Understanding the Paleo Diet
This book represents the culmination of my lifelong interest in the link between diet and health, and of my fascination with anthropology and human origins. Although these scientific disciplines may at first appear to be unrelated, they are intimately connected. Our origins—the very beginnings of the human species—can be traced to pivotal changes in the diet of our early ancestors that made possible the evolution of our large, metabolically active brains. The Agricultural Revolution and the adoption of cereal grains as staple foods allowed us to abandon forever our previous hunter-gatherer lifestyle and caused the Earth’s population to balloon and develop into the vast industrial-technological society in which we live today.
The problem, as you will see in this book, is that we are genetically adapted to eat what the hunter-gatherers ate. Many of our health problems today are the direct result of what we do—and do not—eat. This book will show you where we went wrong—how the standard American diet and even today’s so-called healthy diets wreak havoc with our Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) constitutions. It will also show you how you can lose weight and regain health and well-being by eating the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate—the diet that nature intended.
The reason for this book is very simple: the Paleo Diet is the one and only diet that ideally fits our genetic makeup. Just 333 generations ago—and for 2.5 million years before that—every human being on Earth ate this way. It is the diet to which all of us are ideally suited and the lifetime nutritional plan that will normalize your weight and improve your health. I didn’t design this diet—nature did. This diet has been built into our genes.
More than twenty years ago, I read a book that endorsed vegetarian dieting titled Are You Confused? I suspect that this title pretty much sums up how many of us feel about the conflicting breakthroughs and mixed messages we hear every day from scientific and medical authorities on what we should and shouldn’t eat to lose weight and be healthy.
But here’s the good news. Over the last twenty-five years, scientists and physicians worldwide have begun to agree on the fundamental principle underlying optimal nutrition—thanks in part to my colleague Dr. S. Boyd Eaton of Emory University in Atlanta. In 1985, Dr. Eaton published a revolutionary scientific paper called “Paleolithic Nutrition” in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine suggesting that the ideal diet was to be found in the nutritional practices of our Stone Age ancestors. Although a few physicians, scientists, and anthropologists had been aware of this concept, it was Dr. Eaton’s writings that brought this idea to center stage.
Dr. Eaton applied the most fundamental and pervasive idea of all biology and medicine—the theory of evolution by natural selection—to diet and health. His premise was simple: our genes determine our nutritional needs. And our genes were shaped by the selective pressures of our Paleolithic environment, including the foods our ancient ancestors ate.
Many modern foods are at odds with our genetic makeup—which, as we’ll discuss in the book, is basically the same as that of our Paleolithic ancestors—and this is the cause of many of our modern diseases. By restoring the food types that we are genetically programmed to eat, we can not only lose weight, but also restore our health and well-being.
I have studied diet and health for the past three decades and have devoted the last twenty years to studying the Paleo Diet concept. I have been fortunate enough to work with Dr. Eaton to refine this groundbreaking idea and explore a wealth of new evidence. Together with many of
the world’s top nutritional scientists and anthropologists, I have been able to determine the dietary practices of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Understanding what they ate is essential for understanding what we should eat today to improve our health and promote weight loss. Our research has been published in the top nutritional journals in the world.
It’s all here for you in this book—all the dietary knowledge and wisdom that my research team and I have gleaned from our distant ancestors who lived in the days before agriculture. Part One explains what our Paleolithic ancestors ate, the basics of the Paleo Diet, and how civilization has made us stray from our original diet, bringing us ill health and obesity. Part Two shows how you can lose weight and how much you can lose, and also how the Paleo Diet can prevent and heal disease. Part Three spells out everything you need to know to follow the Paleo Diet—including meal plans for the three levels of the diet and more than 100 delicious Paleo recipes. That’s the best part of the Paleo Diet—you’ll eat well, feel great, and lose weight! The book ends with a complete list of scientific references that back up all of this information.