Paleo Questions 101

Paleo Questions 101 | The Paleo Diet

I am not yet on the Paleo diet, though I would really like to be. I do not doubt the validity of the science or the biology that leads to the Paleolithic diet being so successful. However, living in the Western world means that just about everything has dairy and grains in it, along with unhealthy refined carbohydrates and trans fatty acids, therefore the most logical and reliable way to get a healthy Paleo diet is to buy the basic organic ingredients and make meals from them oneself.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what the correct proportions of the food groups for a well-balanced Paleo diet are; i.e. how much fruit and vegetables compared with lean meat compared with nuts and seeds compared with fish, etc?

I also wanted to ask about the sorts of foods that should be eaten instead of grains and dairy. Although I am aware that calcium uptake is based on many factors besides just calcium intake, what is the source of calcium in the diet? Fish bones and the like? For grains, what should we eat instead for those meals: I know it has been said that vegetables of some kind (or fruit) should be eaten with every meal, but what does that make breakfast and lunch besides a pile of vegetables?

What else do we eat with them?

With this increase in fruit and veg consumption (about how many portions per day do you recommend?), how do we prevent ourselves getting massive diarrhea? I personally had one point in my life where I was eating over 30 portions of fruit and five portions of veg per day. Is this too much, perhaps even to the point of being unhealthy?

Furthermore, with this increase in meat and seafood consumption, even with the reduction in grain and dairy production, will not an increased percentage of Paleo dieters hasten the trends of soil erosion and landscape damage due to the increase quantity of land required for farming to feed people?

Finally, with increased individual meat consumption, would not the risk of things like gout increase? Would it not at least potentially be risking the same health problems and complications of the Atkin’s Diet?

Thank you for your help.

Dr. Cordain’s Response:

Regarding the optimal proportion of fruits, vegetables, grass produced or free ranging meats and seafood there’s not a consensus. Some studies made by Dr. Cordain et al. have shown plant to animal ratio ranges from 35:65 to 65:35 percent. This depends on latitude, season, climate, culture, etc. However, all ancestral diets shared key characteristics. Food sources were limited to unprocessed plants for ages, and unprocessed land and marine animals hunted from the proximate environment. We believe that the most common pattern was 30-35% protein (40% is the toxic ceiling), 30% fats and 40% carbohydrates. This means that lunch and dinner are based on grass produced or free ranging meats or seafood and vegetables. Breakfast could be an opportunity to eat fruits, nuts, eggs or even vegetables and protein (turkey breast). Fruits and nuts are good options for snacks.

Grains and dairy are nutritionally poor when compared to fruits, vegetables, seafood and grass produced or free ranging meats. So, grains and dairy have no natural substitute. Milk and grains are usually eaten with breakfast, and I’ve provided some ideas for breakfast. In our published research section on our website you can download Dr. Cordain’s scientific paper regarding grains titled: Cereal grains: humanity’s double edged sword.

Broccoli, cauliflower, kale and all green leaves are good calcium sources without the problematic issues that dairy has: they increase metabolic acidity which leads to bone calcium loss.

Yes, too much fruit consumption is not the healthiest choice. High fructose intake is related to many metabolic diseases, especially obesity. Diarrhea is usually associated to fructose intolerance.

So, one doesn’t have to precisely count caloric intake from protein, fats and carbohydrates as long as you combine seafood and grass produced or free ranging meats with vegetables in meals and use fruits and nuts as breakfast and snack options.

Regarding gout: gout is considered part of a metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance is at the root of gout illness. Along these lines, gout is rare among pre-agricultural populations (Hunter-gatherers). Serum uric acid levels depends on the amount entering the bloodstream and the amount leaving the bloodstream. The amount of uric acid entering the bloodstream depends on the amount of it produced by the liver (1/3 from diet and 2/3 from body turn-over of cells). The amount of uric acid leaving the bloodstream depends on the kidneys’ excretion capacity. The metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance induce kidney underexcretion of uric acid. On the other hand, when the kidney is faced with high protein purine-containing foods, serum uric acid levels decrease because the kidney increases uric acid excretion (this is an evolutionary trade-off).

So, the real problem is increased liver production of uric acid and kidney uric acid underexcretion. High glycemic load foods (as found in the typical Western diet and not in The Paleo Diet), and subsequent hyperinsulinemia halts the kidney capacity to excrete uric acid. Regarding liver production of uric acid: fructose–and particularly High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)–decreases inorganic phosphate in the liver, and this increases the production of uric acid from purines.

The Paleo Diet helps to fight gout as it is based on low-glycemic load foods, high protein, and no HCFS foods.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. 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.

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“4” Comments

  1. … it turns to be an issue of finding an environmentally-responsible producer of organic eggs – or even taking charge of growing part of your food and beginning your own home production.A well managed chicken coop can yield much more protein per area, and at a daily basis, than a beef pasture. Indeed, most of the chicken’s food can be produced in the very coop and its surroundings when planted with fast-growing bug-friendly green species (weeds are great for this). An intelligent division of the coop in plots for rotating chickens through them helps too, as it allows that some amount of greens is always at the proper stage for feeding the animals (meanwhile, the other plots will be at different stages of growth). Their feeding can be supplemented with kitchen scraps. And as an eventual bonus, now and then such a coop will also yield some antibiotics-free chicken meat.(A search on the web for “permaculture chicken coops” will return innumerable potential sources of original and useful ideas for such a design.)

  2. Mr. French:Virtually all grains contain harmful substances namely lectins, alkylresorcinols, alpha-amylase inhibitors and protease inhibitors, independent of whether or not they are refined or whole grains. However, we believe that rice is probably the less harmful grain and wheat, barley, rye and maize the worst ones. Regarding your second question, goat cheese is still a dairy product. Cow milk proteins are well studied and have been consistently demonstrated to be harmful to humans, but there’s not enough literature to scientifically demonstrate that dairy products derived from goats have the same deleterious health effects. We think that because goat milk contain proteins from a different species it may have immunity stimulating proteins, and may therefore increase the risk of allergies or autoimmune diseases.

  3. Dear Sir/Madame,Firstly I would like to say that this diet has done me many good, eventhough I’m quite healthy. I feel very good, much better than on my previous grain and dairy loaded diet. As if my mind is clearer and ‘lighter’ and have lost foodcravings wich I used to have for fatty foods. So many thanks to the researchers!I would also like to react to the answer of the second question in this Q&A.I haven’t found an answer in this post to the following wich I believe is also of quite a moral significance. It has partially been answered in previous posts though wich wrote about sweet potatoes being a better choice of carbohydrates than ‘regular’ ones instead of meat(?). But here is the part:”Furthermore, with this increase in meat and seafood consumption, even with the reduction in grain and dairy production, will not an increased percentage of Paleo dieters hasten the trends of soil erosion and landscape damage due to the increase quantity of land required for farming to feed people?”I think this is an important question. And a question formulated differently would be: How can we eat ‘as paleo as we can’ without being irresponsible to the enviroment? And apart from the enviroment, adding certain (for example) carb sources could cut costs. As a student and relatively enviromentally conscious person I would love to see some more information on that so it is even better suited to this day and certain situations.Many thanks. And I hope you can be tolerant since English is not my native language. ;-)Yours Sincerely,Edwin Wiebes

  4. Ok, so I am just starting the diet and have just a few questions. I know processed grain/rice is a no but what about wild rice? I’m from Minnesota and my dad and I harvest our own rice from wild patches that grow in lakes. The rice is just then shaken and boiled and not processed so would this be an acceptable food?Second question: my friend is the one who started me on this diet and she said that the only cheese that is OK is goat cheese. I know goat cheese is still dairy so I just wanted to confirm that it’s a no-go and also if there are any cheese or cheese like substitutes.

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