The Paleo Diet mimics the types of foods every single person on the planet ate prior to the Agricultural Revolution (a mere 500 generations ago). These foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and seafood) are high in the beneficial nutrients (soluble fiber, antioxidant vitamins, phytochemicals, omega-3 and monounsaturated fats, and low-glycemic carbohydrates) that promote good health and are low in the foods and nutrients (refined sugars and grains, saturated and trans fats, salt, high-glycemic carbohydrates, and processed foods) that frequently may cause weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and numerous other health problems. The Paleo Diet encourages dieters to replace dairy and grain products with fresh fruits and vegetables — foods that are more nutritious than whole grains or dairy products.
The carbohydrates (unlimited fruits and veggies) in The Paleo Diet are of a low-glycemic index, meaning that they cause slow and limited rises in your blood sugar and insulin levels. Excessive insulin and blood sugar levels are known to promote a cluster of diseases called Syndrome X (obesity, hypertension, undesirable blood cholesterol and other blood lipid levels, Type 2 diabetes and gout). The high fiber, protein, and omega-3 fat content of The Paleo Diet will also help to prevent Syndrome X diseases.
Because of the unlimited amounts of fruits and veggies permitted on The Paleo Diet, your body will be slightly alkaline — meaning that diseases and disease symptoms of acid/base imbalance (osteoporosis, kidney stones, hypertension, stroke, asthma, insomnia, motion sickness, inner ear ringing, and exercise-induced asthma) will improve.
The high soluble-fiber content of The Paleo Diet will improve most diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, and the high omega-3 fat content will improve most of the “itis” or inflammatory diseases.
Since hunter-gatherers lived a “nasty, short, and brutal life,” how can we know if their diets were healthful or not? Don’t their short life spans suggest a poor diet?
It is certainly true that hunter-gatherers studied during modern times did not have as great an average lifespan as those values found in fully westernized, industrial nations. However, most deaths in hunter-gatherer societies were related to the accidents and trauma of a life spent living outdoors without modern medical care, as opposed to the chronic degenerative diseases that afflict modern societies. In most hunter-gatherer populations today, approximately 10-20% of the population is 60 years of age or older. These elderly people have been shown to be generally free of the signs and symptoms of chronic disease (obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels) that universally afflict the elderly in western societies. When these people adopt western diets, their health declines and they begin to exhibit signs and symptoms of “diseases of civilization.”
Aren’t whole grains good sources of fiber, minerals, and B vitamins? How can I get these nutrients if I cut down or eliminate grains from my diet?
On a calorie-by-calorie basis, whole grains are lousy sources of fiber, minerals, and B vitamins when compared to the lean meats, seafood, and fresh fruit and veggies that dominate The Paleo Diet. For example, a 1,000-calorie serving of fresh fruits and vegetables has between two and seven times as much fiber as does a comparable serving of whole grains. In fruits and veggies most of the fiber is heart-healthy, soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol levels — the same cannot be said for the insoluble fiber that is predominant in most whole grains. A 1,000-calorie serving of whole grain cereal contains 15 times less calcium, three times less magnesium, 12 times less potassium, six times less iron, and two times less copper than a comparable serving of fresh vegetables. Moreover, whole grains contain a substance called phytate that almost entirely prevents the absorption of any calcium, iron, or zinc that is found in whole grains, whereas the type of iron, zinc, and copper found in lean meats and seafood is in a form that is highly absorbed.
Compared to fruits and veggies, cereal grains are B-vitamin lightweights. An average 1,000 calorie serving of mixed vegetables contain 19 times more folate, five times more vitamin B6, six times more vitamin B2 and two times more vitamin B1 than a comparable serving of eight mixed whole grains. On a calorie-by-calorie basis, the niacin content of lean meat and seafood is four times greater than that found in whole grains. Click here to read more about cereal grains.
How can I get enough calcium to build strong bones if I cut down or eliminate dairy foods and replace them with fruits and vegetables? I heard or read recently that high-protein diets are detrimental to bone health. Is this true and how does it occur? Will The Paleo Diet damage my bones or give me osteoporosis?
In the U.S. calcium intake is one of the highest in the world, yet paradoxically we also have one of the highest rates of bone de-mineralization (osteoporosis). Bone mineral content is dependent not just upon calcium intake but upon net calcium balance (calcium intake minus calcium excretion). Most nutritionists focus upon the calcium intake side of the calcium balance equation, however few realize that the calcium excretion side of the equation is just as important.
Bone health is substantially dependent on dietary acid/base balance. All foods upon digestion ultimately must report to the kidney as either acid or base. When the diet yields a net acid load (such as low-carb fad diets that restrict consumption of fruits and vegetables), the acid must be buffered by the alkaline stores of base in the body. Calcium salts in the bones represent the largest store of alkaline base in the body and are depleted and eliminated in the urine when the diet produces a net acid load. The highest acid-producing foods are hard cheeses, cereal grains, salted foods, meats, and legumes, whereas the only alkaline, base-producing foods are fruits and vegetables. Because the average American diet is overloaded with grains, cheeses, salted processed foods, and fatty meats at the expense of fruits and vegetables, it produces a net acid load and promotes bone de-mineralization. By replacing hard cheeses, cereal grains, and processed foods with plenty of green vegetables and fruits, the body comes back into acid/base balance which brings us also back into calcium balance.
- Answers from Dr. Cordain and the Paleo Diet Team
The Paleo Diet