Paleo Diet

 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)

paleo-dietLoren Cordain wrote the Paleo Diet based on his research about the probable diet of our human ancestors.

The concept of the Paleo approach to eating is that humans were evolving for millions of years prior to the Neolithic period, which is when agricultural practices changed our diet considerably.

Cordain affirms that grains were not a part of the prehistoric human diet and were only introduced at the time of the agricultural revolution 10000 years ago.

In the past 200 years the industrial revolution has changed our diet to an even greater degree with the introduction of processed and artificial foods as well as an increase in the amount of food that is available to us due to our ability to store foods for a long time.

Cordain claims that these changes have created a detrimental effect on our health and declares that they are responsible for the diseases of modern civilization including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Paleo Diet Basics

Cordain states that the genetics of humans is best adapted to the diet of our human ancestors prior to the introduction of agriculture.

As such the Paleo diet is based on eating foods that would be available to humans in the absence of all technology so as to mimic the diet of hunter-gatherer societies as much as possible.

Eat Like a Caveman

Many foods are restricted on this diet for the reason that that they were not available to our prehistoric ancestors. These include all processed foods, sugar, salt, grains, legumes, dairy products, coffee and alcohol.

Potatoes are also restricted because the varieties available now are genetically and nutritionally altered and are much higher in carbohydrates in comparison to those available in Stone Age period.

While eliminating grains and refined carbohydrates does make this a relatively low carbohydrate diet, it is less restrictive than other diet plans of this nature such as ‘Atkins‘ and ‘Protein Power’ because most fruit and vegetables are allowed in unlimited portions.

Paleo Answer

Paleo AnswerThe Paleo Answer is the latest book by  Loren Cordain.

It expands on the principles outlined in Cordain’s earlier books, highlighting the benefits of eating like our caveman ancestors.

Cordain explains that this program is “about adopting a modern healthy diet and lifestyle consistent with our genetic heritage as hunter-gatherers”.

Primarily the book focuses on how to eat like our Stone Age ancestors by consuming the same food groups they did.

Cordain applies the latest research to topics including:

  • The Truth About Saturated Fat
  • Meal Timing and Intermittent Fasting
  • Calorie Restriction
  • The Pitfalls of Vegetarianism
  • Negative Health Effects of Grains, Legumes, Potatoes and Dairy Products
  • The Food-Autoimmune Disease Connection

The Paleo Answer 7-Day Diet Plan

The meal plan includes suggestions for three meals and two snacks daily. Recipes are not provided but readers are referred to “The Paleo Diet Cookbook”.

If you are strict with the diet 85 percent of the time you can realize significant improvements in your health. The other 15 percent – which equates to about three meals a week – can include foods not normally allowed.

Also provided in the seven-day plan are health tips and specific recommendations for exercise and relaxation.

Paleo Diet For Athletes

paleo-diet-for-athletesCordain recognizes that endurance athletes require a higher intake of carbohydrates in order to replenish fuel stores after a long and intense workout.

As such the program for athletes makes changes to the basic program to allow the intake of some foods that are not included in a Paleo Diet.

The major adjustment to the program is that certain high glycemic index carbohydrate foods are included during the immediate post-workout period. For the remainder of the day the dietary pattern is the same as the general Paleo Diet program.

The Paleo Diet For Athletes outlines five periods of the day in relation to the training schedule of the athlete and explains the nutritional goals of each stage.

  • Stage 1 – Eating Before Exercise
  • Stage 2 – Eating During Exercise
  • Stage 3 – Eating 30 Minutes Post Exercise
  • Stage 4 – Short-Term Post Exercise
  • Stage 5 – Long-Term Post Exercise

For each stage he outlines in detail the specific foods to be eaten and amounts to be consumed as well as the recommended nutrient composition of the meal.

Prehistoric Foods

Here are some of the Paleo Diet suggested foods:
Turkey, shrimp, crab, halibut, salmon, lamb, lean beef, omega 3 eggs, pecans, almonds, walnuts, avocado, spinach, tomato, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, berries, apples, pineapple, peaches, olive oil, wine, herb tea, mineral water. Honey, dried fruit and natural oils are permitted in very small portions.

Sample Diet Plan

Breakfast

Omelet with spinach and mushroom

Morning Snack

Fresh berries

Lunch

Grilled salmon
Large mixed vegetable salad and flax oil dressing

Afternoon Snack

Guacamole
Raw carrots and celery

Dinner

Grilled chicken
Steamed broccoli
Tomato salad

Evening Snack

Baked walnut cinnamon apples

Costs and Expenses

An online version called Paleo Plan is available here.

The Paleo Diet book retails at $14.95.

Click here to purchase this diet for a discounted price.

The Paleo Answer retails for $25.95

Click here to purchase this diet for a discounted price.

Paleo Diet For Athletes: A nutritional formula for peak athletic performance retails at $15.95.

Click here to purchase this diet for a discounted price.

There may be an increase in grocery expenses due to the requirement to purchase more fresh produce, seafood and lean meat.

Loren Cordain Video

Pros

  • Higher intakes of protein reduce appetite and increase metabolism. High protein also prevents loss of lean muscle.
  • Emphasizes fruit and vegetables.
  • Intake of essential fatty acids will be high on this diet.
  • May be beneficial for dieters who have difficulty with carbohydrate cravings and blood glucose imbalances.
  • Will improve and reduce the risk of developing many diseases and disorders such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
  • Produces a net alkaline load on the kidneys, which helps to reduce the loss of calcium and preserve bone tissue, which may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Provides six weeks of sample menus.
  • Does not require counting or measuring.

Cons

  • Highly restrictive and will require a great deal of commitment from the dieter. Eliminates many favorite foods such as pasta, bread, potatoes and desserts.
  • May be socially disruptive. Difficult to eat out or at social occasions.
  • May be an initial withdrawal period when dieters commence the diet due to eliminating coffee, sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates.
  • Diet is based on speculation to some degree, as it is impossible to be certain what exactly our Paleolithic ancestors ate.
  • Recommends diet soda, which is contradictory to the philosophy of the diet.
  • Will require careful planning to ensure that calcium is adequately supplied due to the absence of dairy products.
  • Not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.

Alternate Paleolithic Diet: Primal Blueprint

An alternate to Lee Cordain’s diet is The Primal Blueprint written by Mark Sisson. It is also based on the concept of eating foods that were available to our Paleolithic ancestors because this is the diet that our genes are designed for, but it also involves addressing other lifestyle factors that have an important influence on our health and our ability to maintain an optimal physique.

There are ten major paleolithic principles of The Primal Blueprint

paleolithic diet

  1. Eat lots of animals, insects and plants.
  2. Move around a lot at a slow pace
  3. Lift heavy things
  4. Run really fast every once in a while
  5. Get lot’s of sleep
  6. Play
  7. Get some sunlight every day
  8. Avoid trauma
  9. Avoid poisonous things
  10. Use your mind

Primal Blueprint says that most popular diets look at daily calorie intake as being the major factor in our ability to lose weight. It also points out how most diet gurus generally prescribe one-size-fits-all recommendations for intakes of fats, protein and carbs.

However according to this paleolithic diet, this goes against our natural functioning because “our genes are accustomed to the way our ancestors ate: intermittently, sporadically, sometimes in large quantities, and sometimes not at all for days”. While the author acknowledges the importance of portion control he suggests that rather than measuring portions at each meal it is better to monitor your long-term intake over a week or more.

This approach also makes it more practical to follow an eating plan for weight loss because it can allow for occasional splurges and variations in our appetite and energy levels. Sisson says that the Primal Blueprint is “about understanding the effects that certain foods and exercise have on your body and then being able to make informed choices.

Click here to purchase this diet for a discounted price.

Could Be Difficult to Follow for Some

If dieters commit to The Paleo Diet it or the Paleo Answer can certainly be very effective for weight loss and will reduce the risk of diseases that are associated with obesity and the modern western diet.

However it may be difficult to follow especially in the initial stages and many people will experience unpleasant reactions such as fatigue, headaches and cravings. Usually these disappear after several weeks and from that point on The Paleo Diet is generally very easy for the majority of dieters to adhere to.

See Also: Paleotest.com– A quick online assessment to see if a Paleo Diet is right for you.

    References:

  • Cordain, L. (2012). AARP The Paleo Diet Revised: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Cordain, L., & Friel, J. (2012). The Paleo Diet for Athletes: The Ancient Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance. Rodale.
  • Frassetto, L. A., Schloetter, M., Mietus-Synder, M., Morris, R. C., & Sebastian, A. (2009). Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. European journal of clinical nutrition, 63(8), 947-955. link
  • Österdahl, M., Kocturk, T., Koochek, A., & Wändell, P. E. (2007). Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. European journal of clinical nutrition, 62(5), 682-685. link
  • Talreja, D. (2014). TCT-117 Impact of a Paleolithic Diet on Modifiable Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 64(11_S). link
 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)
Last Reviewed: December 23, 2014. Disclaimer
  • Kimm

    I’m going to try it, but with a twist.
    I’m going to eat raw uncooked foods during the day and for dinner i’ll have some cooked meat and steamed veggies.

  • Dewayne

    I believe that one thing the diet leaves out is that beans should be allowed even in such a diet because they are low in carbs and in addition; they provide a great deal of fiber and have the same slow burning effect as most veggies. Furthermore, their philosophy should include beans because they grew from the earth and were probably snacked on back then.

  • Janet McCollom

    Sounds like th perfect diet(except the diet soda???)! The person writing the critiques needs to get up to speed on healtful diets as dairy/ milk products are not suitable for human consumption and actually inhibit the absorption of calcium. Green leafy veggies are the way to go. Also, modern day fruit is higher in sugars and lower in fiber than our ancestors had. I agree with Dewayne about the beans.

  • colin

    Actually really easy to follow. It essentially mimics the specific carbohydrate diet that was designed to heal gut disorders. I have celiacs disease, allergies and ADD and following this paleolithic diet remarkably eliminates all symptoms. I have more energy and stamina and require about two hours less sleep. This is without changing exercise schedules. I do focus on veg and limit fruit intake though. Definitely worth a shot, and it doesn’t cost more than your average western diet with all it’s value added products. The key is to satiate with good fats.

  • steph

    i did this diet for a week, my digestion improved, my body became leaner, realy just from a week. then i decided to try grains and stuff again and i felt sluggish and had poor digestion lke it just seems to take all day for grains to leave your stomach. I also feel bloated with grains, just extra pudgy. I am going to go back on this ‘diet’ realy i think just the way we are ment to eat, and see if i can lose my pudge for summer:)

  • FRancis

    I have been following (roughly) this diet for a few weeks now and I have to agree with Steph. I feel better and less bloated. Many of my symptoms have disappeared and I feel more energetic. I also sleep better and have no restless leg issues. Better food guidelines I have seen yet.

  • MicheleK

    This diet is amazing, you will lose weight and feel fantastic. Plus, if you go off the diet you will realize how bad other foods are for you.
    It might be tough to get started on but it will change your life.

  • Zach

    I have been on this diet for around a month now. I am 20 years old and have been overweight all my life even as a child. Going into my junior year of college and being 6′ 3” and weighing over 300 lbs was not fun. So I saw this diet and went along with it and added exercise a couple days a week. Well, in the past 30 days I have lost 23 lbs and continue to lose weight nearly everyday. granted with this diet I try to stay around 1200 calories a day. But This diet is amazing!! I have wrestled, played football and this diet has lost me more wieght in one month then those sports did all season. If you are overweight or obese, go on this diet. You will not regret it!!

  • roberto

    “… based on speculation to some degree, as it is impossible to be certain what exactly our Paleolithic ancestors ate”?

    Well they certainly did not eat fast food loaded with salt, trans-fats, HFCS and other highly processed/refined grains. A diet of fresh meat and produce is much closer to what our human bodies are designed to eat than the corporate crap provided to us by McDonalds, Kraft,Nabisco, and the ilk.

  • Sensen

    Yeah I love this diet..It’s essentially a raw food diet with meat added in, which works for me because I tried going all raw and had a really difficult time of it..this is much easier to maintain and I feel sated and energized..the first three weeks or so are pretty brutal though, so plan for that..cutting grains and dairy puts your entire chemistry into a bit of a tailspin at first..I was extremely irritable and low on energy..had a tough time sticking to it..then around the one month mark I hit my stride and felt great..there’s a reason so many people have allergies/intolerances to wheat and dairy..I truly believe humans are not meant to consume those poisons..I’m not really a fan of eggs either but hey, whatever works for you..good luck to all!

  • mplsgirl

    If beans and grains are so terrible for us, how does the author explain the people in the Blue Zones? These people have a diet low in fat, but high in grains (high fiber, non-processed grains) and legumes. I think any diet that cuts out an entire food group is shady.

    I do agree that we eat too much wheat and refined carbs, but I think whole grain foods like quinoa, barley, bulgur, oats, etc. can fit into a healthy food plan.

  • Rudy

    it is easy to eat vegs, some fruit, seeds and nuts, some legumes, but meat is the problem – everywhere they say grass-fed, free-range animals but all we get is meat or products from chemically loaded, grain-fed animals, even larger and larger part of the fish is farmed, fed god knows what. and this is noway close to what paleo people ate. i stopped all animal products (i do not even mention all processed garbage, sugar, coffee etc, it is no brainer) to avoid blood pressure pills for life some 6 years ago. result was no pills and the rest pretty much ok since i had no other problems. then 2 years ago i got rid of all grains but brown rice and introduced eggs (as free as possible but it is quite impossible) and wild oily fish (only viable choice – mackerel). now i limit the rice to the point of elimination but keep legumes. i blend my vegs. you can even gain weight with small amounts of food. one sure result is that mentally you really change for the better – much more positive and relax attitude. things you eat can influence your mental state as well.
    but this paleo diet is only possible if you rely on industrial production of animal products with its bad sides and with population to be 9 billions by 2040 – no way. you can push it all you like but it is not the solution, sadly.

  • Jo

    Not sure I nderstand why this diet is only possible with industrial production of animal products. In fact the diet highly recommends you only eat locally produced organic grass fed meat – which is about as sustainable as you can get. Just becuase this diet will not sustain a human population of 9 billion does not make it wrong – its the 9 billion bit that is wrong and that is a political issue to which agriculture is part of the problem not the answer.

  • billsikes

    I am going to eat only raw meat.

  • Richard Goins

    I will admit that I haven’t been on the diet that long, but so far I loathe it.

    First of all, it’s extremely expensive. We normally spend about $80/wk to feed my family of three. That’s buying pastas, sauces, cereals, a couple of chicken & rice dinners, a few deserts, etc. We bought a Paleo cookbook & planned out our meals for the week. When we when shopping, the cost was $180!!! That’s outrageous! No one mentioned that cavemen must’ve been rich.

    Second, the food is horrible. Granted, breakfasts are okay because it’s pretty tough to mess up scrambled eggs with veggies or an omelette. Lunch & dinner, however, have been some of the worst things I’ve EVER eaten.

    For lunch we had Flaxseed Focaccia with sundried tomatoes & black olives topping. Ugh. This was, by far, one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten.

    For dinner we tonight we had Roasted Eggplant & Capsicum Salad. This is a “salad” with just baked eggplant & a green pepper. Are you serious? That’s not meal. Yeah, we got to put a little olive oil & lemon juice on it, but ugh!

    I would not recommend this diet for anyone, not even my dog. If I were a caveman I’d probably be a carnivore (grilling a steak isn’t bad) or I’d starve to death.

  • karinachabela

    This summary of the diet was inaccurate. Dr. Cordain does not recommend diet soda. That is a false statement. Also, about the calcium… do take note that countries that do not consume as many dairy products have less incidence of osteoporosis. Dairy does have a lot of calcium, yes. The problem is that it causes calcium to be leeched out as well. Dr. Cordain had an excellent update on this issue. From a biochemical standpoint, I can assure you this makes perfect sense.

    You guys, about the beans…. beans have other antinutrient properties. Our ancestors might have eaten one, yes, but it would not have been eaten the way beans are eaten now. You will find more information about this in his updates.

    And about fatigue and headache, this happens if you are going through withdrawal from caffeine, or alcohol. Heroin addicts go through these withdrawals too. This is a good thing.

    The ONLY pitfall of this diet is that people have to be more creative with the way they cook, so that you can eat this food at a social situation. That’s it.