The Paleo Diet
(The Origin Diet/Neanderthal Diet)
There are at least three very similarly themed diet books by different authors:
The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat – by Dr. Loren Cordain;
Neanderthin: Eat Like a Caveman to Achieve a Lean, Strong, Healthy Body – by Ray Audette; &
The Origin Diet: How Eating Like Our Stone Age Ancestors Will Maximize Your Health – by Elizabeth Somer
Of these, Dr. Loren Cordain’s “The Paleo Diet” is the most authoritative and carries my strongest recommendation.
While Ray Audette’s “Neanderthin” is similarly commendable, the well intentioned “TheOrigin Diet” by Elizabeth Somer stumbles with too many almost amusing contradictions and historical inaccuracies. (Somer ignores the evidence that grains were not a part of the pre-historic human diet and only entered the human diet with the advent of the agricultural revolution around 10,000 years ago. And do you think any caveman ever drank one of Somer’s ‘Chocolate-Banana-Soy Milkshakes’?) Despite some very useful advise within her book, these errors and compromises are too serious for me to be able to give it anything better than a very lukewarm recommendation.
Dr. Loren Cordain’s “The Paleo Diet”, on the other hand, is the real deal.
The Paleo Diet takes a look at the history of human nutrition, the factors that caused the major changes in the human diet, and the health effects that have resulted from those changes.
The Paleo Diet looks at the hunter-gather stages of human history and the diets that accompanied such Paleolithic / stone age life styles. (Remember that such primitive lifestyles and diets still exist in some remote and isolated parts of the world today.)
Around 10,000 years ago in Mesopotamia came the birth of “civilization” with the first cities being built and the change from nomadic tribes to settled communities. This change necessitated the dawn of the agricultural revolution and the first human efforts to move away from hunter-gathers to growing crops and domesticating animals. It was this rapid evolution in society (not accompanied by any such corresponding evolution of the human anatomy) that led to the cultivation and consumption of grains and legumes, and the production of milk.
If 10,000 years sound like a long time ago, remember that this was not a global trend immediately. These changes did not occur in Europe until around only 5,000 years ago – and more recently still in other parts of the world.
During the past 200 years, the world has changed via yet another quantum leap – the industrial/technological revolution. With it came the development of processed foods, artificial foods, more plentiful food products in bulk quantities massed produced cheaply. It has brought the world, particularly the developed western world, many more food choices from a vast array of artificially produced ingredients and unnatural processes. It has given us cheap food which tastes good – all the salt, sugars, artificial oils, chemicals, preservatives, hormones and so forth that makes today’s food choices delicious, tempting and cheap.
The industrial revolution foods of today have also brought with them added health risks to a human body which has not evolved to adapt to the changes.
“The Paleo Diet” explains these changes, the diseases of modern civilization, and the genetics of how the human body is designed to be still eating the way of our Paleolithic ancestors.
“The Paleo Diet” book goes beyond just a history lesson. It tells how we today can change our diet to resemble closely that of our ancestors, and how in the process our health will improve and eliminate obesity, diabetes, the Syndrome X diseases, and so many other modern diet-induced degenerative diseases that were unknown to Paleolithic man.
Not content to address just the dietary issues, Cordain takes a sensible look at the overall lifestyle of the Paleolithic era and makes interesting observations about exercise styles and other lifestyle factors that we can learn from paleontology.
No diet book has ever or will ever reach the one and only perfect diet for all mankind, and it would be remiss of this review to overlook some of the weaknesses (albeit minor) of this book. Despite the recommendations of this book:
No Paleolithic man ever used Canola oil. Canola is really just another artificial industrial era mass produced, industrially processed oil from a laboratory created hybrid variation of rapeseed. It is a 1980’s creation, not a Paleo food. (In fairness, Cordain mentions flax seed oil as a choice wherever he mentions Canola. I agree wholeheartedly with the flax seed oil recommendations.)
The diet plan includes the option of diet sodas. While not actually a requirement of the Paleo Diet, they should not be recommended at all. The human body was not created and/or has not evolved to ingest artificial chemical sweeteners, and no Paleolithic man used them. Drink water instead.
I am surprised that greater emphasis was not given to explaining and recommending the undoubtedly Paleolithic practice of eating a high proportion of the diet as raw foods. To some degree, this is implied within the book with it’s emphasis on eating non-starchy vegetables and fruits though it is neither expounded upon nor the substantial health benefits of raw plant foods explained.
Although a very eye-opening expose of the importance of the acid / alkaline balance of our foods in terms of mineral retention and long-term health is given, the list of foods and their acid/alkaline measures provided in Appendix One is far too short to be of much use for readers trying to put this important nutritional lesson into practice.
Such criticisms notwithstanding, “The Paleo Diet” bears certain distinct similarities to both “The Zone Diet” and “The Omega Diet” which are both also high on my recommended diet books list.
“The Paleo Diet” certainly passes the test of being a sustainable, lifelong program emphasizing natural health and nutrition, and which as a consequence of the emphasis on long-term health will also produce weight loss and reverse many or most of the diseases and disorders associated with obesity and modern western diets in general.
It does so in a way that is probably equally as healthy as “The Zone Diet”, yet much simpler to implement and for which adherence will be much easier long term.
Accordingly, “The Paleo Diet” earns my highest praise and recommendation