What is the Paleo Diet?

156 Comments

It’s funny, but in all the time that I’ve written on this paleo diet topic I’ve never really defined (in my terms) what I think constitutes a “paleo diet.” I laid out some general guidelines in the book and FAQ of course, but I’ve never done that for the blog. I think part of my neglect in this area is the fact this paleo diet concept is a moving target (as I’ll flesh out later) and the relevance of the message is audience specific:

Am I laying this out for academics, trying to create a robust epistemological framework from which to drive research, discussion and learning, or am I playing to folks new to this scene who just need some guidelines to lose weight, reverse disease and get healthy? I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Framework Matters! All that considered, I’m going to first lay out a general framework of what I feel the paleo diet (and lifeway) entails. This is for all the new folks coming to the blog so as to help them understand the basic concepts and get to the Doing. The second section will entail my best efforts to detail what I feel is the optimum human diet as viewed through the evolutionary lens. There may be some contradictions between the generalist idea and the more academic presentation, but keep in mind I’m presenting this to two different audiences. I try and try to cook up a one-size fits all approach but alas the world keeps presenting me with pesky nuances and individual circumstances that need addressing.

Paleo Diet 101

Before we delve into the paleo diet basics, one might ask, WHY? Why try to emulate an ancestral way of eating? We can answer this in three ways:

1-Archeological and anthropological data indicate our pre-agricultural ancestors were largely free from modern afflictions of Westernized cultures including obesity, cancer, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases.

2-Modern molecular biology, immunology and endocrinology offer mechanisms that support the observational data we have obtained from the above.

3-Modern interventions with a paleo diet and ancestral lifeway (restoration of sleep, exercise and micronutrient patterns) have proven successful in resolving a host of diseases and improving both subjective and objective indices of health. This has occurred in both controlled clinical settings and in crowd sourced N=1 experiments (folks try a paleo diet, get better, share observations).

Those are three small points that represent staggering sums of research. For the uninitiated (of which most of our medical and academic community unfortunately belong), common counter points such as hunter-gatherer lifespan, acid base balance, micronutrient sufficiency and other concerns seem to present obstacles to the adoption or recommendation of an evolutionary biology based approach to eating and living. Well, like I said, the research exists to answer these issues, it’s just a matter of getting people to read it! The purpose of this blog, the ancestral Health Foundation and many other blogs is to answer these questions by offering basic education in the pertinent topics.

So, for now we’ll operate from the assumption that there might be something to this whole idea. If folks want support material you have to try NOT to find it at this point.

In simple terms the paleo diet is built from modern foods that (to the best of our ability) emulate the foods available to our pre-agricultural ancestors: Meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers and nuts. On the flip-side we see an omission of grains, legumes and dairy. As this is directed to folks new to the paleo diet idea we need to address the “What Abouts.” This is the seemingly endless list of ingredients that folks ask: “What about artificial sweeteners, agave nectar, red wine…” In simple terms, if it’s not meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots tubers or nuts…it’s a “no-go.” At least initially. I like to see people go after paleo strictly in the beginning so we get the best possible results, then folks can tinker from there. I’ve detailed all of this information in my FAQ shopping and food guide, and quick start guides. These are all available for free (you do not need to buy the book to get any of the information) and it details all of the special considerations of autoimmunity, fat loss, athletic performance and muscle gain.

In addition to food we like to consider things like sleep, stress and vit-d levels (for a short list) as a move away from ancestral norms appears to be very important when we are concerned about performance, health and longevity.

 

For a little overview of different “takes” on the paleo diet check out my good friend Dr. Dan Pardi who did a great, brief overview of 5 different paleo diet approaches.

Just as an aside: the reason I LIKE the ancestral model is it offers something people can relate to. Molecular biology, endocrinology and peer-reviewed studies are tough to identify with. The Ancestral model is observational, not scientific as held to the standards of physics or chemistry, but it’s a story that resonates with people. If we can get people to try this way of eating and living for 30 days we generally have long term buy-in due to the beneficial results of an ancestral lifeway.

Paleo Diet 201

For optimization I’d LOVE to throw out a magic macronutrient ratio that guarantees the best of all worlds to all people, be it 40-30-30  (carbs, protein, fat) or 60-20-20 (fat, protein, carbs) as two popular examples. As far as offering guidelines to get people going, these parameters are fine. Creating a solid scientific arguments based on static macronutrient ratios…I can’t do it. Use these as a tool, beware  Magic Macros.

In years gone by I’d have staunchly recommended a low carb paleo diet as THE best intervention but I can’t in good faith recommend that anymore. Letting go of this is not easy as there are some interesting observations that might support this low-carb idea:

1-Low carb (ketogenic) diets show benefit in a host of disease states from traumatic brain injury to epilepsy.

2-Hysteresis paints transient ketosis as a beneficial state. 

3-Depending upon how you define “optimum” (height and cranial capacity for instance) it would appear our species was at it’s height during the “Big Game Hunter” phase of evolution when stable isotope studies indicate we were nearly as carnivorous as the arctic fox (an obligate carnivore).

That’s all intriguing, but I’m not sure we can make first order recommendations on the above. We’ll see, perhaps I’m wrong.

What appears to be of immediate, absolute benefit is to avoid large amounts of toxicants and anti-nutrients like those we see in grains. Additionally, keeping an eye on lifestyle factors (sleep, stress, socialization, sunlight exposure) pays immediate, consistent dividends. But when we are talking “optimization” we need to define what it is we are trying to optimize. From a biological perspective, purely Darwinian in nature, agriculture was a huge boon to humanity as it appears to have increased reproductive potential (hunter-gatherer birth spacing was ~4 years, agriculturalist or modern birth spacing is little more than a year). Now if we manage to eat ourselves off this planet, or unleash an atomic event that takes us out of the running…perhaps agriculture was a really BAD idea! If we define Optimum as simply making the most of an organism then agriculture, or specifically the consumption of grains is a win. When we consider heart disease, neurodegenerative disease and the systemic inflammatory consequences of a grain based diet, things do not look so rosey. We have an early selective advantage (high birth rate) with later health problems that occur too late in life to affect reproductive potential. If we define Optimum as longevity we have interesting examples from the Kitavans, Okinawan’s, Amazonian Indians (the current oldest living person is a 120 year old woman from a hunter gatherer/horticulturalist tribe) and other locations such as Sardinia which make up the “Blue Zones” of longevity I think the Blue Zones folks are polishing the brass of the “low animal protein” crowd. I’d put low wheat consumption as a more powerful vector in that discussion, but that’s a topic for another post. I will say that we likely see some decreased mTOR signaling in these long-lived groups, but is this more importnat than the multi-generational extended families that offer enormous social support?  Or, what if “Optimum” is defined as athletic performance? In this case we will see protein and carb intake that does us no favors with regards to oxidative stress and mTOR signaling, but if you want to climb to the heights of athletic performance, you WILL face some tradeoffs. This is my problem with the CrossFit model of Fitness involving “Increased work capacity across broad time & modal domains.” All that IWCABTAMD tells us is to “do more” and if you ask more of what the answer is “everything.” Biology does not work that way. Dose response curves exist and as with many things we see a “U” shaped curve with regards to activity level, health and longevity. At very low activity level we see a host of issues including muscle loss (sarcopenia), insulin resistance, and pathologic left ventricular hypertrophy. In active populations, the heart is “enlarged” (relative to sedentary “normal” individuals) yet we see non-pathologic heart enlargement in active folks. Frank Booth’s outstanding paper discusses this idea. It should be preposterous to assume a sedentary person is “normal” but again, that’s a topic for another day and part of the problem that occurs when medicine operates without an Evolutionary framework. What we do seem to understand from the literature and observation is a premium is placed on muscle mass and metabolic fitness when we are talking about longevity and that too much activity might be about as bad as too little .

So, what is an Optimum paleo diet for you? I don’t know. I do not know your specific needs or goals or what you are trying to Optimize. Personally, I like this model of striking a balance between Performance, Health and Longevity. I’m not willing to undergo severe calorie restriction to live to be 150. Low sex drive, constant cold due to low body temperature and no muscle mass seems like it would suck. Folks with illness have other concerns. If you have an autoimmune condition you will need to be tighter with your food and lifestyle if you want a fighting chance of reversing that condition. If you have suffered severe metabolic derangement with the associated pancreatic beta-cell damage we tend to see, you may ONLY be able to operate on a low carb approach. But your lifestyle will need to fit that! You will not get along well doing a lot of glycogen demanding exercise. I’m not even 100% sure of all that when we consider Prof. Lindeberg’s findings that a non-carb carbohydrate restricted paleo diet which included ample fruits and tubers dramatically reversed insulin resistance and improved glucose tolerance.

This “Kitavan” approach has however proven challenging with my clients as they manage to eat an ungodly amount of fruit. Or, perhaps they were metabolically broken to a degree that they do not handle many carbs at all. I’m not sure what is going on under the hood, but I do find a lower carb approach to be better for folks who are metabolically broken and have poor neuroregulation of appetite.

After we wade through all the nuances and details  of “what is the Paleo Diet” what we have is a solid place to start, with a number of options for tweaking our approach based upon individual differences and goals. Don’t let this be overwhelming! When you are trying to figure things out ask yourself “Who” and “What.” Who are we talking about (athlete, diabetic, autoimmunity) and What are we trying to accomplish. With this framework it’s a simple matter to construct a reasonable palan…but we also need to remember that life is about trade-offs and compromises. Some goals may by necessity be antagonistic to other goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave A Comment

Comments

Comment using Facebook

Comment using RobbWolf.com

  1. Suz @ Paleo Network
    September 29, 2011 at 5:45 am

    Great post! This is a great one to point interested colleagues and friends too… Thanks Robb!

  2. Jason
    September 29, 2011 at 6:21 am

    Thanks for the explanation, Robb!

    Just for the record, a clean 30-day paleo diet is what took my blood pressure from “elevated” to “better than normal”. I’m 285 lbs, and yesterday my BP was measured 117/70. Before changing my diet (not my exercise, mind you), my BP was always hanging around 135/90. I’ve lost 10 lbs this month strictly on paleo, but I’d been eating a “slow-carb” diet for 8 months prior and lost 20 during that time and could only get it into the upper 120s/80s.

    Adopt and love the paleo diet, folks. Your body will thank you.

    -j

    • Scott R
      September 30, 2011 at 5:40 am

      Jason. Positive results! I’m an athlete (sprinter) with a similarly high BP reading. Always has been. Im 80% Paleo but tomorrow I embark on 30 days cold turkey. Hoping to get BP down like yours. Thanks for motivating me. And thanks Rob as usual :)

    • Jen
      February 22, 2012 at 10:05 am

      I started a plan very similar to the Paleo diet. I hadn’t even heard of this diet until I did a search on “non-dairy” foods. Basically, I switched to all non-dairy eating habits. When I did the search, it took me to the Paleo site. Like I said, I had never heard of it before. I did go on a non-dairy eating plan about 3 years ago because I was nursing my son, and the doctor thought he was allergic to dairy, so I had to go on NO DAIRY completely! Turns out I lost 30 pounds in about 2 months, my cholesterol went from 200 to 137!!!!! Also, my blood pressure went from 140/90 to 110/70 and I had more energy than I did when I was a teenager! It was amazing, and I’m ready to do it again!! My plan is just like the Paleo diet, so I’m just gonna stick with the Paleo diet for more support and recipes. It really IS an amazing plan! It’s pretty simple, and it’s amazing how you start to feel in less than a week!!!

  3. ben
    September 29, 2011 at 6:41 am

    great post. i know that in the last six months or so in our assorted online communities it has become the norm to say “what the paleo diet means to me…” etc. OK, that’s fine I guess but I’ve always maintained that from the get-go, you (I reference you specifically because I think it’s fair to say you’ve generally led the ship or at least been at the fore of much of what we call paleo) have always simply said “no grains, no legumes, no dairy.” Additionally you’ve always stated that the idea is macro-agnostic. Meaning if you’re active and healthy eat a whole bunch of starch, if you’re not then don’t. Always seemed pretty simple to me. Anyway, great post but just wanted to let you know that I thought the message has always been rather clear.

    • Amy
      September 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      Starch definitely slows me down, zaps my energy.

      Since I’ve gone Paleo, when I eat carbs, aside from a few in some blueberries, I feel ill. Starchy foods like potatoes and grains will make me feel crappy for days. I haven’t had a speck of grain since June 13th of this year.

      What gives me energy is the combination of high quality animal protein, preferably eaten very rare and off the bone, and tons of green food – dark leafy greens, celery, broccoli, etc.

      Structured H2O+chlorophyll, with a serving of critter, is the energy secret for me.

      • Erin
        September 30, 2011 at 10:54 am

        Amy,

        I put in a post below describing the carb observations I’ve made. I don’t eat any fruit at all, very few sweet potatos, some squash (kabocha is like creamy candy) and biggest source is a variety of non-starchy veggies. I’m considering getting away from peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes (SADNESS) because I think they maybe holding up my leaning out a little.

        Not sure what else to do to lean out except use willpower to integrate some lower calorie days.

        Good to know though that another female does great on the great animal protein + tons O’ green food.

        • DebbyK
          March 18, 2012 at 1:34 am

          I’m similar to you Amy. I get depressed when I eat carbs. Even Japanese Yams. Not so much the purple ones as the Satsuma. I was also a sugar addict for 10 years, so I can’t eat sugar or starches that mimic sugar. I think Kabocha does, but I make sure I only eat small amounts. I used to eat the entire squash!
          I eat Kabocha squash as my main starchy carb. But I am a Kabocha addict and have to limit it to about 1/3-2/3 cup a day. I eat the skins too! But if I eat more than that daily my skin turns orange and I will break out in orange pimples. My palms of my hands will also turn orange as well as the bottoms of my feet. It’s really strange. Even the whites of my eyes will turn yellow. When i stop, after 30 days or so it goes away…

          I recently just started adding berries to my Meal Muffins(They are not TREATS! They are real meals that taste like treats and I eat one every day and still have my six pack and they are packed with protein)
          But usually 1/2 cup and eat them only after workouts…

          Animal protein and greens and veggies are my main stay too!

      • Opie
        September 30, 2011 at 6:20 pm

        …and yet, I do very well only with ample starchy tubers.

        not one of us is alike.

        vive la difference…

  4. Dallas Hartwig
    September 29, 2011 at 7:16 am

    Robb,

    Great piece. And thanks for including Dr Lindeberg’s paper that includes significant fruit intake. We’ve seen far too many folks terrified to eat a piece of fruit for fear that it would send them spiraling into metabolic derangement, or – even worse – it would block their fat loss efforts. Thanks for pointing out that Eating Real Food is not lethal – even if if contains a little fructose.

    • Robb Wolf
      September 29, 2011 at 8:02 am

      Yea…I still see people frack that up though. I had a client who ate 30 (thirty) tangerines in a sitting.

      “But…you said I can have fruit…”

      • Thomas Wywrot
        September 29, 2011 at 11:52 am

        I have been there. I operate in the all or nothing realm of things. If I’m not strict, all bets are off. Put me in a room (or on a bus) with nothing to eat but fruit and I am going to keep going until I have to lay down from nausea. That obviously stems from my addictive personality and the days of busting through big bags of salt and vinegar chips like they were 100 calorie snackwells.

        Interesting note here though. Since everyone is down with tubers these days, wouldn’t a potato chip be a better option than a corn chip (tuber vs grain)? Just saying… hahah

  5. Miles Miller
    September 29, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Great article Robb!!

    One question though, could you provide us with a typical, “day in the life of Robb” Paleo way of living? ie, Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks), supplements i.e. Vit-D, Omega-3 intake, workouts, etc? I think some insight like this (a model) would give people a great starting base to go off of. They can then tweak it to fit their particular life be it thier starting time of work, kids school/daycare, other sports/activities, holidays, etc.

    Thanks again for all your help,

    Oh and an update from my first post at the start of July I believe, I am 3 months in, feel great, have toned down, little weight loss <5 but have lost a few inches of fat and gained muscle mass!! I am Colitis symptom free and have more energy that i know what to do with.

    Also, i have my whole family doing Paleo now and they love it. My dad has lost 20 lbs already! Nice to see, looking foward to our upcoming Paleo thanksgiving.

    Miles

  6. Tyler Wainright
    September 29, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Definitely sharing this with some coworkers who were intrigued at what I’ve been eating for lunch lately. Thank you! Also, thanks for a great book Rob, I finished it a couple weeks ago and it has been a huge help.

  7. Rachel
    September 29, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Excellent post, Robb. A lot of people I talk to want a brief big picture wrap-up of what paleo is all about. It was nice to see you refer to the ancestral model and explain why it is an important place to start when thinking about this stuff, but that there is also a mountain of scientific evidence to back it up and explain mechanistically what happens in the body. Just to weigh in on the carbs- I put on fat very quickly if I overdo carbs. I can pretty much eat them post-workout and keep them minimal other than that. I come from a long line of insulin resistant obese people, and after a few years of tinkering with different macros, workouts, etc. low-er cab is really all I can do to stay as lean as I like. That’s my n=1.

    • Robb Wolf
      September 29, 2011 at 9:33 am

      I think more people than not (in the western world) are in that boat.

  8. Jackson H.
    September 29, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Interesting post, as always. I just want to opine for a moment: for me–and lots of other people who have been damaged by the SAD diet–low carb paleo is still BY FAR the best way to lose weight. Low carb allows rapid, generally hunger-free weight loss, wile preserving muscle tissue.

    I do plan on working more carbohydrate into my diet (if my body tolerates it) once I’m at a healthy body composition. I do believe it’s better to have some carbohydrate in the diet. However, there’s no way you’re going to convince me that more than ~150g carbs/day is good for anyone but the most active athletes.

  9. Jason B
    September 29, 2011 at 9:18 am

    There’s one thing about this new trend in Paleo/Primal promoting high carb ratios that bothers me, and you addressed it! I cannot stomach that a Kitavanesque diet will work for someone who is T2D with hypertension and is morbidly obese; ie the majority of the people who are actively searching for a “diet”. It makes sense that as you heal you may be more likely to eat a variety of macronutrient ratios, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to just say: eat low carb until healthy, experiment from there on out.

    So, all in all, I like your non-committal, guideline based approach.

    • Robb Wolf
      September 29, 2011 at 9:30 am

      Thanks man. I’ve been hard pressed to find a better, easier, mor effective way to do this. Even Prof. Lindegerg is onboard that a low-carb paleo approach is likely more beneficial for the metabolically broken.

      • mhanch
        September 29, 2011 at 11:58 am

        So I have to ask, since I have seen it in two posts here, and on a few other sites as well, what is your (all of you) definition of “low” for low carb?

        I have usually used the following:

        150g/day – “High Carb”

        Does this sync with what you think?

        I guess this question is for Rob and everyone here.

        • mhanch
          September 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm

          Looks like my list got clipped.

          Under 50g/day – “carb restricted”
          50-100g/day – “low carb”
          100-150g/day – “carb neutral”
          over 150g/day – “high carb”

        • Robb Wolf
          September 29, 2011 at 7:10 pm

          I still think it’s pretty relative to size. activity level etc.

          • Erin
            September 30, 2011 at 10:36 am

            I’ve been tinkering with this a lot. I’m 62″, about 122 lbs. with a ton of leg muscle and sculpted upper body female. It seems very easy for me to eat at 60 g/day and be satisfied and feel like I got ample carbs for my workouts (6 days/wk). I don’t ever feel like I’m in a carb-energy-slump, but I’ve been well adjusted to low-carb paleo for 6 months now. It definitely took 2-3 to adjust.

            It seems that’s my natural comfort spot. However, I’ve noticed that when I eat starchy carbs with fat and little to no protein (like Sarah’s red pepper walnut dip and sweet potato “chips”), I gain weight VERY easily and feel hungry throughout the night, wanting to get up and eat at midnight or so. It seems to “switch on” a different mode in me and takes days to break the habit.

            I’ve also played with eating at 20-30 g carbs a day, all coming from leafy veggie matter. Yes, I can eat a lot of salad. That keeps all my cravings at bay, but it doesn’t seem to contribute to fat loss directly. Still playing with the amount of food.

            My body seems to want to lean out only around 30-50 g a day, but not if I don’t vary it. It also seems to need to be a perfect fit with my workouts for the amount of carbs I’m taking in.

            All in all, my body seems to not need as many calories, especially as I’ve taken digestive enzymes (this includes needing less than 1g/lb of protein). The food whore in me wants to have my intake err on the side of getting more, but I know I just don’t need it.

            Anyway, I find I gain weight very easily now, even being 100% low-carb Paleo (except 1 T. cream in coffee). Very sensitive to many more foods now. And still have stubborn fat around abs, low-belly and thighs. UGH.

            Please excuse the frustration vent at the bottom, but wanted to give some insight as to carb levels among one of your publics – the middle-aged female athletic-type.

  10. Alison Golden
    September 29, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I like the ‘who/what’ framework. Paleo is too broad a term to be useful often. And then, you get hit with the ‘it doesn’t work’ thing. Targeting the individual issues, determining a goal and working out the right approach is a more productive way forward. Which of course means people need to be educated…

  11. paleoslayer
    September 29, 2011 at 10:07 am

    In a given week i eat more sweet potatoes (the purple sweet variety-yum) than fruit, but in some recipes a little fruit can transform an ok dish into an outstanding one.
    Baked ham with pineapple! mmmm mmmm
    -an apple post workout, or 1/2 a banana in a choc sundae on the weekend

  12. Tanya
    September 29, 2011 at 11:35 am

    I am so confused about carbs! In your older entries- you seem pro-low-carb. But now you think that natural sources could be okay? Is it because of the fiber that comes with it? Or should I still stick to ~50-100g for weight-loss? (I’m not aiming at 50 tangerines (hehe), but maybe 2 apples/day along with the usual veggies could add up to being pretty high carb-wise)

    Also in your Podcast Ep 6 – you mention 15-17cals/”lb of body weight” of fat for fatloss. That’s a LOT, no?

    • Robb Wolf
      September 29, 2011 at 7:12 pm

      TANYA!!! ARE you overweight, yes or no? Do you tollerate carbs, yes or no? this is not different than before!!!!!!!

      the cal level is a suggestion, some may need to go lower, but if you are doing what you should do…not much need to weigh and measure.

      • Tanya
        September 30, 2011 at 9:00 am

        Haha sorry – didn’t mean to make you mad. There’s just a LOT of information and this is my third Paleo attempt and I want it to stick! (First I did Crossfit/Paleo (no carb-control) and then Zone/Paleo; I’m now attempting low-carb Paleo, but I miss my apples.)

        I’m not officially overweight but I want to be much leaner (I want that pull-up!). And I do better without carbs, but if I can do more fruits in my day – I would be sooo much happier. I guess I’m grasping at straws with your mention of Prof. Lindeberg’s findings.

        Thank you for your blog (and twitter!) and all the science-y explanations. I especially loved your reasoning for Omega-3 eggs over Flaxseed – yay long chains. Although the chemist in me wonders whether then heating those eggs on a pan, converts some of those chains back to short. Something I want to look into…
        Thanks again.

  13. Stephen J. Yanczura
    September 29, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Sa-weeeet!

    I’m going to chop this down to a two pager and leave a stapled copy on my desk at work with “If you are interested please take me” in bold at the top and replace as needed. If it helps one person in my office, it will be worth it.

    Thanks for doing what you do, I know you changed my life.

    SJY

  14. Steve Parker, M.D.
    September 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Two of the modern paleo diet founders, S. Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner, recently gave their specific defintion of the diet.

    I expect to see a mini-explosion of medical/nutrition science research on the paleo diet over the next five years. A concensus definition of the diet would be very helpful, it it’s possible.

    I blogged about Konner and Eaton’s “Nutrition in Clinical Practice” article here:
    http://paleodiabetic.com/2011/09/29/paleolithic-nutrition-twenty-five-years-later/

    Or you can go direct to the source:
    Konner, Melvin and Eaton, S. Boyd. Paleolithic Nutrition: Twenty-Five Years Later. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 25 (2010): 594-602. doi: 10.1177/0884533610385702

    -Steve

  15. Amy
    September 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I consider myself to be a Paleo eater. I tell people that I only eat the things that do not need to be denatured, or altered from the way mother nature presented them to us, to be eaten. The food I eat can be healthfully eaten raw, and usually, it is. Yes, even wild caught fish and free ranging grass-fed meat, although I do cook them sometimes. So far I haven’t been able to chow down on a freshly picked wheat ear without agonizing stomach pain. Try it! Nothing sends the message better. And go ahead, pick a fresh cashew (legume)and eat it. I promise to visit you in the hospital.

    Raw milk? Sure, if the cow doesn’t mind you sucking on her teat!

    • Gene
      July 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      Peanuts are a legume. Cashews are not.

      • beefwalker
        December 10, 2013 at 7:23 pm

        Sorry Gene, but cashews ARE legumes. They’re the seed of the cashew apple.

        Here’s a good background story from http://www.reference.com

        “…Cashew nuts grow with the seed stemming from the Cashew apple so they are legumes. In botanical terms the difference between a nut and a legume is that a nut has only one seed, while a legume can have several. A nut also cannot open by itself but has to be cracked open while a legume will split open on its own. Another defining characteristic of legumes is that often their seeds will be
        attached to the pod. Cashews fit all the characteristics of legumes and are in fact misnamed by being called a nut. It is believed that the trees originated in Brazil where the Portugese sailors found them, brought them to be planted by settlers along the coast of Africa where the plants did very well as they require a hot, tropical climate. The cashew made its way to India where it is cultivated on plantations. It still grows wild in Brazil. The cashew is closely related to the pistachio and mango…”

  16. Multibomber
    September 29, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Hey Robb! I submitted this question to the podcast, but I thought I might try to hit you up here as well. One of my best friends was just diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. He’s 28 years old, 7ft tall and NOT in the NBA!!… Probably because he only weighs 214, which is down from 234 a few months ago. I’ve been preaching the Paleo gospel to him for a while now, and he listens! Now with his new diagnosis, he has our full attention. What dietary/exercise/sleep supplement advise would you give him? Would you recommend the low protein/very low carb/high fat diet (20/20/60) like you did in the Episode 41 question “Importance of Dense Protein Sources?”

  17. jesse
    September 30, 2011 at 9:30 am

    I was doing a strict paleo (rare scoop of ice cream though) and when I included tubers I started creeping up in fat again. I was trying to eat more because I am trying to gain muscle while playing a couple of sports…. I decided to go back go basics until my body fat is lower. Right now I would guess, from my suspect bioimpedance scale, that I am at 16%.

    Robb, how lean you think I ought to go before I start trying to gain mass again? I was initially 21% per DEXA…. I made the first u-turn around 14-15%… Should I get down to 10-11 before trying to gain mass?

    Thanks in advance.

    Ps I tried a paleo compliant version of the Anabolic Diet and gained a few pounds of non-muscle as well in two weeks if that data helps…

  18. Wang
    September 30, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Is agriculture the only problem to our health? Or could it also be domestication? Can humans rewild? Was I-Caveman a “rewilding” experience? Interesting read about our ancestors and domestication/co-evolution:

    Rewilding Humans:
    http://rewild.info/anthropik/2007/07/rewilding-humans/index.html

  19. Nick Earls
    September 30, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Good thoughts. I’ve been noticing the balkanization of ideas in the paleo community lately and it’s somewhat distressing as I believe it unnecessary. Dogmatic approaches on macronutrients are probably never going to be feasible, with genetic variation.

  20. ~cj
    September 30, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Multibomber, check out jackkruse.com and maybe that would help? He is definitely pro Paleo/Primal and here is a link to new cancer dx on hos blog for what he recommends. Hope it’s ok I put this here? If not Robb, I apologize and feel free to take it off. http://jackkruse.com/what-to-do-with-new-cancer-diagnosis/

    Thanks Robb for all you’ve done! Love your book and blog and I know I will love the health I’ve gained in time by doing this! Looking forward to iCaveman when I get home from work Sunday!

    • Multibomber
      September 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm

      thank you thank you CJ!!!

  21. Jes
    September 30, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Hi! I start the 30 day challenge tomorrow, unfortunately it looks like your book will not arrive in time. Thankfully you have fabulous online resources.

    I’m going to blog my challenge so that I can catalogue my experiences etc. The one question I do have is breakfast. Are there some non- cooked breakfast tips you can give me? Admittedly, I usually forgo bfast, but if I ever did eat it I would have vegemite toast (I’m an Aussie), porridge or cereal!

    I honestly do not have the time to cook breakfast daily, I have tweaked my schedule as much as I can to fit in meal planning and exercise. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated =)

  22. Txomin
    September 30, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    I would like to see more information on the duration of these diets. I understand that some choices can be for life (e.g. wheat is out) but I wonder about, for example, going “strict” Paleo in order to address a specific problem. I mean, when should one give up a ketogenic diet? One month? Two months? Six?

    I often hear that, at some point, we should start reintroducing certain foods back into the diet. Ok. When? I know, I know. Listen to your body and what not. But it isn’t that clear cut, unfortunately. So, any word on long-term damage or can we sail all the way into the sunset?

    As always, thank you for your work on the blog.

    • Robb Wolf
      October 2, 2011 at 7:43 am

      The plan is to first “get healthy”, then tinker. I’ll see about laying out specific guidelines.

  23. Snowcreature888
    October 2, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    I’ve been listening my way through AALLLLL the podcasts (yep a glutton for punishment!) and notice a significantly increasing emphasis on the importance post-workout carbs.

    What exactly is the consequence if the body doesn’t have a lot of spare glucose immediately handy to shuttle back into the muscles post-workout? My simple minded thinking is that ancestral humans put out far more work output than I do yet may not have always had a cooked sweet potato handy.

    Thoughtful guys like De Vany say immediate post-workout carbs are not a great idea. Seems like his goal is health, above all.

    I’m imagining immediate post-workout carbs help optimize recovery time, therefore elite athletic training and performance.

    Am just left a bit unclear on what sort of goal the recommendation is intended to serve.

    Normally work out fasted and doing 2x weekly short heavy lifting, maybe 1x week sprint workout, generally surf or mountain bike 1-2x on the weekends – I do find that eating a little something after a surf session or hard ride feels good. But since going Paleo it’s not really a big problem to even go the rest of the day without eating anything. Presumably my body is just used to burning fat at this point and must be refueling glycogen another way.

  24. risa
    October 4, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Have you seen this done with any kids? y daughter is and has every skin sensitivity you can imagine, eczema, etc. she has sensitivities . Have you seen this help with skin issues?

  25. Dawn
    October 10, 2011 at 5:09 am

    Is oatmeal a no-go as well?

    • Amy Kubal
      October 10, 2011 at 5:54 am

      You would be correct!

  26. Jerry
    October 12, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Seems like they shun starch, which is good. Not to mention, eating organic will help keep you free from pesticides that most likely cause horrible disease. I’m interested in reading more on this diet. http://www.dietresume.com

  27. what is paleo
    December 19, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    I thought I had been eating healthy for years – lean more about paleo and different diet like meats, whole grains, etc. A few months ago I challenged to my friend to try paleo diet and it turns out “healthy” diet He is also fan of it.

  28. Aaron Cooper
    January 21, 2012 at 1:46 am

    Thanks for the amazing info you have put together on the paleo diet.

    My friends have all been talking about how life changing it has been for them and I am wanting to learn more.

    I don’t eat fruits or vegetables, so my diet is really poor. I’m trying to train myself to tolerate them but it’s a mental thing with texture that just kills me. I love the taste of fruit. I just can’t eat it. :)

    I look forward to reading much more of what you have to say.

  29. James
    February 20, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Can anyone explain in layman’s terms how this regime differs from the Atkins diet? They both appear to advocate all protein and no carbs.

    • Amy Kubal
      February 20, 2012 at 11:18 am

      James, Paleo does not, by any means imply ‘low-carb’. It is much more liberal in vegetables, roots and tubers (sweet potatoes, yams, etc), and fruit. It CAN be low carb, but it can also be high carb. It all depends on the individual’s goals, health status and lifestyle. Paleo is a LIFESTYLE as opposed to a ‘diet’. I hope that helps!

  30. paleo diet
    February 23, 2012 at 7:57 am

    I think paleo diet is a great way to achieve a more healthy lifestyle. Great article!

  31. Clara
    March 6, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Great way of life!

  32. what is paleo diet
    March 16, 2012 at 2:22 am

    Paleo diet has greatly improved my health. It was through my sister that I got into it.It’s hard at first, but you must always think of what benefits you can get from it and having my sister as an inspiration really worked!

  33. Ben
    March 21, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Bravo Dr. Robb. I don’t know if you realize it, but you have just taken a very compelling economic approach to nutrition, which it seems is sorely lacking in almost every model of diet and nutrition. It is the one size fits all, black and white screening of this subject that leaves so many individuals confused and indifferent with respect to this aspect of their lives.

  34. Dan Lawrence
    April 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks for this post. I realize it is almost a year old, but thanks all the same.

    I really respect Robb as an expert and an all around righteous dude. My comment has to do with protein quality. I find that many folks in my area (mostly CrossFit devotees) who advocate eating Paleo, tend to eat conventionally raised sources of beef, poultry and farm raised fish. I am not speaking about the entire Paleo or CrossFit communities, so please do not verbally accost me for homogenizing. My understanding of the tenets of Paleo/Ancestral eating is that pasture raised animal sources and wild fatty fish are integral to this concept. And the US Gov’t subdizes a lot of corn production and thereby it is fed to cattle (talk about eating a diet opposite to that of your evolutionary blueprint, cows get a bum deal) and if we follow the adage “you are what you eat” or, more correctly, “you are what you eat, eats”, these folks are getting a healthy dose of corn and grain fed beef and chicken. And lots of Omega 6 fatty acids.

    So, what is your definition of quality protein? Thanks again for you thoughtful writings and thank you for your admitted evolving point of view. You are right to say that we are all different and need to pay attention to what we put in our body and what effect it has on each of us personally.

  35. Josh
    April 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Are there any studyies that have looked at the long term affects of eating a diet (like the Paleo Diet) that requires cutting entire food groups out of your diet?

    • Robb Wolf
      April 13, 2012 at 9:15 am

      Josh- think this through for a moment. Imagine this is a vegetarian website. No one wrings their hands about removing meat from the docket, yet if we recommend eating fruit and veggies in place of grains a problem is going to arrise? Check out the science page. Read all the links, I think that will help a bit.

  36. Amy N
    May 7, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Robb-
    I started eating what I’ll call “modified paleo” about a year ago, with the modification being I still ate dairy, specifically Greek yogurt and cheese. I’m down 88 pounds, but was stuck at 80 pounds until I dumped the dairy. Lost the other 8 in a couple weeks. And I feel better. Now I’ve got coworkers asking me what I’ve been doing and how they can do it as well.

    Thanks!!!
    Amy

  37. Mike
    June 8, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Hi Robb,

    What do you think is the optimal macronutrient ratio? I know you say “it depends” but I’m not sure about that. There was a study in Australia where some aborigines with type 2 diabetes went back to hunting-gathering and it cured their diabetes. They didn’t do a modified paleo diet — they ate their natural diet and things cleared up!

    Also: if we don’t have a target, we can’t hit a target. Even if lower carbs is suitable for people with a metabolic disaster, we should still be able to give a ball-park macronutrient ratio for healthy people and then say “if you have x, then adjust this way.”

    So… what’s your feeling. What should healthy people be aiming for?

    In a natural setting, one day the hunt is good, the next there is only fish, the next, ooo the mangos are ripe, and the next, all there is some roots we have to dig up. But we are shopping at the supermarket… and natural diets pan out over time to an ACTUAL macronutrient ratio that I think it would be good to aim for.

    I think it would help people to know what to aim for.

  38. Jenny
    September 19, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Did anyone ever think of just eating healthy?? A good healthy balance of protein, carbs, fibre, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals?? No wonder no one knows how to be healthy anymore, it’s all about a balanced varied diet and being happy with eating what you like, and what you need. Come on people let’s not get obsessed. The definition of people with an eating disorder isn’t anorexic or bulimic, it’s people who become OBSESSED with diet and what they eat.

  39. Martin
    December 21, 2012 at 4:35 am

    Each of us is unique and we have to selfexperiment individually to find out what is best for each of us. One size fits all does not work with health and food. Small changes to diet/lifestyle and observation of resulting positive or negative changes does.

  40. Barb
    December 26, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Hello i was curious can you have Almond Flour or Amlond Meal on the Paleo Diet

    • Amy Kubal
      December 27, 2012 at 4:34 am

      It’s fine in moderation – think of it more as a treat and not as an everyday food.

  41. Vegantic
    April 10, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    I tried the Paleo diet, but I have to say my body reacts better on a vegetarian diet. I guess it all boils down to really listening to what your body needs.
    Thanks for the information though. I do like your post!

  42. janet
    August 20, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    If this way of nutrition was so great (and I’m not doubting it), why was the lifespan of early man so short? (as compared to the present lifespan). Just wondering. thanks.

Leave a Reply