Saturday, September 7, 2013

the Ancestral Paleo Diet - Perfect Health by Paul Jaminet

It's a sad fact of life that when something suddenly becomes popular, many of the people who jump on the bandwagon do so with ulterior motives.  Usually these have more to do with making money than anything else.  This is why, since the Paleo diet has become the "In" diet, it's become imperative to question everything you read.

However it is also important to keep an open mind.  Sometimes something that has worked very well can work even better because of improvements and new information that becomes available, and I think this is the case with the Perfect Health diet.

Even though many in the Paleo community are up in arms about the whole "safe starch" issue, the truth is that Paleo eating by itself might be an incomplete answer. Evidence is slowly becoming available showing the strict Paleo guidelines that have been taken as gospel so far may not be all that accurate.  Paul Jaminet and his wife have done a huge amount of research on the topic and their findings suggest a somewhat different truth.  And because these are scientists analyzing scientific findings, their recommendations deserve to be - if not taken point blank - at least given a honest, open-minded reading.

Just like the majority of people who are turning to Paleo for health benefits, I am not a scientist, therefore sifting through scientific research in search of the truth is not a viable option for me.  The way I see it, my best bet is to be guided by the people who seem to espouse the kind of views I agree with, and in my case that has been and still is Mark Sisson.

Mark has always seemed to me to be the kind of man who basis his conclusions on scientific evidence, and who doesn't aline himself with extremists - which is a view I agree with.  Therefore, when I noticed that he had written the forward to Paul's book, I decided it was worth reading.  Here is just a bit of what Mark has to say in the Forward :

"Anyone and everyone will benefit from their dietary recommendations, but the Jaminets' advice is particularly relevant for those suffering from health issues that traditional medicine has been unable to treat or improve.

...... The authors are scientists through and through ..... who deftly wield the scepter of cold, hard science while paying homage to the inescapable wisdom of traditional, ancestral, evolutionary health.

....By reading this book, you are taking part in a new (yet ancestral), radical (yet reasonable) movement toward better health."

This is not an easy book to read.  It isn't full of cute pictures and diet plans.  Instead, there is a lot of scientific information - findings backed up by data - that can sometimes be a challenge to read - but I think it is definitely worth it.  The hours I spent reading this book convinced me that what the Jaminets' are proposing could easily be the next step in finding our ideal diet.

The hard part in making sense of all the Paleo information out there is that we are all different and therefore no one plan fits all.  Some do great on basic Paleo.  Others do not - and have a very hard time trying to figure out why.  Some of the answers for these people might very well be found in  Paul's book.  And if you are suffering from any health issues,you definitely should do yourself a favour and at least take the time to read this book.

If you just can't make yourself wade through the whole thing - and I can understand it if you can't - there is a summary of Paul's recommendations on his site here.  I am also going to summarize them below so you can get a very quick idea of how it differs from what are considered the normal Paleo recommendations.  However, as I said above, if you have any health problems that aren't improving with your Paleo diet, you should get the book and at least read the parts that pertain to your particular issue.

The bottom line - If you are not getting the results you want following Paleo - or Primal Paleo - then it might be worth while to follow this plan for a month or so and see what happens.  You don't have to understand why it works, you just need to follow it.  

But if you're the kind of person who wants to know more, then I definitely recommend reading the whole book.  It's not something you can read in one sitting, but you'll probably find, like I have, that you will learn a lot of interesting, useful, new information. 

The Perfect Health Diet Guidelines

Recommended Foods :

          -  Approx. 3 lbs. of plant foods per day 
                                -  1 lb. safe starches - white rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes
                                -  1 lb. fruits, berries, and sugary in-ground vegetables (beets or carrots)
                                -  1 lb. low-calorie vegetables, including fermented and green leafy vegetables
          -  1/2 to 1 lb. per day of meat or fish, including organ meats. Mainly eat
                                -  beef, lamb or goat
                                -  birds - especially duck and wild or naturally raised birds
                                -  shellfish and freshwater and marine fish
          -  low omega-6 fats and oils from animal or tropical plant sources to taste, including
                                -  butter, sour cream, beef tallow, duck fat
                                -  coconut milk or oil
                                -  palm oil, palm kernel oil, olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut butter, 
                                   almond butter, cashew butter
          -  acids to taste, especially
                                -  citric acid - lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice
                                -  lactic acid - from fermented or pickled vegetables
                                -  vinegars
                                -  tannic acids - from wine and tomatoes
          -  broths or stocks made from animal bones and joints
          -  snacks or desserts from :
                                -  fruits and berries
                                -  nuts
                                -  alcohol
                                -  chocolate
                                -  cream
                                -  fructose-free sweeteners (like dextrose or rice syrup)

Notes :
  • Rice noodles and rice crackers are fine, as well as gluten-free foods made from a mix of rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch.
  • Dairy is also allowed - preferably organic butter, cream, sour cream, cheese and plain whole milk yogurt
  • Healthy drinks are water, tea and coffee.
  • Highly recommended additions to your diet (for the micronutrients) include liver, kidney, egg yolks, seaweeds, shellfish, fermented vegetables and bone broths
  • Supplements are also recommended (see here for a list.)
  • Intermittent fasting is encouraged - ideally 16 hours and less than 24 hours.  It can be done every day, however this is not a water fast.  During the 8 hour feeding window you are allowed coffee and bone broth with tomatoes and greens. You can also have a spoonful of coconut oil when hungry.  This can be mixed in with your coffee.
  • You should also tweak your diet ( for example eating more low carb or ketogenic) if you suffer from certain conditions.  Many of these specific conditions are covered in the book with recommendations.

By weight, the diet works out to be about 3/4 plant foods and 1/4 animal foods.
By calories, it works out to about 600 carb calories (primarily starches) 300 protein calories and 50 - 60% fats

Foods considered highly toxic to avoid :

       -  cereal grains (wheat, barley, oats, corn) or foods made from them.  The exception is white rice.
       -  legumes with the exception of peas and green beans
       -  added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, or any food or drink that contains these ingredients
       -  seed oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, etc. 

Weight Loss

This same diet is recommended for weight loss with only a few modifications. 
  • Eat a normal amount of carbs and protein, but restrict fats.  These should mainly come from egg yolks, liver, seafood, lean beef or lamb and coconut milk.  
  • The minimum recommended calories are 500 from carbs, 300 from protein and 500 from fats, but restricting calories is not encouraged.  To quote from the book : "It's essential to optimize health, not speed of weight loss.  Rapid weight loss from excessive calorie restriction leads to malnourishment and yo-yo weight loss and regain." However rapid, healthful weight loss is possible and many report easy, lasting weight loss of two pounds per week.
  • If your body is malnourished you might experience weight gain initially, but once healthy nutrient status is obtained by eating the correct diet, your appetite will lessen and weight loss will begin.
  • Markers that show that you're on the right track are absence of hunger, increased pleasure in physical activity, and improved sleep.

As well as the above eating plan - like with Mark Sisson's Primal Paleo - lifestyle changes are also encouraged.  

It is recommended that you go outside twice a day - once early morning and once in the afternoon - with sun on bare skin, to do some light activity.  The aim here isn't to burn calories but to reset circadian rhythms.  

Getting the right amount of good sleep is also important.  Avoid exposure to bright lights, sleep in a darkened room and invest in opaque drapes if necessary.


As you can see, of all the Paleo-Primal-Ancestral diets, this is probably the easiest to follow.  The exclusion of grains, legumes, sugar and seed oils is similar to basic Paleo, but the addition of dairy makes it closer to Primal Paleo.  Finally the fact that you can also eat safe starches means that you can eat pasta, sandwiches, and other things that are normally excluded from both the basic Paleo and Primal plans, and makes this a much less restrictive and easier plan to follow.

If you are on the fence about trying Paleo, this might be a good place to start. The Perfect Health Diet looks to be well researched and well documented, and like many of the success stories in the book, you might find it works so well for you that further restrictions won't be necessary.

If you find this information interesting, along with reading the book I really recommend checking out the perfect health diet website.  Here you will find a newly revised supplement list, recipes, and more notes on each chapter in the book.  It's a great resource and definitely worth bookmarking.

 “Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”   - George Bernard Shaw

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