Sources of Evolutionary Evidence Offer Compelling Clues to Optimal Diet

What an interesting article I just read, by Dr. Paul Jaminet on the site.

He discusses five factors that he states are crucial in an optimal approach to eating.  (Even though he seems to endorse a mostly, rather than 100%, Paleo diet,  as he advocates for rice, potatoes, butter and a few other ‘paleo-controversial foods’,  his approach is far better than what the USDA recommends!)


The following is an excerpt from the post:

1)The Paleo diet is based on what our ancestors ate during the Paleolithic period. There were no supermarkets back then, so they hunted and gathered their food. This also tells us there was regional variability in people’s diets, as they could only eat that which grew and was available in their respective climate. Eskimos ate a pure animal food diet while people in the tropics would tend to eat more carbohydrates. But typically, the amount of carbohydrates eaten would be about 15 percent to 20 percent. We know that from hunter-gatherer tribes that were contacted in the 1800s. We have some good data from that period on what hunter-gatherer diets looked like.

2) The composition of human breast milk, which we can assume must be, evolutionary speaking, a nutritionally ideal form of nourishment for human infants. And, while the nutritional needs of infants differ from adults, we can estimate how their nutrient needs differ, and adjust accordingly. “One thing we see in infants is that they have very large brains relative to their body size. So they use a lot of glucose,” Dr. Jaminet says. “Roughly 50 percent of the calories that they use are glucose. Breast milk is about 40 percent carbs. So, the amount of carbs in the diet is just slightly below the amount that the infant will actually use. If you translate that to adults, adults use about 30 percent of their calories as glucose. We would predict, based on the composition of breast milk, that maybe the optimal amount of carbs for an adult would be just below 30 percent, so maybe 20 percent to 30 percent. That’s another example.”

3) The diets of other mammals. They bracket the optimal human diet, because animals are biologically similar to us but have smaller brains. So, just like infants are like adults, but have bigger brains [relative to body size], animals have smaller brains [overall], and most animals, when you look at the nutrition… is very low carb; often five or 10 percent carb.

4) The evolutionary evidence includes the inherent ability to survive a long fast or famine during times of scarcity. The human body was designed to be able to effectively hunt or gather food even if you hadn’t eaten for awhile. This means the human body must be able to “cannibalize” itself. “You have to live on a composition of the human body effectively. The optimal human diet can’t be that far away from the nutrient composition of the human body by itself,” Dr. Jaminet explains.

5) The food reward system of the human brain.“We like certain kinds of foods. We like to get a certain amount of protein each day. We like to get a certain amount of salt each day. Certain things taste good, certain things taste very bad. Those taste preferences and food preferences evolved in order to guide us to eating a healthy diet. We can infer from these innate preferences of the brain what a healthy diet is,” Dr. Jaminet says. “Those five sources of evidence are pretty much what we used to try to get a first thought of what the optimal diet is. And then once we had that starting point, then we went for the literature to look for evidence and drilled down to the level of individual nutrients and toxins to try and figure out how to implement that in terms of food and how to really optimize everything.”

At the end of the article is a diagram reflecting his approach to eating.

Personally, I’ll stick to the version pictured above, of a Paleo-ized version of My Plate!