit and free from heart disease and other ailments that plague the Western countries. Cordain has examined thousands of early-nineteenth and twentieth-century photographs of hunter-gatherers and they show indigenous people to be lean, muscular, and fit.
  • the hunter-gatherer were free from signs and symptoms of chronic diseases, and the medical evidence shows that their body fat, aerobic fitness, insulin metabolism, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure were superior to modern day people.
  • the Paleo diet contain nonstarchy carbohydrates that normalize your blood glucose, promote weight loss, and make you feel energized all day.
  • you don't need to worry about about excessive dietary acid causing bone loss on the Paleo diet, 35% of more of your daily calories come from alkaline fruits and vegetables that will neutralize the dietary acid you get when you eat meat and seafood.
  • lean meat is about 80% protein and 20% fat. 
  • protein increases your metabolism. It has twice the "thermic effect" of either fat or carbohydrates, which means it will speed up your metabolism. It also has the "highest satiating value", which will make you feel full faster.
  • high protein diets have been shown to improve insulin metabolism, help lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of stroke.
  • high protein diets don't  cause damage to the kidneys, which is opposite of what people have been told. Dr. Arne Astrup, at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University of Copenhagen proved this in testing.
  • the Paleo diet includes all the nutritional elements needed to encourage weight loss while promoting health and well-being. It contain proper balance of plant and animal foods, and the correct ratios of protein, fat, and carbohydrates required for weight loss and excellent health.
  • There is no need to count calories and you can eat as much carbohydrates as you like, as long as it is the right kind - low glycemic fruits and vegetables.

The ground rules of the Paleo Diet are:
  1. All the lean meats, fish, and seafood you can eat
  2. All the fruits and nonstarchy vegetables you can eat
  3. No cereals
  4. No dairy products
  5. No processed foods

The Paleo Diet is very simple, there are no limitations to what you can do. It is very simple as well, of course, you can make it more complicated if you like. If you want to make it really easy you can use leftover dinner meat for lunch, add a salad, some nuts, and some fruit and there's your Paleo lunch.

The seven keys of the Paleo Diet are:
  1. Eat a relatively high amount of animal protein compared to the typical American diet.
  2. Eat fewer carbohydrates than most modern diets recommended, but eat the good kinds that come from fruits and vegetables, not from grains, starchy tubers, and refined sugars.
  3. Eat  a large amount of fiber from nonstarchy fruits and vegetables.
  4. Eat a moderate amount of fats.
  5. Eat foods with high potassium content and low sodium content.
  6. Eat a diet with net alkaline load.
  7. Eat foods rich in plant phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

There are three levels of the diet in the book  The Paleo Diet Lose weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Meant to Eat. Each level contains a limited number of Open Meals, and this provides a chance to still eat your favorite foods. An occasional glass of wine or beer is fine. It is a life time program and not a quick- fix weight-loss, which means  built-in flexibility to accommodate a little cheating. Well, as my husband and I see it, you should  try your best to follow whatever diet fits you the best, but it has to be room for flexibility to enjoy life as well. With that said, I don't mean drinking tons of soda or eating fast food everyday.

We try our best to stick to this way of eating because we feel better, but we do a few modifications to adjust to what we believe in. The book promotes canola oil, I simply replace it with the oils I prefer instead.

Stay tuned for my next post about the Paleo Diet tomorrow. I will talk about meal preparations, shopping for the right foods, dining out tips, snacks, and other good stuff about the Paleo Diet.


Johanna is an aromatherapist and she is passionate about educating people about health, essential oils, real food, natural remedies, and nutrition so they make healthier choices in their lives. 
Follow Johanna on twitter and facebook for more health tips and information. 

This post is linked to Monday Mania hosted by The Healthy Home Economist
and to Real Food Wednesday by Kelly the Kitchen Kop. It is also linked to WMWW hosted by Angie's Healthy Living Blog and to WFMW.
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