Popular Diets
The Paleolithic Diet

The Paleolithic diet (abbreviated paleo diet or paleodiet) is also called the caveman diet, Stone Age diet, and the hunter-gatherer diet...

Paleolithic Diet Food Pyramid

Paleolithic diet food pyramid in popular diets

The food pyramid gives a good idea of the Paleolithic diet.

It tries to emulate the diet of wild plants and animals that various human species ate during the Paleolithic period. This period started some 2.5 million years ago and only ended about 10,000 years ago when agriculture developed. In common usage the Paleolithic diet also refers to the actual ancestral human diet. Today’s Paleolithic diet is mostly composed of lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts. As you may guess it excludes grains, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

This diet was popularized in the mid-1970s by Dr. Walter L. Voegtlin. He was a gastroenterologist who spent a lot of time treating digestive problems. The diet’s underlying principle is that people, even today, are genetically adapted to their Paleolithic ancestors’ diet; human genetics haven’t really changed in the last 10,000 years or more. Many diets are controversial among nutritionists and physicians. This diet is controversial among anthropologists as well. Advocates claim health benefits while detractors question whether it accurately reflects what people really ate way back when and talk about health risks.

While the suggested diet depends on the dieter’s geographic location and the season of the year here are some general recommendations: Vegetables 30-40%, whole cereal grains, especially brown rice 25-30%, beans and legumes 5-10 %, miso soup 5%, and traditionally or naturally processed foods 5-10%. Complete this diet with fish and seafood, seeds, nuts, nut butters, seasonings, sweeteners, fruits, and beverages. Some Paleolithic dieters will consume naturally raised animal products, others will not.

Paleolithic food gatherers in popular diets

No hunting licenses in Paleolithic days.

If you follow the Paleolithic diet you get to drink water, and if you aren’t a hard-liner tea is also an option. (In my opinion, it takes a lot of imagination to see cave dwellers drinking tea, but I am not an anthropologist.) Alcoholic beverages are strictly out. Most diet followers will eat cultivated plants and domesticated animal meat instead of strictly relying on hunting and gathering. Dieters are not limited to raw food; this is not surprising when you consider that people have been cooking their food for at least 250,000 years.

It has been suggested that about 55-65% of food energy should come from animal sources and the rest from plant sources. This diet is high in protein (19–35% energy), fairly low in carbohydrates (22–40% energy), and somewhat high in fats (28–58% energy). I am happy to hear that calcium supplements are an option. According to proponents more that 70% of the food energy consumed by Americans comes from sources such as dairy products, cereals, refined sugars, refined vegetable oils and alcohol that were absent from pre-agricultural diets. These foods are said to be responsible for diseases of civilization such as acne, asthma, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, depression, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity, and Alzheimer's disease. And we do know that when traditional peoples adopt a western-style diet they become susceptible to many of our health problems.

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