Is Eating Healthy so Simple a Caveman Could do it?

Dr. Loren Cordain is a professor in the department of health and exercise science at Colorado State University.

He is one of the world’s leading experts on the paleolithic diet, which involves trying to mimic the food groups that our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate.

He has published several books, including The Paleo Diet, one of the books that brought this way of eating to the mainstream.

In the interview above, Dr. Cordain is interviewed by Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt about several aspects of the paleo diet.

The Theory Behind The Paleolithic Diet

The paleolithic (or old stone age) era was a long time period in human evolutionary history, ranging from the time we learned to use stone tools about 2,6 million years and until about 10.000 BC.

Cavemen

Back then, we used to live as hunter-gatherers. Every food we ate was something we were able to find in nature.

The basic theory behind the paleo diet is that we are genetically adapted to eating the same foods as our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Since we adopted agriculture about 12.000 years ago, our genome hasn’t changed very much. We’re still very similar to our ancestors even though our environment has changed.

While we may have adapted somewhat since the advent of agriculture with enzymes to break down starch and dairy, it is clear that we have NOT had the time to adapt to the factory-made junk foods that dominate the western diet today.

Modern Hunter-Gatherers Are in Exceptional Health

Fish

There are several “primitive” populations around the world who still live as hunter-gatherers, such as the Masai and Kitavans.

What they all have in common is the absence of many modern diseases. Obesity, acne, metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, even some cancers are unheard of in these populations.

Whenever these populations have adopted a western diet high in sugar, refined grains and vegetable oils, they rapidly start suffering from the same western diseases.

What this implies is that it is the western environment and the western diet particularly that is unnatural and harmful to our bodies, who adapted to eating foods that were available in nature.

The Paleo Diet is Probably The Optimal Human Diet

Meat

I personally believe the paleo diet to be just about as healthy as a diet can get.

It is based on eating real, unprocessed foods such as meats, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sometimes tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes.

The meal plan I advocate is 90% in accordance with this diet, although I also include high-fat dairy products like butter, cream and cheese and acknowledge the fact that lean and healthy people can probably eat healthier starches without issues.

But the paleo diet is something you can’t go wrong with.

Personally I believe that nutrition should be built around the diet that our bodies adapted to throughout evolution instead of the low-fat, grain-based dogma that was invented by man without any real science to back it up.

It is our birthright as humans to be fit and healthy. The low-fat diet denies us of that.

22 Comments

  1. Awesome. Any food that gets us back to nature is worth it….

    We should not be eating food that comes out of a box.

  2. Hi, Kris

    Good article, to the point.

    I dropped the bread, pasta and rice along with the large quantities of sugar I used to eat exactly 2 weeks ago when I started to read your blog (thought I’d give it a try for a while, see what results I get). While I did not really experience much withdrawal symptoms (the odd craving for a cake I’d see somewhere and usually in the evening), I noticed a strange thing: I have nightmares each and every night. Frankly, it starts to take its toll on me and I don’t really know what to do. Any advice? Or maybe someone else mentioned this before?

    Another thing: I noticed you said in your article that your diet plan goes 90% along the Paleo, and you include high fat dairy.

    I did not really lose any weight in these 2 weeks… I know it’s early on, but really, not even 100 gram? Can it be because I eat full fat cheeses, yogurt, meat, lots of peanut and almond butter (eg. 5 teaspoons peanut butter. throughout the day)?

    Thanks.

    Greetings from Belgium,
    G.

    • I’m not sure about the nightmare thing, honestly have no clue what that could be about. Maybe a sign of withdrawal.

      If you haven’t lost weight, then you should definitely cut back on the peanut/almond butter. It is so easy to overeat on it and it isn’t very satiating. If that doesn’t work, cut back on the cheese to.

      It’s best to have nut butters and cheese only as parts of recipes. If you eat them on their own then it’s easy to consume way to many calories. I’ve even gained a few pounds eating peanut butter every day, now I stay away from it.

      • Thanks. I thought that it could be that, as the nightmares started about 2 nights after I dropped the carbs. It was still ok when I ate bread (2 days), but after I stopped with it as well, the bad nights started.
        Let’s hope this withdrawal doesn’t last long. :)

        On a different topic: in Belgium there’s a new sweetener called Tagatose, made headlines this week when Pepsico struck a deal with the makers of this sweetener. http://www.damhert.be/tagatose.cfm?page=tagatose_watishet
        What do you think about it? Is it a better sweetener or I should just chuck it?

        • I’ve never heard of it before, but did some quick googling and found some suggestions of health benefits. They are now testing it as a diabetes drug.

          It might be okay to eat, not sure. You could try it and see how it affects you.

  3. Would you give us an example of an average daily diet?

  4. John Battah says:

    I tried to drop the bread, but i am diabetic and my sugar drops too much.

    • If you’re diabetic, you need to talk to your doctor before cutting back on carbs. Reducing carbs lower your need for medication.

      Cutting carbs while using the same amount of meds can be dangerous.

  5. Hi Kris,
    Thanks so much for your insight, personal stories, and advice. Found the video extremely interesting. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease 4 years ago. I learned the hard way that processed foods labeled gluten free were not healthy, and contribute to weight gain. I have since made huge changes similar to you in my diet (whole foods, meat, veggies, fruits nuts/seeds).

    I have also become quite active in running, biking, skating, and strength training. I am however not ready to give up my morning hot chocolate/coffee, and my whey protein shakes. Can you tell me what your thought is on whey protein? Dr. Cordain is so against it. Can you suggest an alternative that tastes good?
    Thanks!

    • Whey protein is fine in my opinion. In fact I have whey protein myself after workouts. I also drink lots of coffee.

      I think paleo can be used as a template to “build upon” if you know what I mean. There are several modern foods that are also healthy. There’s no reason to banish something just because it wasn’t available in the paleolithic era.

  6. Hi Kris, the Dr. sure doesn’t like dairy… I don’t drink milk but I do love cheese and yougurt… how does this work. I thought they were useful snacks and fat additions.

  7. The thing with dairy is, when dairy goes through the pasteurizing process, it goes through high temperatures and kills a lot of beneficial enzymes.

  8. Renee' Smith says:

    Hey, Kris,
    I am kinda puzzled because my husband and I have been on Paleo going on 4 weeks, we really have not lost much weight, we have completely not eaten any gluten, sugar, we are going by Loren Cordain’s book. I am even making our own dressing for salads out of olive oil, & etc. Can you please tell me what we could be doing wrong, we have not cheated at all, I’m kind of getting frustrated.
    Renee

  9. Hi Kris,
    Just wanted to let you know that I find you articles extremely informative and helpful. I am about 50 lbs. overweight and I have tried like heck to stay “low carb” in the past. I am great for a week or two but begin to get bored eating the same things. I begin to miss the few things that some diets say are healthy. I also wonder about some of the things that low carb diets say are ok. Can I get your opinion on the following foods that i love to regularly eat?

    1. Whey Protien Shakes with milk, natural peanut butter, 1/2 a banana and some blueberries. (occasionally a tbls of flaxseed)
    2. Natural peanut butter
    3. Milk
    4. Chobani low fat yogurt (not fat free)
    5. Myoplex lite shakes
    6. Mayo
    7. Blue cheese dressing

    Usually the whey shakes are only eaten Post workout but I will occasionally have one for breakfast. The myoplex shakes are often used in the same manner.

    Really trying to cut out the carbs, but if I could have these few things Im okay. Trying to count calories too because I have read so much about not going too low that I lose muscle. Online calculators say that I should stay around 2100 to lose 2lbs per week. (Stats are 5’9″ 260lbs, 38 yrs old and moderately active) Stuck and need some help. Thanks
    Mark

  10. John Staunton says:

    I think he farted at around 37:45.

  11. Kris: Great job on putting this website together. While I agree with you on many things (bread and sugar is bad, processed food super bad..) the whole notion that a diet heavily leaning on meats and eggs is rather questionable. The heavy meat and saturated fat consumption in our culture is pretty much to blame for a lot of diseases: high blood pressure, heart disease, some cancers. The famous China Study conducted in the 80s has shown a direct correlation.

    Keep in mind, that our life span today is around 80 years. A cavemen was lucky when he reached his/her twenties, so chances to develop and die from cancer were minimal in those days. Also keep in mind, the meat we are consuming today is not the same our grandparents would enjoy. Cattle are fed with corn for example, which changes the chemistry completely by shifting the Omega 3 to 6 ratio towards the very unfavorable O6.

    So, better eat your vegetables, and take it easy with meat consumption. And I’m not even going to ethical treatments of animals or the environmental impact of mass meat production (methane!). Eating lots of fresh organic vegetables is still the best thing to do, for your body, for your health, and for the environment. Watch the documentary “Forks over knives” which provides some interesting insights into this fascinating topic. http://www.forksoverknives.com

  12. I’m here to tell you that this lifestyle works! Four months ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. My doctor wanted to immediately put me on medication, but I pleaded with him to give me a few months to see what I could do on my own. After countless hours of research, I came across the Paleo Diet. It made sense to me, and the testimonies from others were inspiring.

    After several months of my new Paleo lifestyle, I went back to the doctor for my first checkup since my diagnosis. He was amazed, and asked me, “What have you been doing?” My A1C numbers had gone from 8.6 down to 6.3, and I was told that I have almost completely reversed my diabetes!

    The Paleo diet has changed my life!

  13. I do ‘the primal blueprint’ which is very similar to paleo… but primal does include dairy (full fat). Really loving it… I don’t miss grains and starches at all.

  14. Daniel Konecky says:

    So actually I lost 28% of my body weight on this, so I think it works.

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