Evolution over millions of years has determined the nutritional and exercise needs of today’s humans. Our diets and lifestyles have changed a great deal over the past 10,000 years while our genomes have changed very little. The results of these changes have been more obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The Paleolithic diets included wild, unprocessed food with lean protein, polyunsaturated fats (omega-3), fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other plant chemicals. The diets were lean meat, fruits and vegetables. Those ancient people were healthy and did not have the risk of cardiovascular diseases seen today. Cravings for calorie-dense foods served our ancestors well for survival. Today, however, these cravings lead to obesity, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.
Currently, we have sedentary lifestyles and eat synthetic, processed foods. Ninety percent of us will have high blood pressure at some time in our lives. Two-thirds of us are overweight. Forty percent of Americans have metabolic syndrome. Cardiovascular disease causes 41% of all deaths. The general health of humans began to deteriorate when agricultural style diets developed. Now, people are shorter on the agricultural diets. Today’s diets increase osteoporosis, rickets and other diseases.
The following approaches have been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease: (1) removing saturated and trans fats and replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats; (2) eating omega-3 from fish and plants (as in nuts); and (3) eating lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and avoiding rapidly digested carbohydrates (such as bananas and potatoes).
In comparison to the modern American diet, the Paleolithic diet contained 2-3 times more fiber, 1.5-2 times more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, 4 times more omega-3, about 65% less saturated fats, 2-3 times more protein, 3-4 times more potassium and 4-5 times less sodium. They used no refined grains and the only sweetener was occasional honey. Fruits and vegetables were seasonal. (Eight servings of fruits and vegetables are needed to reproduce the Paleolithic diet.)
Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory. Omega-6 fats are inflammatory. The overall base of food for the Paleolithic was algae, grasses and leaves. This provided large amounts of omega-3 instead of the omega-6 of farmed diets. To get leaner cuts of meat, the authors advise looking for the words “round” and “loin.”
Monounsaturated fats, such as nuts, reduce cardiovascular risk, especially when they substitute for rapidly digested carbohydrates. Olive oil, which was not part of the Paleolithic diet, is beneficial in reducing cardiovascular disease risk. Paleolithic people who ate wild meats were relatively free of cardiovascular risk. Wild game is about 2-4% fat with high levels of omega-3. The wild game taste is due to the omega-3 and volatile oils from plants eaten by the game. Lean meat consumption improves insulin sensitivity and the feeling of fullness to control weight.
Trans fats should be avoided. Caloric beverages should be avoided. Green tea was not Paleolithic; but, it is highly beneficial.
Our ancestors had to find food, daily, and Paleolithic people exerted themselves to obtain food. They walked 5-10 miles per day. We can duplicate some of their exercise with aerobics, stretching and resistance exercises.
CONCLUSION: Animals do best on a diet to which their genome is adapted. Health benefits result from duplicating the Paleolithic diet, which is more consistent with our genome. Some suggestions are to increase the intake of foods with a lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio and avoid caloric loads that are rapidly digested, caloric beverages, unnatural trans fats and processed foods. Use olive oil and green tea and exercise, regularly.
NOTE: Read about the results of 25 years of study of the Paleolithic diet.
To read the author’s abstract of the article click on the link to the author’s title of the article above.