Why are Cereal Grains Not Required on The Paleo Diet?

May 14, 2013

Cereal Grains | The Paleo Diet

Dear Dr. Cordain,

The reason for writing to you is I read an interesting article by you about pre historical diet and grains “The Evolutionary Discordance of Grains and Legumes in the Human Diet.

Background: I am not an academic. Until 3 years ago I lived in Asia and had a BMI of 24. On returning to the UK I have increased my body weight by about a kilo a month for 20 months. I am now doing something about it by changing my diet. My observation about my previous diet in Asia was that it contained only about 1 cup of rice per day, and no other grains; and no other processed foods with hidden grains or sugars.

It is my view based on common sense and a little reading, that grains are not natural to us. Yet, professional nutritionist friends insist that on the food pyramid we should be eating about 1/3 of our calorie intake through grains. I have contacted several academic nutritionists, and while in their academic articles they accept the pre-historical evidence that we did not eat grains, they all want to insist on the paradigm that we should be eating large amounts of grains.

Firstly, would you agree that grains are not natural in any more than marginal quantities, and have you any idea why nutritionists think we should be eating them in industrial quantities?

Thanks for your time,

Best Regards


Dr. Cordain’s Response:

Hi Russell,

Good to hear from you, and I wish you success as you adopt the Paleo diet to help  weight.  Indeed our Stone Age ancestors did not consume cereal grains, except infrequently as starvation foods.  As a species, human have no cereal grain requirement for proper nutrition, as we can obtain all required nutrients from meats, fish, seafood, poultry, fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts.  In fact  consumption of cereal grains  actually reduces the overall vitamin and mineral content of the diet because cereal grains on average are less nutrient dense for the 13 vitamins and minerals most lacking in the US diet when compared to fish, seafood, lean meat, fresh vegetables and fruits.  I have pointed this fact out in a paper I published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2005.1 Further, cereal grains contain a variety of “antinutrients” which actually adversely affect health.  I have described these effects in a paper I wrote called “Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double Edged Sword.”2 You can download and read both of these papers at the links I have provided below:

1. Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins BA, O’Keefe JH, Brand-Miller J. Origins and evolution of the western diet: Health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:341-54.

2. Cordain L, (1999). Cereal grains: humanity’s double edged sword. World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics, 84: 19-73.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

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About the Author:

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus Dr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.

11 Comments on "Why are Cereal Grains Not Required on The Paleo Diet?"

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  1. Mirza says:

    I agree but grains can be bad also because they contain lectins,phytitic acid and gluten might be also bad for us.

  2. Meh says:

    I’ve ready from professionals on historical genetics that humans have had plenty of time over the past 10,000+ years to adapt to grains. However, I do agree from a dietitian’s standpoint that many in the US consume far too many grains for their less-than-active lifestyles (and refined grains at that). Also bear in mind that there are still hunter-gatherer societies in the world today that follow their own culture – what are their practices?

  3. Grains are not that bad, you just got to know how much to eat of it. Nowadays, the average man eats too much of it to call healthy.

  4. Great work! That is the kind of information that should be shared across the internet. Disgrace on Google for now not positioning this publish higher! Come on over and visit my site . Thank you =)

  5. Bisconer says:

    Grains should be useful and good for health. But it’s interesting to read about your investigations. I guess to have the diet only on grains is not correct but combining different types of diet food will have a better result. I also heard that your 1 cup of rice is a well-used diet worldwide.

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