Beyond Paleo: Moving from a “Paleo Diet” to a “Paleo Template”

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These dairy products may not fit in a strict Paleo diet—but there’s room for them in a Paleo template.
Dairy foods may not fit in a strict Paleo diet—but there’s room for them in a Paleo template. iStock/bit245

Over the last couple of years, as the popularity of the Paleo diet has expanded, a lot of controversy has emerged over exactly what a Paleo diet is.

Part of the problem is that there are now a number of authors and bloggersfrom Mark Sisson to Kurt Harris to Robb Wolf to Paul Jaminet to myselfthat advocate what might generally be called a Paleo diet, but with slight variations in each case. This has unfortunately led to some confusion for people new to the Paleo diet.

It has also spawned new terminology in an effort by each author/blogger to clarify the differences in their approach, such as Mark Sissons Primal diet, Paul Jaminets “Perfect Health Diet,and Kurt Harris’ former PaNu or Paleo 2.0 and current Archevore concepts.

So whats the controversy or confusion all about? It usually revolves around the following questions:

  • Is the Paleo diet low-carb or low-fat? Is saturated fat permitted? If so, how much?
  • How much protein should someone eat on a Paleo diet?
  • Does the Paleo diet include dairy productsor not? Which kinds of dairy?
  • Are any grains at all permitted?

In the early days, following Loren Cordain’s book, The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat, the Paleo diet was considered to be moderate in carbohydrate and low in saturated fat (though monounsaturated fat wasn’t restricted).

Then, as low-carb diets rose in popularity and many low-carbers switched over to Paleo, it seemed that the lines between low-carb and Paleo began to blur. For these folks, the Paleo diet is high in fatespecially saturated fatand low in carbohydrates, with a moderate amount of protein.

More recently, some authors/bloggers have advocated a diet based roughly on Paleo principles but that also may include dairy products and even certain grains like white rice and buckwheat, depending on individual tolerance. Still others have suggested that a high carb, lower fat dietprovided the carbs come from starchy vegetables and not grainsmay be optimal.

So what is a Paleo diet? Is it low-carb? Low-fat? Does it include dairy? Grains?

Were Not Robots: Variation Amongst Groups and Individuals

The answer to that question depends on several factors. First, are we asking what our Paleolithic ancestors ate, or are we asking what an optimal diet for modern humans is? While hard-core Paleo adherents will argue that theres no difference, others (including me) would suggest that the absence of a food during the Paleolithic era does not necessarily mean that its not nutritious or beneficial. Dairy products are a good example.

Second, as recent studies have revealed, we cant really know what our ancestors ate with 100 percent certainty, and there is undoubtedly a huge variation amongst different populations. For example, we have the traditional Inuit and the Masai who ate a diet high in fat (60 to 70 percent of calories for the Masai and up to 90% of calories for the Inuit), but we also have traditional peoples like the Okinawans and Kitavans that obtained a majority (60 to 70 percent or more) of their calories from carbohydrate. So it’s impossible to say that the diet of our ancestors was either “low-carb” or “low-fat,” without specifying which ancestors we’re talking about.

Third, if we are indeed asking what the optimal diet is for modern humans (rather than simply speculating about what our Paleolithic ancestors ate), there’s no way to answer that question definitively. Why? Because just as there is tremendous variation amongst populations with diet, there is also tremendous individual variation. Some people clearly do better with no dairy products. Yet others seem to thrive on them. Some feel better with a low-carb approach, while others feel better eating more carbohydrate. Some seem to require a higher protein intake (up to 20 to 25 percent of calories), but others do well when they eat a smaller amount (10 to 15 percent) while still others need a diet for diverticulitis.

The Paleo Diet vs. the Paleo Template

I suggest we stop trying to define the “Paleo diet” and start thinking about it instead as a “Paleo template.”

What’s the difference? A Paleo diet implies a particular approach with clearly defined parameters that all people should follow. There’s little room for individual variation or experimentation.

A Paleo template implies a more flexible and individualized approach. A template contains a basic format or set of ancestral health general guidelines that can then be customized based on the unique needs and experience of each person.

But here’s the key difference between a Paleo diet and a Paleo template: following a diet doesn’t encourage the participant to think, experiment or consider his or her specific circumstances, while following a template does.

The only way to figure out what an optimal diet is for you is to experiment and observe. The best way to do that is to remove the “grey-area” foods you suspect you might have trouble with, like dairy, nightshades, eggs, etc. for a period of time (usually 30 days is sufficient), and add them back in one at a time and observe your reactions. This “30-day challenge” or elimination diet is what folks like Robb Wolf have recommended for a long time.

As human beings we’re both similar and different. We share the same basic physiology, which is why a Paleo template makes sense. There are certain foods that, because of their chemical structure, adversely affect all of us regardless of our individual differences.

On the other hand, each of us is unique. We grew up in different families, with different dietary habits, life experiences, exposures to environmental toxins and lifestyles. Many of our genes are the same, but some are different and the way those genes have been triggered or expressed can also differ.

For someone with an autoimmune disease, dairy products, nightshades and eggs may be problematic. Yet for others, these foods are often well-tolerated. This variation merely underscores the importance of discovering your own optimal diet rather than blindly following someone else’s prescription.

I think it’s a complete waste of time and energy to argue about what a Paleo diet is, because the question is essentially unanswerable. The more important question is, what is your optimal diet?

Finding Your Own Optimal Version of the Paleo Diet

In my book, The Paleo Cure, I provide a simple—yet powerful—three-step approach for helping you to discover your own ideal version of the Paleo diet. Click here to learn more about it and pick up a copy.

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  1. HI chris, very unique blog well done. my question is : what types of grain do you consume? what is your typical breakfast lunch and dinner? i recovered from anorexia that i suffered from for 11 years by eating the aforementioned ‘paleo’ way, namely because it helped me tackle gaining weight a healthy way,the ‘best’ way. anyway, i haven’t eaten wheat, grains for two years (my recovery time) I’m 25 years old and while ‘paleo’ makes me feel ok its now trapped me into feeling i can’t eat sprouted bread, sourdough rye, or looking at my carb intake. i try sporadically to introduce sprouted buckwheat groats or white rice occasionally (sprouted buckwheat and organic yoghurt today has sent me into a panic), but end up feeling so guilty and struck with hoards of the knowledge about not being able to eat even buckwheat afterwards, that i vow never to eat it again. i would like to start consuming legumes and beans again, i used to love them, and i miss sprouted bread but I’m too scared after reading so much about wheat and legumes etc.. by the way when i say paleo its not really true as i eat yoghurt, occasionally raw cheese, but I’m trying to figure out how to eat because I’m still not functioning as a woman- so technically my body can not reproduce- so I’m starting to question the diet… also my skin is peeling a lot and really sore, and i have bouts of depression- probably not dietary related maybe but more to do with feeling bound to the ‘paleo/primal’ way of eating in a world of beans and rice or pea bread ! I’ve read the akea life blue zones with david buettner (amongst the other vast quantities of nutrition literature/ weston price/ tribes and so on!!0 and i see that all cultures stick to their locally grown foods and the foods that come natural to them. I’ve noticed sadinians have their pane carasou bread and fava beans, the bama have their millet and corn and so on… I’m just searching for an answer really. i live in england..i seem to be the only 25 year old paleo type eater with no menstruation (amenhorrea), skin peeling and depression and questionable mental concentration- i feel like until i find an answer i can’t really carry on freely. i used to love legumes like chickpeas with no issue- the hummus made with extra virgin olive il, the bread sprouted or sourdough rye, and i look at the french, the monks in mount athos? sardinians, loma linda, okinawans etc eat rice, buckwheat, some of them eat wheat- mount ethos monks who are know for their longevity- etc etc- i just question- is it more about local ingredients, home cooking and how your body digests them? because we can be eating the best types of food or paleo accepted and if our bodies aren’t happy they will digest them wrong or not utilise them effectively… I’m just confused, namely because so many studies basically point to this : eat everything, and not too much of anything, eat organically and eat what is natural to your community and culture- it seems actually culture and community have a lot to do with it? what are your thoughts?

    • bless you. It sounds to me that you are still recovering and are lacking some important nutrients. It might be wise to visit your physician and have blood work done to pinpoint the deficiency and then incorporate appropriate foods to correct it. You may need to supplement for a time with vitamins to restore balance. Some general thoughts as well- Please do not beat yourself up about choosing non-paleo foods at times. A2 casein from Jersey cows is not proven to be harmful as the A1 type is, so it can be enjoyed in moderation of you tolerate it. I love yogurt and kefir, and I find it helpful in digestion if eaten a few times a week. Most Paleo eaters still allow themselves cheats a few times a week, so have your hummus once a week if you miss it and tolerate it well. Get enough protein and balance it with healthy fats from grass fed meats, seeds, and veggies. Coconut oil is also a good choice. Take in enough non-starchy carbs to maintain energy. Be sure you are eating lots of greens and orange vegetables and walking often. I would avoid intense workouts until you resume menstruation, and even then be moderate with them. Take Epsom salt baths about twice weekly and spend time out of doors to be sure you are maintaining bone density and important vitamin and mineral levels. Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to indulge at least once or twice a week on non-processed foods. We are not robots, nor are we perfect. It’s ok to step outside that box on occasion. Love yourself and give yourself permission to be less than perfect. You are worth it. God loves you just the way you are and has a plan and purpose for your life. He doesn’t expect you to be perfect- that is why He sent His Son. ?

  2. I agree withthe template concept. During this challenge I am definitely going strict and avoiding all processed carbs and foods as wella s dairy. I think after the challenge ends I will stick with some of the healthier snacks and food choices but will likely add some dairy and carbs back into my diet and see how I feel. I am amazed thatI do feel much better than I have in the past and I don’t find myself sleepy in the afternoon. I have actually cut down to 1 cup of coffee a day which is a drastic drop for me. Knowng that I feel better onthis diet makes me think that long term I can modify and tweak some things and see how I feel. I definitly like the template idea because I think I will need that flexibility in order to remain successful.

  3. I can’t agree. The entire idea of the paleo diet is that *evolution* makes the calls. Not us. Evolution knows more than we do. When we start using our incomplete knowledge to modify the diet we evolved to eat, we are departing from the most fundamental principle of the paleo philosophy and running the risk that we’ll make all sorts of mistakes. And we have a long history of making scientific mistakes where diet is concerned: breakfast cereals and Graham crackers were health foods, hydrogenated oils were health foods, high Omega-6 vegetable oils were health foods, and even today the government recommends that we eat a high-grain diet that makes people blow up like balloons.

    It is true — certainly — that our ancestors were versatile eaters, becoming more so beginning about 70,000 years ago. People ate different things depending on location, season, and their tribal way of life. There’s no need to be slavish.

    But if someone thinks they can do something unnatural like adding lots of saturated fat or cutting out carbs, well, you’re just taking part in another fad diet experiment.

    By the way, the Masai are not hunter-gatherers, but herdsmen. They do not eat a paleolithic diet and in any case few of us would want to eat theirs, based as it is on a mixture of cow’s blood and milk.
    The Inuit are hunter-gatherers, but their diet is a very recent adaptation and it isn’t characteristic of a traditional hunter-gatherer diet either. They show on autopsy evidence of atherosclerosis although they don’t die of cardiovascular disease. We should not use either of these groups as license to depart from paleo principles.

    One caveat — we have evolved some since paleo days, as witness the fact that the descendants of herding populations are now lactose tolerant, and that many east Asians have extra copies of a starch-digestion gene. Many of us are likely adapted to some extent both genetically and epigenetically to an agricultural diet. But the key word here is partly. I’ve seen no evidence that any agricultural group shares the robust good health of hunter-gatherers.

    As a recent article in the New York Times said, “We have a lot more to learn from groups like the Hadza, among whom obesity and heart disease are unheard of and 80-year-old grandmothers are strong and vital.” I couldn’t agree more. I still drink my coffee in the morning and cheat with the occasional slice of pizza, but in doing so, I’m departing from a way of life that is *known* to be conducive to robust good health.

  4. I wonder if my symptoms might be helped by a diet like this. I have chronic anxiety, acne, hair loss, cold hands and feet in the winter, gas, constipation, eczema, dandruff, muscle pains and mites allergy. I don’t know if there is some autoimmune condition (or other) that is causing all this (maybe you have an idea) but maybe this diet could help?

    • Yes! Try the SCD or GAPS diet, which are pretty restrictive versions of Paleo-like principles, but do address autoimmune issues. In addition to a 20 pound weight loss and improved energy, I have seen improvement in my dry skin and allergies, as well as occasional inflammatory bowel issues, by following Paleo guidelines. While I eat some grains on occasion to keep the peace in my home, I avoid wheat and legumes entirely. I have also foregone many commercial products in favor of making my own, such as soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent, household cleaners, and facial moisturizers. There are tons of recipes and alternatives for these things that have a short, pronounceable ingredient list and are easy to make with ingredients from the supermarket, and I have definitely seen a difference for myself. Best of luck!

  5. My wife got me into your podcast (we’ve been paleo-ish for a while), but I have a nagging feeling that we are overdoing it on meat. (We eat a lot of veggies and sweet-potatoes, but we have red meat or bird at nearly every meal, occasionally fish.)

    I see this sort of thing from time to time about red meat: http://holykaw.alltop.com/pan-fried-steaks-pose-cancer-danger

    It makes sense to me that browned / charred meat would have some unwanted properties as it becomes taken up into our cellular metabolism. And even a little char (as on a rare steak) might go a long way.

    Is there a body of literature you suggest I look at to get me off the fence about this? I should either cook differently (although boiled steak doesn’t sound as appealing), or learn enough that I can sear my steak without stress.

    I’m already on a path to reduce my reliance on red meat (mostly because I want more variety in my diet) but your take on the cooking method question would really interest me.

    Thanks!

  6. Going a bit off-topic here, but couldn’t find a more appropriate article to pose this question. In the “Beyond Paleo #2” newsletter you mention that we “now know” that people with celiac disease can have cross reactions to other foods like dairy, glutenfree grains, pseudocereals, etc. I would like to know more about the research behind that claim, have done some searching in Medline but failed to find any indications of cross-reactivity to any foods other than dairy.

    • Dr. Ritamarie has a ton of information about gluten (all scientific and proven information) on her website. I highly recommend checking out her free ebook called “Eat Your Way Out of Pain” which covers a lot of topics, but the central point is avoiding all gluten and why.

  7. I found this post interesting because it is less dogmatic than other articles on the Paleo Diet. I have considered trying it, but because of my digestive problems (I have had 10 intestinal surgeries since 2006) I don’t think I can manage it. Also, I like to do endurance exercise and I would need to manage a reasonable carbohydrate intake. My health issues mean I cannot eat many vegetables or fruits and I’m already underweight, so I don’t see how I could eat enough calories without going broke buying meat.

    But the main point of posting here is the following. I see the crux of the issue, regardless of whether a person’s dogma is the Paleo Diet or another method, surrounding reducing our reliance on processed food and excessive intake of sugary carbohydrates, particularly those in beverages. The macronutrient composition is likely someone individual and relative to one’s exercise regimen, but the main problem with diet in wealthy countries (I’m American now living in the UAE for research), lies in our dependence on food that is far from its original source. When we get away from this, the particulars of the diet fall into place — we will naturally be eating a diet free of chemicals, processed foods, and added sugars.

    • Susan,

      Is it possible for you to eat steamed vegetables, brown rice, sauerkraut and sea vegetables such as nori?

      I had a friend who could not eat a raw food diet due to how messed up her stomach was, but another friend of hers does macrobiotics and his version of macrobiotics includes a whole grain (such as amaranth, brown rice, teff, quinoa or buckwheat), a steamed vegetable, a raw fermented vegetable (such as sauerkraut, kim chi or umeboshi), and a sea vegetable (such as arame, hijiki, dulse or nori) at every meal.

      The combination of these four foods at each meal is very healing to the digestive system. Combined with small amounts of raw healing herbs such as cilantro, basil and dill, the body heals and within a year more and more and more whole foods become tolerable to the system.

      My friend now is able to eat all foods on a macrobiotic diet and all foods on a raw food diet without digestive upset.

      ~ Raederle

  8. Do we really have to have a label……….food is food……….anything out of a box or can or packet or drive through is not…….diet originally meant: The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats. I would add to that what is readily available.

    What is readily available to most westerners……..not real food.

    So what are we doing differently to the Hunter Gatherers of old………..we talk endless about the next ‘hunt’ which for us is about where can we source the best meat or eggs which like the original Hunters and Gatherers may not be as often as we like. And to quote Professor Gumby we ‘gather’ whatever is most readily available [or what we can afford] in our ‘harsh’ environment [the local supermarket] as a ‘subsistence diet’ is it even if it isn’t the ‘preferred or optimal diet’…..what has changed……not much.

    My take on all this is I eat real food at home……….I eat the realist [is that a word yet….] food I can at restaurants and functions……….I avoid guilt which I consider more toxic than the most toxic processed food that I will eat on occasion.

    I read sites like this to educate myself but most of all I try to listen to my body…….what does it want/need?………..ask the little questions…….get the big answers.

  9. Great reading. Thank you. It definitely cleared some things i was wondering about.
    Thank you very much :>

  10. On the subject of unfermented milk for Northern Europeans who potentially have lactase persistence into adulthood, I have frequently noticed that if I stop drinking a significant amount of milk, I become lactose intolerant and this lactose intolerance is not reduced by starting to drink milk again. However, if I use lactase-treated milk for a few weeks, my lactose tolerance returns perfectly. This suggests that the intestines only synthesize lactase in response to galactose absorption, so that eliminating milk and then reintroducing it as an experiment is bound to fail much of the time because there is so little free galactose in the rest of the diet.

    • Very great point Jim.

      My husband can’t drink pasteurized milk without having difficulty, but he can drink raw cow’s milk without any problem at all. This suggests to me that having the lactase in its natural (raw) form allows us to use the lactase present in the milk to digest the lactose.

      He and I discuss the topic at length in this 25-minute episode of our radio show: http://www.raederle.com/2012/09/radio-show-what-is-live-food.html#.UGGubY1lTZl

      ~ Raederle

      • This is a common but incorrect conclusion. People don’t realize there are two different kinds of lactose intolerance. The true kind is determined by our genes, and a person without the gene for producing lactase cannot handle any lactose, whether it’s raw milk, or gradually introduced, or not. This kind of intolerance always starts in childhood. It doesn’t develop in adulthood and doesn’t come and go.

        The second kind of lactose intolerance is aquired, frequently by an infection. My mom and i had this kind. We both got a mild flu like illness at the same time, and both subsequently became lactose intolerant. She was an adult and i was a teen. We have the gene to make lactase, but our digestive systems were not able to use it. When i got pregnant, my lactose intolerance went away because of the large change in my hormones.

        Your husband and Jim have the aquired type, not true lactose intolerance.

        BTW, in medieval Europe, because there was no refrigeration, the vast majority of dairy was eaten in fermented form. Fresh milk was reserved for children and invalids. Still in continental Europe today, people tend to assume that if an adult is drinking milk, they must be sick. Since fermentation breaks down lactose, the amount of lactose consumed then was less than is commonly assumed by laypeople today.

  11. From the standpoint of a raw vegan educator, nutritionist and chef:

    I 100% agree about the most toxic things being white sugar, corn syrup, white flour and conventional soy (gmo).

    Also, I agree that the territory of beans, milk, and grains are murky.

    BEANS

    For one, beans are extremely hard to digest — they take about six hours in a healthy digestive system. If someone ate beans by themselves, and waited six hours before eating anything else, and also had a very healthy digestive system and lifestyle, then I highly doubt beans would hurt them at all.

    However, if someone has any digestive issues, beans must be avoided entirely.

    I used to have stomach ulcers, candida, leaky guy syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and acid reflux. Just a small half cup of beans is still something that I can not eat (last time I checked.)

    Also, beans should not be eaten before bed, because digesting during sleeping hours throws of hormonal balances (which is a long discussion in its own right.)

    Because food timing is so relevant, and food combination is so relevant, it could be that “people are different” not just because of location, toxin exposure and medical history, but because of cultural differences and habits.

    A person who follows beans with fruit may feel very sick. The same person could feel great if they ate beans alone and waited at least four hours before eating anything else.

    BASELINE

    “Likewise, if someone comes to see me in my private practice and they’re dealing with multiple health problems, one thing I often do is put them on a strict Paleo diet for a short period of time. Why? Because it gives us a baseline to work from. By removing all common food toxins and observing what happens, we learn which foods may be contributing to their issues and to what extent. From there the next steps usually become a lot more clear.”

    That is particularly important. If I wanted to see where a person was at, I’d want them to do a 95% raw diet, and 100% vegan diet for five days, with minimal intake of nuts and no oils. Many issues would vanish in just five days. It’d be a good place to try adding things back into the diet one at a time. Particular problem foods would become evident.

    WHEAT

    For me, all wheat is completely off the table. It gives me crazy-cravings for grains and cooked foods that I don’t usually ever have, and it also makes me feel moody, apathetic and pathetic.

    All-in-all the site looks like it has its facts straight.

    NEED FOR RAW FOOD?

    Part of the “need” for raw-veganism is *not* that the human body can not thrive with animal products or cooked foods included. It’s obvious that the human body *can* thrive while including cooked foods, such as long-grain brown rice, boiled vegetables, wild-fish and grass-fed beef.

    DETOX

    However, a raw vegan diet puts someone on a slow detox, even if they don’t do a lot of juicing. Almost any cooked food stops the body from removing toxins. So anybody with severe toxicity may require a raw vegan diet to fully heal.

    However, for people who never had mercury poisoning, never smoked, and have not taken anti-biotics more than once, a diet including cooked foods and even quality animal products can be quite robust.

    ETHICS

    I’m actually in disagreement with most vegans since I did not get into from the “don’t murder animals or exploit living creates” standpoint.

    As far as I’m concerned, mass-harvesting vegetables can be an ethical crime, and mono-crops of corn is absolutely an ethical crime.

    Many animal-free options are more detrimental to the overall eco-system of the planet than “animal exploitation.” Synthetic fabrics often create so much waste to create that they destroy acres and acres of land, whereas wool only makes sheep cold (it doesn’t destroy the entire habitat for all the plants and animals where the sheep roam).

    In that respect, I think some vegans can be a bit blind and single-minded.

    MY OWN NEEDS

    My own diet is so “radical” because I really need a full and complete detox. Emotionally, physically and spiritually I’ve been polluted a lot in my life, and I feel a strong need to keep as “clean” as possible and as “light” as possible — which means that 90% of my diet is raw fruits and raw vegetables.

    THE WORLD

    After reading four of the pages on this website, I actually agree that this diet is a good set of guidelines for a large percentage of the world population.

    Thanks for sharing.

    ~ Raederle Phoenix

    • Raederle Phoenix,

      What a pleasant share on your own perspective! Nice to focus on some of the unifying principles of disparate nutritional approaches. So often people are more focused on what divides.

      I consider myself “nominally paleo”, but am definitely averse to dogma (even if I succumb to it from time to time!). Chris’ rational, more individualized approach is more my speed.

      I came to “Paleo” sort of by default, having eliminated grains, legumes, then even squash and nuts simply by experimenting on myself after various issues that had plagued me for some years. Although I’m fairly enthusiastic about the benefits to me of an omnivorous diet that includes animal meats & fats, I have always suspected that a temporary regimen, say 1 to 2 months, of a strict vegan raw diet might provide considerable cleansing benefits that could help restore my system even further. Thoughts?
      Anyone else care to comment?
      Cheers!

      • Hi there Adlock,

        By all means, do try a raw vegan diet for a time. Even one week will provide benefits. Just make sure you get a balanced plan before you set out. Add a little sea salt to something each day (as raw foods don’t come loaded with salt) and make sure to each vegetables each day, not just fruits and fats.

        There is a ton of information about getting started and why to do so, and even nutritionally complete meal plans on my website. I invite you to check it out.

        If you have any questions, write my facebook wall. My website and my facebook are both easily findable via my name: Raederle Phoenix

        ~ Raederle

  12. Correction: it was in Cordain’s revised edition of The Paleo Diet, as well as in other of his writings, lectures and interviews that he has used the term “evolutionary template.” I mis-remembered seeing it in the original book.

  13. Hi Chris,
    I like the term “Paleo template,” but I wonder whether you’re aware that Cordain used the term “evolutionary template” in his original book, which is quite similar and maybe even better, since it isn’t restricted to the Paleolithic era (which might be relevant, since some of our species’ dietary adaptations could have occurred before or after the Paleolithic era)?

    Some might be surprised that Cordain actually called the Paleo diet “low carb” in his original book (and compared to the “typical U.S. diet” and most diet book recommendations of the time, it was) and he listed a range of 22-40% calories as carbs as representative of hunter-gatherer diets (he excluded extremely low-carb, high-fat Arctic figures as being skewed by an extreme environment that restricted plant food availability), so presumably he was OK with 22% carbs. The median of that range of around 30% is even today called low-carb by Paul Jaminet, though others would disagree. Plus, some higher-carb advocates regard Cordain’s recommendations as too dangerously low carb. The problem is that there is no agreement on what constitutes “low carb.”

    Cordain did indeed originally strongly recommend restricting saturated fat, though his tone has been moderating on that. Nora Gedgaudas and Emily Deans reported that he gave a very different message about animal fat at the Ancestral Health Symposium than he did in his first book. Unfortunately, his presentation apparently wasn’t one of the ones that was recorded. I’d like to see him move farther and become more positive about animal fats, at least wild and pastured versions that aren’t excessively heated/processed, like you, Kurt Harris, Mark Sisson, and others.

    Overall, I’ve noticed that there seems to be more agreement between the various ancestral/traditional diet factions than people seem to realize and the differences seem to be more often of degree than of kind. That’s not to say that the differences aren’t important, but it might facilitate discussion and learning if people were more aware of the areas of agreement as well as the differences.

    Love your blog and podcast.

  14. @Chris,

    A bit off topic, but I was just reading your piece on gut flora and I didn’t see an area to comment. I suspect I might have a bad gut, and want to introduce some probiotics to my diet to see if it helps. I know you recommended taro, sweet potato, and a few others… but about how often should we be consuming these things to activate a healthy gut? Daily? Couple of times a week? Any insight would be much appreciated.

    • The foods you mentioned have prebiotic properties (as starches), but you asked about probiotics. Which are you wanting to know about?

      • Well, I guess I’m just trying to experiment with is fixing (what I think is) bad gut flora. Terrible digestion currently, and have some belly fat to lose. You’d mentioned that yams and such would help… But just wondering the doses (daily?) to help trying to fix this problem of getting more good bacteria into my gut.

      • As an extra note, been doing paleo for a bit in hopes of ridding myself, once and for all, of the visceral stomach fat I’ve had since I was 8 (29 now). I just haven’t ever, ever had a flat stomach, no matter how lean I’ve become (even at 148 pounds and 5’10”). I think bad gut flora could finally be the missing piece of the puzzle to get me there.

  15. Great post. While our family hasn’t officially done the Paleo diet, we did go gluten-free because of our son’s celiac disease, and then did the GAPS diet which is very similar at it’s core. We are still on the GAPS diet about a year later, and have moved all the way through intro to the full diet.

    All of us improved our health – each in different ways. And as we introduced new foods (the GAPS diet goes through an introduction process) we found that some of us could happily eat everything, and others discovered intolerances, or a need to be extremely moderate with certain foods.

    Sticking rigidly to some principles may be necessary, especially when giving a up an addiction (like I did – to sugar) or when there are serious health consequences (like there are for my son with gluten). Outside of that, we need to be open to listening to what our bodies tell us.

    After years of being considered a hypochondriac, I am relearning what it is to trust what my body tells me about my health. The way the GAPS diet encourages people to listen to their body with each new food that is introduced, and to make decisions based on that has been very helpful to me.

    You can follow our family’s journey of healing with real food on our blog, and get an intro to our story at:
    http://theliberatedkitchenpdx.com/meet-the-liberators/our-story/
    -Joy

  16. I continue to notice an increase in my uric acid levels on a paleo diet. Dr now recommending I cut out liver, sardines, and limit beef and seafood and reduce fat intake. This goes completely against my paleo diet. I tried taking copper to better balance my iron intake but this did not help as my uric acid rose to 9.8. What do to recommend?

    • You may need to stick with lighter meat, eating more pork and poultry, which have less impact than red meats. Uric acid is a waste product of red meat metabolism, and it can put a big strain on your kidneys and liver, ending up in your joints as gout or even seeping out of your pores in the form of very itchy Uric acid crystals. It has been known to contribute to kidney stones, as well. Drink more water and watch your red meats. Be sure you are getting a lot of fruits and vegetables.

    • Observational studies are notoriously unreliable for studying this kind of question because they don’t control for confounding factors.

  17. Thanks for this accessible way to present a certain amount of dietary guidelines together with enough personal flexibility to meet individual needs. I particularly appreciate how you phrase the template as encouraging careful thinking to determine one’s own optimal diet and lifestyle. I’ve worked with several clients wanting to transition to a Paleo diet, felt inspired to try it myself, and took on a 30 day challenge. As a vegetarian, it was an interesting experience in creative cooking. I blogged about it here: http://planithealthier.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/experimenting-with-a-vegetarian-paleo-diet/. I’m still leaning towards Paleo-inspired recipes and food choices, and am happy to have found your site. Thanks!

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