A Paleolithic Diet
for Linda

December 2003

God is not a vegetarian

God sits down with Abraham, to a meal of lamb chops, curds (other texts say, "butter and milk"), and griddle cakes. (Genesis 18:1-8) (Easy on the griddle cakes, there.)

I am not a vegetarian

After 20 years of being a vegetarian, avoiding fat and sugar, finding 12 ways to prepare tofu, and mostly hating the food I ate, I switched to a paleolithic diet a year ago. I am not overweight, and weight reduction has little to do with this diet, although it is an effective side effect. If the immediate results might impress you, here is a list of observable changes, some of which happened within a few weeks.

Medical benefits

Disadvantage of this diet

There are disadvantages to a high-protein (or low-carbohydrate) diet.

The following might also be considered disadvantages:

What is required of this diet

Simply: eat modestly and regularly, but don't eat grains. I have to stress that: eat modestly: don't overeat; and regularly: don't skip meals. And do not eat grains. You can snack in between.

About the prohibitions:

Protein based diet

This is basically a so-called "low-carbohydrate" diet, even though you will eat twice as much in carbohydrates as protein (in volume). But it is "low-carbohydrate" compared to having oatmeal with raisins and a banana for breakfast topped with orange juice, having noodles and vegetables with bread and pop for lunch, and having meat and potatoes and some vegetable for your evening meal -- which easily tip the scales to be a high-carbohydrate diet.

Make these changes: Try eggs, sausage, and salad (together) for breakfast. Add berries, sardines, refried left-over vegetables, and cottage cheese. For lunch try any small cut of meat with salad and berries and perhaps some more vegetables. For dinner try variously fish, meat, chicken, turkey, cheese, even tofu, berries, and salad, and be sure to add two freshly steamed vegetables. You can probably find 15 to 20 varieties of vegetables at most grocery stores. Any of them can be steamed in twenty minutes.

Include protein with every meal, just as you will include greens and vegetables. And allow fat. You need fat. You absolutely need fat. Our biology is based on fat. And don't worry, no-one overeats fats.

But remove bread, noodles, potatoes, rice -- at least do this for the first year or so. Certainly you can eat some small portions when you eat out, or for special occasions -- who would not, at a Thanksgiving Dinner.

Switch to sweet butter to prepare eggs, and olive oil to prepare fish and meat. Prepare eggs, cooked meats, and fish in a cast iron pan: it is amazingly fast, and cast iron pans are very easy to clean. Get rid of margarine, and most other oils. Salted butter is basically rancid butter with salt added to cover the taste.

Start having bush fruit -- berries -- regularly with every meal. You won't need to add sugar, because your tastes will change radically after you stop eating grains, and fruit will taste much sweeter. There are many berries available at grocery stores, year round.

What to eat

Other hints

Easy food preparation

Resistance to change

So, you don't like vegetables, heh? And you absolutely love bread; couldn't live without it? Well, so did I. And I can't believe how my tastebuds developed in a few weeks.

The most difficult thing for most people is the grains. Grains are so very addictive, that I suspect a biological conspiracy, where we humans raise and tend endless fields of grains so they will eventually take over the world. But try having only one piece of toast the first day, half the second, and a quarter the third. You will find that the taste for bread will disappear by day four. But don't ever eat chips -- that is just stupid. Ever read the ingredients?

If you can't stand cold left-over vegetables for breakfast, fry some in a pan with a swipe of butter while the eggs are frying, in a covered cast iron pan.

For the eggs: Heat up the cast iron pan (5 seconds), swipe the surface with the end of a stick of butter, add the eggs, after a minute add some water, put on a lid -- that way you will not have to turn them. Will be ready after another minute. A stick of butter lasts about 4 months at our house. Clean the pan by running hot water over it -- wipe, scrape, greeny, but do not ever use soap. Dry with a paper towel. Should take you about 20 seconds.

Book Sources

This is the diet prescribed by a number of authors. I have tried to keep it brief, and without details. If you need to be convinced of the biochemistry involved, and want endless additional hints and fine points, read the following books. In fact I strongly recommend Eades and Eades and Batmanghelidj.

Eades and Eades "Protein Power" (1996), and "Protein Power Lifeplan" (2000).
The Doctors Eades' books initially was a weight reduction plan, but evolved into a plan for lowering adult diabetes, and numerous related ailments. Probably the most in-depth and reasonable book. It will not show up on any "diet book" searches, because they didn't include the word "diet" in the title. This plan requires only intelligence; the other books require regimentation.

Mercola "No-Grain Diet" (2003).
Also a weight reduction plan, Mercola totally bans grains and sugars. He is direct and straight forward. And boring.

Atkins "Dr. Atkin's New Diet Revolution" (1992).
A well known diet book. Atkins's plan is draconian, and thus appeals to many who want absolute rules and measures. He suggests a reduction in carbohydrates, but does not eliminate grains entirely. Dumb. That's why people fail on this 'diet' -- the taste of grains always lures you back to more grains.

Batmanghelidj "Your body's many cries for water" (1992).
An obscure and curious book, but invaluable when it comes to recommending drinking water. A typical paraphrase: "Drinking pop has to be the most stupid thing you can do." This book has completely changed my way of life. Drinking water solves a wide range of maladies.

February 2008,
an added note

The original text below was based on Eades and Eades "Protein Power" (1996), but without the charts, measurements, and other 'scientific' details. Since then we have run into Arthur Agiston's "The South Beach Diet" (2003) which is so much more reasonable, although I object to his recommendations for "sugar-free," "butter substitutes," and "nonfat milk" -- since this stuff is absolutely disgusting to my tastes.

But his information on "Glycemic index" (devised by others) makes sense, and would modify the strictures I have here. The book also is almost totally devoid of quantitative measures or hard and fast rules. It is so simple that the whole story can be told in 100 pages, of which half are testimonials. To make it a book worth selling, the publisher has added 200 pages of recipes.

Paleolithic Primer

Some biology facts: We humans have been around in our current biological form ('homo sapiens sapiens') for about 100,000 to 200,000 years. But we developed (evolved, speciated) from hominids who apparently were savana scavengers, and had been around (as the 'homo' species) for about 2 1/2 million years. Our particular physiology is based on being omnivorous, and living on a wide ranging diet of meat, fish, vegetables, tubers, and fruit.

There is no reason to believe that physiological needs "evolve" so that the body chemistry of a species would somehow alter over the normal span of existance of a species (which average about 4,000,000 years, by the way). So far we have been omnivorous for 200,000 years.

Paleolithic communities in the Middle East mostly subsisted on the large herds of antelopes, but they also left evidence of collecting and using some 150 different plants. The last big-game hunters in the world, the Plains Indians who followed the buffalo, collected and ate over 50 species of plants.

Then as big game animals disappeared or became scarce, new resources were tapped: barley and wheat in Anatolia, millet in China, rice in India, corn in Central America, manioc and potatoes in the Andies, millet and yams in West Africa, and yams and taro in South East Asia. This happened as early as 10,000 BC in some areas.

By 3,000 BC all of the above listed grains and tubers were in heavy production in some regions, cultivated by settled peoples, who remained in the same location and tended the fields. They built houses and towns. Their tools change from sharp projectiles to ground hand axes. This era, because of a change in the type of stone tools, is known as the Neolithic.

How well have we Neolithics "adapted" to grains and tubers? Ten thousand years is not a long time. Species do not change at all in 10,000 years. A species remains unchanged for millions of years. Here is a comparison of the Paleolithic and the Neolithic:

Paleolithic (200,000 years):

Neolithic (10,000 years):

(I didn't want to include Homo Erectus, who adds 2 million years)

The problem with the settled farmers is that they started eating large quantities of grains and tubers. That changed things. Heart disease and diabeties spread. Teeth rotted. And life-spans dropped severely. The Eades and Eades book was initially developed out of research into the ailments of Egyptian (grain eating) mummies.

The oft-told tale that our ancestors lived only to age 30 is only true of the farmers and agriculturalists since 3000 BC. Hunters lived much longer. The well-fed Roman aristocracy lived into their 80s.

High carbohydrate diet

There are advantages and disadvantages to a grain diet...
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