The Paleolithic diet, although it seems to be a recent phenomenon, was promoted in the mid-1970s by gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin – and by generations of cave me before him.
The part of the Paleolithic Era in which humans lived spanned a time period from about 2.6 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago. It was a period during which Homo habilis foraged, hunted and ate, gradually changing to become full-blown Homo erectus at about -1.8 million years. By -500,000 years, that human model had morphed to Homo sapiens neanderthalis; and these people were bred out and killed off by Homo sapiens sapiens, who must have occurred about the same time in order to have been able to do so. During these eons when our ancestors changed so much, we can only logically conclude that the life forms they used for food changed a great deal, as well. Therefore, anything we call a ‘paleolithic diet’ is, in fact, going to be a modern approximation of what was eaten by Homo anybody, in all permutations, over the last 2.5 million years.
Meat, vegetable matter, seeds, and fruits were the staples of human-type creatures up to the dawn of agricultural 10,000 years ago. The meat was largely grass-fed, unless it was derived from aquatic animals or birds, or fruit-eating animals such as monkeys and bats; the vegetables, fruits, and seeds were, on the whole, smaller than their modern counterparts; and no dairy products were eaten because the forbearers of the animals we milk today were killed and eaten before they were milked.
The modern equivalent of the diet is straightforward: eat meat from grass-fed animals,fish & other sea foods, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts and seeds, and healthful oils (and there is much controversy as to which ones are healthy and which are not). At the same time, avoid cereal grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, and salt: these were not part of our ancestral bill of fare. There is a low-carb version of the paleo diet containing only 23% carbohydrates and a higher carbohydrate version which allows for a significant consumption of root vegetables. Theoretically, with a very minimal dietary change we remove the foods that are at odds with our health and increase our intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
A diet of very lean, pure meat and untainted wild plants would probably benefit anyone who could achieve it but to duplicate the diet with modern equivalencies will be difficult. Since the agricultural and industrial revolutions, our foods have become increasingly produced by intensive measures, increasingly refined, and increasingly fatty, salty, and sugary. This makes the glycemic load, fatty acid composition, micronutrient composition and density, acid-base balance, sodium-potassium ratio, and fiber content of our diet vastly different from that of our ancestors.
The following group of bullets I have taken from the web on multiple sites. Should the original author request I take them down, I will gladly comply. For now, however, I think they are helpful to this article.
The Paleolithic Diet provides the following:
The underpinning premise of the paleolithic diet is that modern human beings have remained, for the most part, genetically unchanged since the dawn of agriculture and that genetically, we are predisposed to a pre-agriculture diet. This supposition is supported by the observation that modern human populations that have diets similar to pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers are largely free of ailments that plague populations that enjoy the diets afforded by agriculture.
I quote S. Boyd Eaton (whom you may Google if you would like to know who he is): "We are the heirs of inherited characteristics accrued over millions of years; the vast majority of our biochemistry and physiology are tuned to life conditions that existed before the advent of agriculture some 10,000 years ago. Genetically our bodies are virtually the same as they were at the end of the Paleolithic era some 20,000 years ago."
It must be noted that researchers acknowledge that our ancestors engaged in levels of physical activity inherent to maintaining life in paleolithic times that we don’t necessarily engage in on a daily basis now. It is hypothesized that the genes that are so well attuned to a paleolithic diet are also attuned to the exercise thresholds that it took to obtain food for that diet. The human metabolic process evolved with the requirement of physical activity-rest cycles that are no longer our daily patterns in contemporary times. Prolonged endurance hunting activity may have been the dictating condition; or short, high-burst energy expenditure may have been required. I would anticipate that the type of game to be hunted in an area would determine which physiological facility was capitalized on. Whatever type of energy expenditure was genetically ensured, we don’t do either much today: we are, by and large, “sedentary.” Hence, modern humans have more body fat and less lean muscle than our hunter-gatherer ancestors, hence more problems like insulin resistance. Eaton’s conjecture was that ancestral humans expended one third of their caloric intake on physical activity in an average of 60 minutes per day of moderate-intensity exercise. I don’t get that much exercise; do you?
The paleolithic diet has met with controversy. Some argue against the basic genetic premise for it. Others point out that it could potentially pose health risks, mostly due to cholesterol. The lack of evidence of civilized diseases in pre-agricultural populations, both contemporarily and archeologically, could be attributed to shorter life spans for these people, or simply reduced (from modern standards) caloric intake rather than from the diet, itself.