What to eat comes down to a few simple principles that you should use to consider whether a type of food deserves to be put in your mouth.
- Eat foods that we are genetically programmed for. The cells in our body have been genetically selected to thrive on nutrients from the environment over the last 1.5 Billion years (since they first gained mitochondria). This is really the “catch-all” approach to eating, but we will expand further in the next few points. (more details)
- Our genetic makeup has had little time (in evolutionary scale) to adapt to the changed nutrient environment since farming was introduced about 10 thousand years ago. Most of us are ill-adapted to modern foods.
- There is strong evidence that pre-farming humans (hunter-gatherers) were significantly healthier than farming communities.
- While most modern food won’t kill you immediately, prolonged consumption over years will cause damage at the cellular level that will eventually manifest in the modern diseases of heart-disease, Type-2 diabetes, dementia and cancer that we see today.
- Eat a low-carbohydrate diet by largely eliminating sugars and starches. Eat only low carbohydrate foods and aim to get your sugar and starch intake as low as possible and ideally below 50 grams per day. (more details)
- Carbohydrates (in the form of sugars and starches) readily convert to glucose and rapidly and dramatically raise blood insulin levels.
- Insulin is a storage hormone that triggers the body to store consumed nutrients (carbs & fat).
- While insulin is high, you cannot burn your own body stores of fat, thus reducing weight is almost impossible and gaining weight extremely likely.
- Insulin promotes growth and keeps the body out of “maintenance” mode.
- Insulin promotes the growth of many cancers.
- Insulin suppresses the immune system.
- Insulin drives inflammatory processes that damage blood vessels, bodily tissues and mitochondria at the cellular level.
- Avoid manufactured vegetable oils. Eat only natural fats, preferably from free-range animals and plant sources. If it isn’t naturally abundant then you should not consume it. (more details)
- Manufactured “vegetable oils” suppress the body’s immune system. Indeed, they were originally used as immune-suppressants in the early days of organ transplantation but were replaced when it became clear that they were also causing cancer.
- Manufactured “vegetable oils” are predominantly Omega-6 PolyUnsaturated Fats (PUF) that promote inflammation and disease. See chart below.
- Some studies show causal links to insulin resistance and obesity.
- Animal foods from grain-fed farmed animals are high in Omega-6 PUF
If we eat in the manner described above, most modern foods disappear from the menu:
- Most modern processed foods are high in starches and sugars which have only ‘recently’ been in abundance and thus our genetic makeup has not adapted to. They cause significantly raised insulin levels and drive inflammation and disease. Avoid all of the following:
- Anything made from grains is very starchy – bread, biscuits, pie, cake, pasta, rice etc.
- Starchy vegetables (eg tubers) – potato products, sweet potato, chips, crisps etc.
- Anything that is sweet because it contains sugar – sugar of all forms, honey, syrups, sweets, most fruit, fruit juices, milk, ice-cream etc
- Anything that contains (or was cooked in) manufactured vegetable oils, particularly fats/oils high in linoleic acid (LA). This includes most fried or baked foods unless they were cooked in saturated fats.
- Animal products that contain high-levels of PUF from their unnatural diet. On this basis, you should avoid most grain fed poultry, pork and dairy products.
- Alcohol. Alcohol is essentially a poison that the body has somewhat learnt to handle though it still has significant health consequences. You can chose to believe otherwise.
- Don’t consume ‘concentrated’ foods. Don’t consume anything that has been significantly concentrated and thus enables you to consume much more of a product than you would otherwise naturally do. Prime examples are fruit juices and some oils. If you had to consume a bucket of the raw ingredient to get a teaspoon of the end product, then you are probably better off without the end-product.
What is left is similar to what our early hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten:
- Proteins from naturally raised (or wild) animal sources with the fat still on. This includes beef, sheep, seafood.
- Organ meats.
- Fats from animal sources. This includes beef fat and lamb fat from naturally raised (or wild) animal sources.
- Salt. Always ensure that you are getting at least 6 grams of salt per day – more if you are sweating.
- Nuts and seeds.
- Vegetables that are not starchy.
- Berries and similar non-sweet, non-starchy fruits
- Water. Always consume as much water as you need. Never limit water intake.
Question & Answer
The information above is what we believe constitutes a good low-carbohydrate diet. You can always ignore the advice.
Alcohol. Have alcohol if you want but don’t be under the illusion that it is doing you anything other than harm. (more details)
Honey. Yes, honey may have been part of the early diet but it would have been rare to have honey, and then only in small quantities. The problem with sweet is that we are programmed to eat and eat and eat anything sweet, so you are probably better off not having it at all.
Fruit. Surely fruit is ok!!? The fact is that modern fruits are nothing like those the came before years of selective breeding for sugar and starch content. Most fruit are very high in carbohydrates that should be eliminated from your diet. (more details)
If you eat from a range of animal sources and vegetables, you will get all of the nutrients that you need. You don’t need fruit. If you must have fruit then stick to berries such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.
Many otherwise “low-carb” promoters will include fruit in their recommended diets. We have chosen to specifically exclude most fruit for the obvious reasons we have outlined. We believe that the inclusion of fruit by others is largely influenced by expected reader resistance to its exclusion. We prefer to treat our readers as adults who can take the reason for its exclusion, mull it over and then make up their own minds.
Dairy. Dairy has been excluded as consuming milk and milk products is obviously a result of agriculture and because of intensive farming may contain high levels of LA. (more details)
Olive Oil? Coconut Oil? We believe that your primary source of fats should be from animal origin and this clearly aligns with eating like a hunter-gatherers. (more details)
Hunter-gatherers did not have olive groves and few had access to coconut plantations and oil extraction facilities. Also, these oils are clearly the result of a heavy concentration – IE you would have to squeeze a lot of olives to get the amount that you would pour over your salad.
Having said that, there is some evidence that they have some beneficial qualities such as olive oil having reasonably high CoQ10 levels. Olive oil is also quite high in LA.
You will need to make up your own mind how much you will include in your diet but we would recommend coconut oil over olive oil.
Limit fruit and veg? Surely I need five serves of fruit and vegetables a day? No you don’t – that’s marketing and miasma policy. There were people in communities that ate solely animal products for generations with no ill effect. You can read about experiments conducted in the 1930’s on a no-carb diet here.
The dietary approach doesn’t necessarily aim to limit fruit and vegetable intake, rather to reduce carbohydrate intake. If you avoid all sweet and/or starchy plant foods then you can still consume a lot of vegetables, and some fruit.
What about fiber? You don’t need fiber in your diet. You can stay ‘regular’ without it. Having said that, if you switch from a high-fiber diet to a low fiber diet, it may take a week for your intestines to adapt – but adapt they will.
However, if you eat significant amounts of plant foods that are low in sugar and/or starch, then you will get a lot of fibre in your diet.
What about low carb pizza? A lot of stuff is marketed as “low-carb” just because it has a few less carbs than the original product. You should resist looking for substitutes for high-carb foods, particularly processed alternatives. You are better off luxuriating in the rich diet of hunter-gatherers.
Can I have more carbohydrate? One of the primary aims of the presented diet is not to limit carbohydrates, rather it is to limit insulin – and lowering sugar and starch intake achieves this. While not all of the low-insulin benefits may result as more carbs are added to the diet, some people may find it easier to adopt. Our advice would be to always lean towards low-sugar, low-starch sources of carbohydrate.
Does exercise have an effect? Yes, exercise has numerous effects. Firstly, the more active you are, the higher the demands for energy and the more energy you must consume to maintain body weight.
Exercise also increases insulin sensitivity, so lower insulin levels are needed to dispose of glucose in the blood. This would indicate that an active person should be able to consume more carbohydrates than an inactive person, to achieve the same blood insulin level.
Is this like Paleo? Sort of. Paleo really ignores the underlying metabolic issues and has come up with a diet the they believe mimics a paleolithic diet. In our review, pretty much any version we looked at included too many carbohydrates to be truly healthy for most people.
Is this like Keto? Sort of. The Keto diet is about maintaining a constant state of ketosis where the body is producing ketones to fuel the brain. You can be ‘doing Keto’ by guzzling vegetable oil. The ketogenic diet emphasises fat and is moderate in protein. Most Keto practitioners (erroneously) reduce protein intake to avoid dropping out of ketosis. Some also purchase and consume ketones out of a packet. Until more evidence comes to light, we really don’t support these practices unless there are medical reasons (epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, cancer etc) to do so.
Is this like Atkins? Yes, but focused on real food and not divided into “phases”.
If you are currently taking medicines for medical conditions, you should consult with a good doctor before radically altering your diet. Whether you do, or not, is obviously your choice.
For example, if you are taking diabetes medications, it is likely that you will need to reduce doses over time as this diet significantly reduces swings in blood sugar. Also, as you become healthier and less hyperinsulinemic, your body may be able to again take over the functions of blood sugar regulation without drugs.
If you are on blood-pressure medications, again, they may need to be adjusted over time as you regain your normal health.
If you are on cholesterol lowing drugs then find a better doctor – one that doesn’t succumb to big-pharma marketing and miasmic thinking.
If you want to eat like a hunter-gatherer and are convinced that this is a vegetarian or vegan existence, then please watch the video by Dr Mike Eades on ‘Paleopathology and the Origins of the Paleo Diet’.