Back in 1985, Melvin Konner and S. Boyd Eaton got the ball rolling on the current Paleolithic diet movement. Thirty years later, what would Konner say is a healthy way to eat?
Recent data on these issues make me more comfortable today saying what not to eat. Our ancestors had no refined carbs, which are killing us. We’d be wise to limit salt and saturated fat, which our ancestors’ prey had little of, and fiber and omega-three fatty acids seem to be good. Most humans have to avoid dairy; many must avoid wheat. Find out if you’re one of them. Exercise. That’s about it.
I’ve seen good data saying salt restriction is both harmful an helpful. So flip a coin or talk to your personal physician. If I were looking at starting a drug for hypertension, I’d certainly cut back on salt first and see if that cured me.
Recent clinical studies show that saturated fat isn’t harmful to most of us.
What most people including dietitians don’t seem to understand about saturated fats and carbs is that they are pretty much the same thing to our body–pure energy. If we do not burn either of them they accumulate in our cells and arteries. Some of the saturated fats we get in our diet (short chain fats) are even beneficial while the saturated fats WE make from carbs (C-16) is really the only saturated fat that has been proven to be harmful.
You’re right, EM: various saturated fats have different properties. Lumping them all together makes as much sense as saying “everyone needs to more fruits and vegetables.” Which fruits and which vegetables and why?
I have been noticing more and more of this idea to eat a “lower” saturated fat diet while increasing carbs. I feel that a true hunter-gatherer was an opportunistic eater. He ate what was at hand. That being said, i think back to the times before the low fat craze took hold and there were no options for foodstuffs like dairy except a full fat version and people were healthier for it. I’m not advocating eating sticks of butter, but i am wondering why now there are paleo people who advocate eating a leaner version of a whole food.
Folks like Eaton, Konner, and Cordain say that the meat obtained by hunter-gatherers would have been very lean naturally (i.e., low-fat). They likely base that on analysis of modern wild game animals like deer, elk, and bison. So if we’re trying to emulate our ancestors, we’d eat lean meat. I don’t know about other wild game, like bear and waterfowl. I’ve only cooked duck a few times, but noticed how very fatty it was. But that was probably domesticated duck.
If a game animal 50,000 years ago had much fat on it, that would have been a valuable source of calories (9 cals/gram instead of 4 for protein).
I think reading Dr. Harris is a must about that observation of how lean wild game is: Wild vs Grass vs Grain Fed ruminants (a trip through archive.org is required nowadays). There is no reason whatsoever to dodge animal fat.
I miss Dr. Harris’ blogging. Not sure where he went. Perhaps he said all he needed to.
Thank you, Dr. Parker, for your thoughtful response and the perspective which I feel is everything here. I think I do “over react” when I see the term “low fat” because of the ruinous effects it has had on the health of the public since about the 1970s. I realize that what we are talking about are two different types of low fat. I have read other bloggers who are speaking the way Eaton, Konner and Cordain with respect to low fat diets — not having added fat, such as added butter or cream sauces — but rather eating whole foods which have fat in them. I know that our ancestors killed game they didn’t have a hollandaise sauce for it or even sour cream or butter, but I feel that saturated animal fat is a plus in our ancestral diets. Not something to be eliminated in favor of the other macro nutrients. I would be curious as to what % Dr. Konner is referring to for fat or if it is no percentage just whatever is in the whole foods that one eats.