Moving from a "Paleo Diet" to a "Paleo Template" | Chris Kresser
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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.


Join the conversation

  1. Hey post – I learned a lot from the points , Does anyone know if my company might access a fillable a form copy to type on ?

  2. I know whatever diet you are on, you can use handy calorie counter, free app Fitatu.
    You can track your calories in easy and quick way.

  3. Ahhhh…rather than being prescriptive, a definition that empowers a person to find what works for them. I love the idea of a ‘paleo template’, Chris Kresser! I have recently been diagnosed with diverticulitis. For the last two years or so I have followed a vegetarian lifestyle. Something was definitely wrong though. I introduced fish and chicken and there was a slight improvement. Eating lean red meat one day was the clue that, as much as ethically I preferred a non meat diet, my body didn’t.
    The diverticulitis episode was a life saver! I ate a low fibre diet to help ease the inflammation and pain. I realised that while I needed fibre I needed the right kind for my body. More soluble fibre was needed in the form of fruits and vegetables plus things like chia seeds. My body also needed some insoluble fibre so I am using tubers for that. I am still eating some grain…small quantities of white rice and the occasional cheese sandwich ( favourite comfort food).

    It’s early days but I am starting to feel like my energy is returning and that this way of eating is sustainable. Part of the problem with any prescriptive eating pattern, in my experience, is that what kills it is the ‘all or nothing’ thinking that is so disempowering.

    So thank you once again Chris for the idea of a paleo template.

    here’s to your continuing well being.

  4. Posted this already thru Gmail, but it disappeared.
    If you’re supplementing a paleo (or hunter-gatherer) diet with dairy, why not just call it the “nomad diet”? After all, these are peoples also continuously on the move, enriching their diet with some hunting, fishing, picking fruit/nuts/leafy grees when available (basically scavenging as and when) and toting along only what they can carry. They’re not settled agriculturalists with access to modern cooking facilities. They differ from hunter-gatherers in that they herd animals, eg, the Masai, Kuchi or Sami, and have a regular supply of milk and milk products, as well as some meat and blood as and when they kill their animals.

  5. Hi Chris I really value your nutritional advice, although the more I dig into the grey area foods, the more reasons I find not to consume them. I believe that just because some people can tolerate a food doesn’t meant that the food is optimal for health. Especially dairy and the foods that cannot be eaten raw, from unsoaked plant based reproductive material. I’m sure fermenting, sprouting and soaking some of these foods can yield some positive results but why not do this to foods out of the grey area?

  6. Buckwheat has a grain-like consistency, but isn’t a grain at all. It’s actually a fruit seed… and it contains no gluten.
    Isn´t ?

  7. I have heard a bout people who experienced amazing result brought by using Paleo meal plan.So, if you lack time to work out and you want to rely on an effective diet plan,it is highly recommended that you try Paleo diet meal plan.If you find it hard to find most suitable diet plan, never lose hope because Paleo plan exists to help you burn more fats and get your desired body weight

  8. This is exactly why I started looking at Paleo. My doctor said she thought my body can’t process grains, so just stay away from them. I felt I needed a framework to help me. Paleo worked very well for me because I LOVE meats. Most people say they would have a hard time giving up pastas but when they put you in great pain, it’s a wonderful incentive 🙂 However, when I got down to 108 pounds from 132 pounds, my legs felt extremely weak and even wobbly. I realized something was missing so I added potatoes back in and that seemed to cure it. But I also have to be careful because I find it’s easy to go from 1-2 servings a week to suddenly realizing I’m having them almost every night, and they can cause stomach pain when I have too much. By the way, my cholesterol went from 257 to 193 on Paleo. So ha ha to the doctor I left because she said, “The only reason I don’t MAKE you go on statins is because you don’t want them.” MAKE me?! I don’t think so, lol.

    • Hold on! First week is tough. Eat more salt. Try to add half a tsp to a glass of water and drink it all. You’ll see that you feel better with each day.

    • Buy a powdered electrolyte supplement from the pharmacy or a health food store. I live in Australia and I use Endura Rehydrate Extremely Low Carb. When you’re detoxing from carbs, your body sheds lots of water. You’ll probably find you’re having headaches and waking up several times a night to urinate (if you’re sleeping properly). You need to replace the electrolytes you’re losing from that. It includes sodium (salt), potassium and magnesium. I would’ve suffered so much more without the electrolytes supplement.

  9. Excellent post and thoughtful responses. Yet, I’m still struggling with what I ‘should’ and ‘should not’ eat, for the simple reason that I like all food (except brussel sprouts and fluffy white bread) and don’t seem to have an adverse reaction to any of it. No allergic reactions, no bowel irritation. As Ben said, no catastrophic response, so I remain blind. All nuts, grains, pasta, and beans go down with ease and in my case, I feel great. And yet, most of these foods are bad because they contain anti-nutrients. The research, especially on lectins, seems to support this conclusion, but if one’s body is not or does not appear to be adversely affected, what’s a person to do? My blood tests are fine and my weight is fine, so why shouldn’t I continue eating spaghetti carbonara made with local, organically grown produce?

    • Honestly, if you’re feeling good, why not just go on eating as you have? It’s not as if you’re eating the typical American HFCS diet. The Mediterranean island diet is the only diet that has been shown in a large controlled study to reduce all-cause mortality and while you don’t give details you may be reasonably close to that. Olive oil, red wine, and fish are consistent with the type of food you’re eating and while none are paleo they appear to contribute to longevity. Avoid added sugars/fruit juice, trans fats, preserved meats, and oxidized fats and cholesterol (as in frying, canning, dried milk, additives), eat your veggies, and you’re probably 90% of the way to an ideal diet.

        • CK, you are right about fish. Not, I think, olive oil and red wine, which to the best of my knowledge were not eaten by our paleolithic ancestors.

  10. How do you feel about sprouted sorghum for someone without gastric distress or a gluten intolerance? I am more on a crusade to discover a pathway to lifelong health then I am trying to remedy any present maladies by changing my dietary choices. I really enjoy the taste of sorghum, and when sprouted, it seems to be fairly innocuous. I won’t touch wheat because I feel there is ample research to conclude it’s not by any means a ‘health-food’, but from my research, it seems some African civilizations have lived relatively disease free lives with sorghum being a staple food.

  11. I love this article. I couldn’t agree more with your philosophy. The paleo lifestyle is a template. Listen to your body and remove the foods that your body does not respond well to. Well said Chris.

  12. Wow – is diet the new religion? Seems so many people are closed minded & want their way to be the only way, that attitude has not done us any favours to date.

    Some thoughts:

    Reading all these posts I notice that many talk about eating this or that, pros & cons, but don’t mention how these foods are produced or grown.

    Unless you grow your own or buy from organic sources you can trust, you don’t know what is in your food. Much of the ‘fresh’ fruit/vegetables available are dead foods as they are often months or even years old – kept in cold storage. Many are selected strains (often with reduced nutrition) modified to look perfect because consumers won’t buy a blemished apple or a misshapen tomato that won’t look fresh for long on the supermarket shelves. Many contain high levels of pesticide/herbicide residue as well, so eating those could be triggers for health issues & not the food itself?

    This site has interesting stats for normal v’s organic produce

    Having all fruits & vegetables available all year isn’t a natural way to eat if you want to eat in a ‘Paleoesque’ way either. Apples & pears ripen in Autumn as do most berries, so eating them all year isn’t what ancient people did.

    Add to that the strains of fruits & vegetables available in ancient times were less sweet & smaller than modern cultivars, which means less sugar in the fruits/veg consumed. So one apple today may well be the equivalent of 4 apples in ancient times?

    I think there is something that is being missed by all the promoters of eating styles, the benefits of eating live food straight from the plant or animal.

    We have a small farm in a reasonably unpolluted part of rural Australia & we grow our own organic fruits & vegetables. I have experienced often a ‘zing’ or slight ‘buzz’ on the tongue when eating something I picked directly from a plant. Maybe our ancient ancestors were benefitting from optimal nutrients that helped ward of illness because they were often eating truly fresh ‘live’ foods?

    Plus add to that the exercise they gained daily in their search for these foods. Lots of walking probably combined with short bursts of running, either to catch animals to eat or to avoid being eaten. We often walk a short distance to our fridge to eat our aged foods, even I only have to walk about 100 feet to my apple trees to pick an apple, not walk miles every day.

    It seems the benefits from this type of exercise are now becoming better understood & why HIT – interval training is showing more health benefits than aerobic exercise at a steady pace does.

    In addition if you imagine yourself as a hunter gatherer, during the Winter months especially in areas of Winter snow, it’s probably fair to say many hunter gatherers in the Northern Hemisphere were living almost solely on animal protein/fat, plus some carbs from plant roots or vegetables that last (like pumpkins) during Winter. They would have probably been in ketosis much of the time, burning off the fats laid down in the previous months of abundance when they burned glucose as the fuel source. The body can switch between fuel sources & doing so is probably more in keeping with the natural available food cycles of ancient times?

    Birds don’t lay eggs in Winter, but eggs would be commonly available & probably easier to get in Spring as would meat due to young animals being born who are easy prey. Birds are on every continent (even the Arctic/Antarctic) so it seems logical eggs would form part of any ancient diet?

    Then in Summer you get abundant vegetables & some fruits like melons before you move on to Autumn & get more fruit again to fatten up for the hard Winter ahead, the cycle continues.

    Consider even a basic like water- if it’s from BPA plastic bottles you may be consuming more than you think, is it filled with fluoride for your ‘health’, is the piping it runs through old lead pipes? We drink & bathe in rain water from our own tanks, easy for anyone to do nowadays with the new thin under eaves water ranks available (filter for toxins though if you live in suburbia or a city).

    Milk was available for some ancient peoples like the horse owning nomads mentioned & also for the Bedouin for whom camel milk has been a staple for thousands of years, but it differs in many ways from cows milk.

    Here in Australia they promote a cows milk called A2, this is a milk from cows that only produce a milk with a certain type of protein which is claimed to be better for digestion. It is said this is the type of milk ancient cattle produced, but we humans have selectively bred for cattle that also or exclusively produce the A1 type protein which they claim causes gut issues. If this is correct – then maybe the whole dairy debate needs to be reconsidered?? The mainstream dairy industry doesn’t agree – but they have a business to protect so we need to consider all views & try things ourselves to see if it makes a difference.

    This blog post give a good explanation of how it all works

    Is there something similar in the UK or USA? If so, it may be worth a try for those with milk intolerance? We know wheat isn’t the same as ancient wheat so the issues with modern dairy for some, may be due to similar human tampering for commercial gains?

    Some other additional diet items like honey would be irregular for some, but more easily obtained for native Australian aboriginals for example, as the Australian native bee is stingless.

    It all depends where in the world you live, ancient Britains wouldn’t be eating watermelon or tomatoes, & Pacific islanders would not be eating beef or rabbit, but eggs, birds, fish & coconuts etc.

    Most islander people were shown just like the Maori mentioned to be in optimal health on a diet rich in natural foods, & high in good fats, especially coconut based. But after the introduction of the Western diet these people have developed all the same issues as those in on western diets.

    In our modern world Americans have problems finding grass fed beef or dairy, but In Australia grain fed is rare with grass fed being normal. So what may be considered a bad food in one place could be a good one in another.

    I find the attitude of defining a paleo diet as being any set thing rather ridiculous & Chris your approach makes common sense.

    My husband & I are both middle aged & would by most standards be considered a healthy weigh, fairly trim. We have been slowly over several years refining our already reasonably ‘healthy’ by Western standards diet to be closer to dare I describe it as ‘Paleo’.

    I prefer to eat a little bit of this or that without too much of one thing. I have mostly removed grains from my diet, eat some dairy, eggs, grass fed meat, Australian grown salmon from Tasmania’s clean waters, home grown fruit/veg were possible or organic.

    Recently started eating Konjac vegetable ‘pasta’ which is apparently a good source of pre biotics & low carb/ low calorie so also good for those needing to lose weight. I made sure it came from a clean source, not from Japan whose recent nuclear issues are cause for concern for food production.

    I don’t know what the perfect diet for me is yet but I just keep researching & mostly eliminating foods that are obviously not healthy for my body (vegetable oils, grains), eating in moderation some that are natural but not wise to consume a lot of (honey for example), & the base of my intake comes from protein, good fats (olive, coconut oil, some animal fats), vegetables, a variety of tree nuts & a small amount of fruit.

    I still indulge in dark chocolate occasionally & homemade cakes/sweets made without grains a little, but considering that is the only sugar I get in my diet (I drink water, no juice or soft drinks (soda) ), then it’s a very small intake that I’m willing to live with.

    I tried some of the Stevia/mixes promoted by some in the world of keto diets for example but believe this upset my stomach (cramps), so just use honey or very small amounts of sugar now & again.

    I have to live in this world, not the Paleolthic era, & we are still evolving to some degree so we may not be 100% the same as people in Paleo times. I don’t for example eliminate wheat 100%, just 99% as I have heard of people becoming extremely reactive to it if they have not had any at all for some time. I don’t what to have some severe reaction eating out at a restaurant for example because they used flour to thicken a sauce! I would point out I never had any major issues with gluten, so for me this works.

    I’m a realist not a zealot, overall lifestyle balance is more important to me & I find it odd that some will be extreme in eliminating every bit of ‘negative’ food from their diet, but happily live in a smog ridden city environment, have a coffee on the sidewalk as 1000’s of cars drive past just a few feet away pumping out exhaust from petro chemicals.

    Others rigorously avoid sugar in all forms but happily eat celery that can in some places be sprayed with up to 29 types of pesticides without ever questioning how it was grown, or eat grain fed beef that is known to be less healthy than grass fed.

    Recently I found a nice herbal tea that I really enjoyed, but found out (after asking the manufacturer) that the cinnamon used in it (38%) was Cassia cinnamon which has been shown to contain the natural toxin coumarin that can cause liver damage & was carcinogenic in rats. The true or Ceylon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum or Cinnamomum zeylanicum) has little of this toxin & has the health properties people take cinnamon for, yet how many consume cinnamon & don’t even know what type it is?
    The cinnamon available in most supermarket spice racks is Cassia – basically if it doesn’t state the type it’s Cassia.

    Ask questions & do your own research is my approach. take responsibility for your own health & don’t rely on others to define what is healthy for you.

    Sure, it takes longer to shop when you read every label & I find Australian labels much more informative than American ones. (imported products from the US have to have a more detailed contents sticker added for Australia). But it is worth knowing what you are actually eating, the amount of hidden sugars, omega 6 oils, misleading ingredients, chemicals & wheat hidden in even basic foods never ceases to astound me.

    My overall point being that don’t get so consumed by which food group on some ‘diet’ type is listed as being acceptable & totally miss the big picture.

    All food for thought. 🙂

    • It seems to me that while most of what you say is true, but then, perfect is the enemy of good. Not all of us can move to the bush and have our own farms, I try to eat organic produce when i can, get grass fed beef when I can, order wild Alaskan salmon. I avoid processed food. But for the reasons you mentioned, I can’t eat or work the way our ancestors did. Hunger-gatherers walk many miles per day, and current theory suggests that men were long distance runners. I can try to get exercise and get out of my chair, but modern life sets practical limits.

      On the other hand, merely avoiding processed food and getting exercise provides huge health benefits. Our ancestors ate a wide variety of diets and filled a wide variety of niches, and they prospered in many of them. We’re pretty adaptable. i like to think that we have to dot every “i” and cross ever “t” to enjoy good health.

      BTW, interesting what you said about wheat. I’ve noticed that myself. Wheat gives me irritable bowel, something I didn’t discover until I tried paleo and cut it out — I’d suffered with this for years but no one had ever been able to diagnose it. It’s what they now call non-celiac wheat sensitivity and the latest thinking is that it isn’t a reaction to gluten at all, but something else in the wheat. Anyway, I’ve found that if I avoid wheat entirely, it does really hit me when I do eat wheat, as you say. Whereas if I eat a bit of it periodically, it’s much less severe.

  13. I have a question for Chris, or anyone else who wishes to answer. I am very curious about the whole Paleo diet and the belief system behind it that what our ancestors ate is the right way to eat? Where did this evidence come from? I can agree with the current scientific observations on what food does to the body and determine from there what is healthy and what is not, based on controlled clinical studies and scientific discoveries. But from what I read about our early ancestors, it was kind of touch and go. Food was often scarce and they basically ate what was available. They had no built in detector telling them what was healthy and what wasn’t. It was trial and error and in some cases they died from poisonous foods and that’s how they learned. But as far as eating healthy or correctly, I don’t see any evidence of that. What they ate was what was accessible to them regardless of whether in the long term it was healthy or not. And in some cases, food was very limited and sparodic and so they migrated where food was more plentiful. IOW it was the quantity and the attainability – and convenience – of obtainable food that determined what early peoples ate, not what was necessarily in the long term healthier.

    • That’s a fair question. I think the primary empirical evidence is that numerous observations of hunter-gatherers showed that the have extremely low rates of the “diseases of civilization” — heart disease, stroke, obesity, type II diabetes, etc. — even when they live into old age (when they do die, it is infection, accident, violence, and the like). And this isn’t genetic, since the same people develop these diseases when they immigrate to western countries or adopt a western lifestyle. In addition, the fossil record suggests that pre-agricultural people had greater stature than their post-agricultural successors.

      By the way, hunter-gatherers don’t typically live with the food scarcity or periodic famine that most imagine. That for the most part came about with primitive agriculture. When times are tough, they switch to less desirable seasonal foods.

      In one remarkable experiment, Australian Aborigines who were suffering from the diseases of civilization went back to live temporarily in the bush, and experienced a dramatic improvement in health.

      There are also theoretical reasons, beginning with the evolutionary argument — that these are the diets our species evolved to eat, and that only limited adaptation has occurred in the 10,000 years since agriculture appeared. And there are nutritional theories, observations of for example blood chemistry, and studies, which unfortunately are still small-scale and limited.

      Last but definitely not least, when people try eating that way, they quickly discover that it benefits them, sometimes spectacularly — e.g., reports of spectacular weight loss without calorie counting (I’m one of those who experienced it).

      It’s covered in greater detail in some excellent books that are available but I think that’s the gist of it.

      • I agree that the essence of the paleo diet is healthy. No doubt. I am on it. And the science shows that it’s healthier but what I am saying is that our ancestors didn’t know it was healthy. They ate what was available. I think a lot of the foods we eat now that are considered unhealthy are due in large part to it being so tainted by all the additives, preservatives, hormones, antibioltics and an unregulated food industry – and the flour mill. I’ve heard of people not reacting to the wheat they eat in Europe but are intolerant to it here in the states.

        • I think you’re right about what’s wrong with the food we eat today, and would add some other things to the list, such as oxidized cholesterol, high omega 6 vegetable oils, fatty grain-fed meat, and sugars in everything.

          But I think you’re underestimating the power both of dietary culture. Primitive people are far more sophisticated in their food choices than one might think. Arguably, more sophisticated than we are, since they don’t change their diets in the name of scientific evidence that turns out to be wrong, like the advice to eat trans fats or replace saturated fat with carbs. Rather, they develop a remarkably elaborate knowledge of food availability and quality. And generally, they subsist on fruits, nuts, vegetables, meat, insects, fowl, eggs, fish, wild honey, roots and tubers that are traditionally eaten and therefore known to be safe. And they instinctively and culturally eat these things so as to get the right nutrients. Then the specific foods don’t much matter.

          Google the Hadza, among the few surviving hunter-gatherers, and check out the studies of what they eat, and how they choose it, and their fallback foods — e.g., tubers when more favored foods are scarce. Anyone would be healthy on such a diet. Also note what they say about becoming farmers, as some of their compatriots have. They know they will be forced to as their lands are taken, but as things currently stand, they have much better food security. Indeed, they tell of some farmers having joined them when food was scarce.

          I think you have to give credit to evolution. As opportunistic omnivores, we’re well suited to a broad range of foods.

          That isn’t to say that every hunter-gatherer chose an ideal combination of foods, or could. We can’t either, since we don’t know what it is and it probably differs anyway depending on genetics. But the available evidence suggests that for the most part, hunter gatherers chose wisely. At any rate, you won’t find hunter-gatherers with beer bellies and rotten teeth.

        • Monsanto and Round Up. It is banned in Europe, but it and it’s pre-treatments to grain endosperms prior to planting are pretty widely used in the states. It is almost always on wheat, corn, and soy, which are in pretty much everything here. I am not 100% sure about other crops. There is a specific disease process that is the result of toxic levels in the body, and it manifests very similarly to Lyme disease, so it is often misdiagnosed. I will butcher the name of it, but it is basically Round-Up toxicity. Frightening, but that could be why people tolerate grains better in other countries.

      • Exactly. What seems to be the case regarding the changes in health and figure is the life style in a broader sense and not just just diet, right?
        Human beings like any other mamal and non mamal species were not supposed to stay sitting in front of a computer or desk all the time…We are supposed to stay outdoors and walk everyday or so our ancestors thought…

        • Yes, definitely. So much of what we’re told to do via diet and exercise is just an attempt to move us closer to the behaviors of our ancestors. Hunter-gatherers walked amazing distances and it’s been said that we are exquisitely adapted to long-distance endurance running as well. How often did our ancestors sit the way we do? I imagine only on rare occasions, e.g., when they were sitting on a rocky outcropping. For the most part, they stood, crouched, lay down, sat on the ground. And of course they had different emotional experiences than we do, received enough sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, etc.

  14. Great post here Chris. i have been on the paleo regimen, however, I agree WHOLEHEARTEDLY to what you base your principle of a PALEO TEMPLATE. As to what Bruce Lee did to JKD, you have done so with paleo.

    My journey to swtiching to paleo is based on a choice for health reasons since I am a professional culinarian and throughout the years, i have come to realize that eating SIMPLY & CLEAN, which to me is based on my own research is to have the purity of the foods SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES….minimal cooking, but never SACRIFICING FLAVOR.

    So it will be coming to 2 years since switching over to Paleo, and I have lost over 20# to date, simply by following a guideline, but not set in stone. I am weaning mysel away from certain grains but not all as i do monitor what happens on certain food products that does give me a certain reaction and then make a note o fit to stay and then progress to others that i feel will help me in my journey towards optimal health. Incorporating more dark green and brightly colored produce & fruits, the inclusion of green smoothies has been of IMMENSE BENEFITS, the addition of integrating organic produced SUPERFOODS like hemp protein powder, chia seeds, spirulina, chlorella, has given me more energy boost throughout the day when i was in my 20s & 30s.

    Keep up the great work Chris! PALEO TEMPLATE FOR LIFE!

  15. Yes…This is a great idea…JUST EAT REAL FOOD…We live in a great time of discovery of the root cause of disease… The key to a good paleo diet is bypassing metabolic weakness… Think about it…
    A paleo gene diet? It costs 100.00 bucks to have the 23 me testing done on your genes.
    The key is to by pass the weak link with food and supplements.Its all about methylation..Check it out…you have the testing done you have a CBS mutation. You can not eat a high protein diet…Also sulfur veggie with bother you…You will need to bypass the CBS mutation with food… This give you the power to prevent disease. This will be where paleo meets the modern world of customized diet… based on your metabolic weakness..THE PALEO G DIET.

  16. YES– I agree with you on the “TEMPLATE” — I myself don’t prescribe diets to my clients – I think following one very calculated diest can be quite unneccesarry, boring, therefore very easy for clients to just ignore- instead I give out “PRINCIPLES” or templates in this case.
    Templates and principles are easier to remember and are much more simple but the value it serves stays the same as to giving out a STRICT diet!
    Cheers man

  17. Hi, Great article and blog!

    I was wondering what the paleo-centric consensus on using honey as a sweetener is?

    Ancient peoples certainly could find beehives and could break off pieces of honeycomb to consume some of the sweet nectar inside! Granted, they probably didn’t eat it all the time, but they must have found some from time to time, and braved being stung to get at the sweet substance.

    Honey also is an interesting food in that it never goes bad, and also has antibacterial properties.


  18. You may be interested to know that a Scientific American article which bashes a strawman “half-baked” Paleo Diet links to this blog post.
    “Some Paleo dieters emphasize that they never believed in one true caveman lifestyle or diet and that—in the fashion of Sisson’s Blueprint—they use our evolutionary past to form guidelines, not scripture. That strategy seems reasonably solid at first, but quickly disintegrates. Even though researchers know enough to make some generalizations about human diets in the Paleolithic with reasonable certainty, the details remain murky. Exactly what proportions of meat and vegetables did different hominid species eat in the Paleolithic? It’s not clear. Just how far back were our ancestors eating grains and dairy? Perhaps far earlier than we initially thought. What we can say for certain is that in the Paleolithic, the human diet varied immensely by geography, season and opportunity. “We now know that humans have evolved not to subsist on a single, Paleolithic diet but to be flexible eaters, an insight that has important implications for the current debate over what people today should eat in order to be healthy,” anthropologist William Leonard of Northwestern University wrote in Scientific American in 2002.”

    • A disappointing article. The author misses many major points, e.g., the fact that a) *none* of the mummies in that study were paleo-style hunter gatherers; they were agriculturalists or neolithic-style arctic hunter-gatherers who eat an extreme diet; that b) they had only half the rate of atherosclerosis of other groups anyway; and c) that — and this may be the most interesting finding of this and similar research — atherosclerosis does not necessarily equate to heart disease, e.g., the Masai develop atherosclerosis but interestingly their blood vessels expand to maintain blood flow and they have few of the lesions that cause heart attacks.

      That’s just one example of the superficial knowledge he brings to bear on this this issue. Another would be his belief that a paleo diet is low in nutritional substances like calcium that can somehow only be provided by modern foods.

      He does make some valid points, e.g, that some adaptation has occurred in the genome — lactose intolerance or the extra starch-digestion genes common in East Asia — and that this has to be taken into account in tailoring a personal diet. But he doesn’t seem to understand the difference between adaptation that occurs rapidly because of very high selection value and adaptation that occurs only gradually. Genes that affect the primary nutrition of young reproducers will be in the former category, but genes that cause only incremental mortality in elderly non-reproducers have little selection pressure and will change only gradually. Again, a point he would understand if he had actually done some reading.

      He makes even more basic mistakes, e.g., equating the short life of hunter-gatherers to dietary flaws — he doesn’t understand the elementary difference between diseases of civilization or affluence and diseases of poverty, typically infectious diseases and parasites. He also, curiously, complains about the parasite load of hunter-gatherers. What, exactly, does this have to do with diet, as opposed to hook worm larvae crawling entering the soles of your feet? However, had he looked into it, he would have found that some parasitic infections appear to *decrease* blood cholesterol and, in laboratory animals, atherosclerosis.

      Also, even though he gives lip service to the evolutionary argument, he believes that a wide range of prehistoric diets is incompatible with the notion that the paleo diet can be beneficial. He doesn’t seem to understand that evolution could have accommodated a wide dietary window and that it is only when we (or for that matter, our ancestors) stepped outside of that genetic window that diet-related illness occurs. Even though that seems a very obvious concept, e.g., a sailor who eats two oranges a day will be healthy and a sailor who eats three oranges a day but a sailor who gets no vitamin C whatsoever will develop scurvy.

      So, basically, what could have been an interesting discussion (since he does raise some interesting and as far as I can tell unresolved issues) turns into an attack that founders due to lack of knowledge.

      • Lack of knowledge? Study the methylation cycle , run the lab testing on your self , get the gene testing done. We have detrimental DNA damage. We are living in a toxic world and just eating healthy will not fix this. The paleo diet is a good place to start ( . )

      • A note on calcium….. We don’t need nearly as much as we think we do. When you eliminate grains and other foods that create an acidic ph level, our bodies don’t access the calcium in bones, thus preserving bone density. Additionally, the modern Western diet is very low in magnesium and some other minerals. Our bodies cannot uptake calcium without magnesium, so when they are not nearly equal, calcium is not stored in the bones. This results in elevated blood calcium levels, which if not buffered by magnesium, increases the risk for heart disease by overstimulating calcium receptors in the muscles, including cardiac muscles. So, the nearly equal ratio of calcium to magnesium is far more important that the quantity. And magnesium is not well absorbed in the GI system. It is better to get it through the skin, like in epsom salt soaks.

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