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The Origin Diet: How Eating Like Our Stone Age Ancestors Will Maximize Your Health Paperback – January 1, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (January 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069280
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,377,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

"For 99 percent of the time humans have been on earth, our ancestors ate and evolved on diets of plants and very lean wild game," writes Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D. During the last few thousand years, humans converted from hunters and gatherers to farmers, and finally to automobile drivers headed for fast-food restaurants. Somer's point is that although our behavior and eating habits have changed, our basic biology remains the same as our hunger-gatherer ancestors. We are "genetically programmed to thrive on a diet of nuts, seeds, leaves, honey, and wild game, but not gorging on doughnuts, cheese puffs, domesticated beef, soda pop."

We would be healthier, says Somer, if we would eat as our ancestors did when there was no cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, or diabetes. In The Origin Diet, she describes how to translate to modern life the five "Stone Age Secrets":

  • Stay strong and lean.
  • Focus on wild (natural) foods.
  • Stay healthy and alert.
  • Handle stress quickly, then relax.
  • Belong to a supportive tribe of family and friends.

Although the premise is unusual and interesting, much of Somer's advice is similar to what you hear from all the major health and medical associations: eat lots of fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods, eat starchy carbohydrates and grains, eat fiber, cut back on saturated fat, drink water, exercise vigorously, and manage stress.

Somer is not recommending that you hunt your own mastodon (although wild game is only 4 percent fat, compared with 25 to 30 percent fat in domesticated meat); you can substitute chicken breast and salmon (while salmon is higher in fat than other types of fish, it's high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids). Eat more produce and fiber, she urges us. Graze, don't gorge. Exercise. "The secret to regaining our evolutionary balance is to glean the best of our ancient ancestors' eating habits and combine those with the safe, abundant, nutritious foods available today," says Somer. The book includes an appendix of recipes such as Garbanzo Cilantro Dip, Chili-Glazed Chicken, Crusty Basil Salmon, and Tofu Confetti Burritos (no bison burgers!).

Somer, contributing editor to Shape and Eating Well and former consultant to Good Morning America, has written several other books on nutrition, including Food & Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best (with Nancy Snyderman), Age-Proof Your Body: Your Complete Guide to Lifelong Vitality, and Nutrition for Women: The Complete Guide. --Joan Price --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"Genetically speaking, our bodies need the same amount of nutrients that were needed by our Paleolithic ancestors," Somer claims. Registered dietician, health writer and self-described "research junkie" (she spent the last 20 years reading thousands of nutrition and anthropological studies), Somer (Age-Proof Your Body; Nutrition for Women; etc.) takes a novel approach to the age-old problem of dieting and recommends readers get back to their evolutionary roots, literally, and conscientiously maintain a diet of countless fruits, vegetables, roots, water and some animal meat (although she does not favor red meat). Somer presents a workout plan that's specific, gradual and measurable, as well as recipes, menus, a shopping list and plenty of coaching, motivation and inspiring tips (e.g., people should avoid drinking alcohol when eating out because doing so makes them eat more, but for those who prefer to, she recommends that they drink two glasses of water for every glass of alcohol). It's a demanding program for weight loss and maintaining that loss for the long term, but what she says makes senseAand is convincing. Somer's program is a diet for people willing to make a definite commitment, but, as she explains, readers can make significant improvements in their overall health and fitness by implementing even some of her advice. Agent, David Smith. (Jan. 3).
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

My "thing" is that I keep up with the current nutrition research. I've been reading 100s of research studies for years, then packaging that information into news-you-can-use for magazines, books, national and local television and radio, presentations to the general public, and continuing education seminars for health professionals. I specialize in understandable and practical information on how to eat and supplement and why to prevent disease and premature aging, promote health, and attain and maintain a healthy weight. For the past two decades, my aim has been to be the source of nutrition information that people can really trust to be accurate, up-to-date, and sound. I passionately love the science of nutrition, as well as cooking and preparing healthy meals, and believe with all my heart that if people just nourished their bodies with high-quality fuel, they would be rewarded a hundred-fold with health, energy, vitality, longevity, clear thinking, a fit figure, and improved moods.

Customer Reviews

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Don't waste your money on this piece of unmitigated garbage.
Stephen Byrnes
That said, I would agree that pasteur-fed animals and the availability of raw milk (and raw milk products) would be highly beneficial.
Master Hahn
The research and reasoning behind this book makes perfect sense.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Byrnes on May 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
Dietician Elizabeth Somer has done it again: she has written yet another politically correct nutrition book that has little truth in it. In this one, she's attemtping to cash in on the current interest in the Paleolithic diet--the way our ancestors ate.
Somer starts off by rightly stating that for 99% of its history, humanity lived and thrived on a hunter-gatherer diet and that widespread use of agricultural foods is a relatively recent phenomenon. She rightly states that, at the genetic level, people are still the Paleolithic eaters of yesteryear, implying that we should eat more Paleolithic foods.
After that, her premise gets thrown right out the window and she recommends such modern food items as skim milk, whole grains, low-fat cheese, and soybeans! I'd like to see evidence of paleolithic peoples eating a bowl of brown rice. It is just stupid and historically impossible. Her book is full of Food Pyramid hogwash--from misinformation on fatty acids to eating tons of grains to maintain optimal health.
Don't waste your money on this piece of unmitigated garbage. Better and more accurate buys would be Allan and Lutz' book LIFE WITHOUT BREAD, Weston price's NUTRITION AND PHYSICAL DEGENERATION, or Fallon and Enig's NOURISHING TRADITIONS.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Master Hahn on July 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
Thankfully I was able to read this book at my local library system and did NOT have to waste money on a false premise!

When I saw "fortified soy milk" in the preview, I knew it was pretty much garbage at that point. (Contrary to what the Soy Industry wants you to believe, Orientals have not been eating any appreciable amounts of soy foods, much less for "centuries"). Conversely our ancient forefathers were herding milk animals long before agriculture (especially growing grains) was established, so regular milk is much closer to our "natural heritage" than any type of soy milk or rice milk - fortified our otherwise. That said, I would agree that pasteur-fed animals and the availability of raw milk (and raw milk products) would be highly beneficial.

Comparisons of fat percentages of "lean wild meat" to domesticated livestock today is also misleading. Number one, animal fats have been highly valued in all traditional, native cultures. Secondly, those comparison compare only the well trimmed muscle meat and completely disregard the substantial stores of subcutaneous and visceral fat the wild animals possess - and that was universally prized by hunter-gatherer socieites (see "The Preference for Animal Protein and Fat: A Cross-Cultural Survey" by anthroplogist H. Leon Abrams). That said, I would also agree that pasteur-fed animals and the availability of organic, pasture-fed meat would be highly beneficial.

Much better books for those interersted in legitimate "cave man diets" or even just "traditional native culture diets" would include "NeanderThin", "The Garden of Eating" and "Nourishing Traditions".
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61 of 72 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is the best advice from Elizabeth Somers' books compiled into one simple nutrition plan. As always, her emphasis is on high-fiber, minimally-processed foods, especially vegetables, fruits and grains (Somer recommends eating two fruits or vegetables at each of three daily meals, and at least one at each of two daily snacks for a daily minimum of eight); She also urges readers to select ONLY whole grains, and suggests strategies to help boost intake of omega-3 fats and soy-protein. While her plan challenges readers to create real nutritional changes in their lives, she helps to make these changes accessible through helpful lists of meal-planning techniques and ideas -- a personal favorite of mine is her list of suggestions for "brown bag lunches" for those of us who work and cannot be in the kitchen at lunch-time! Another helpful one for me was the "origin grocery list" designed to help readers navigate modern supermarkets for foods the closest to what our ancestors made. She also includes information on avoiding chemical pesticides and waxes in produce items, a sample five-day eating plan and recipes -- and lots more! I'm just highlighting what I personally found most useful.
Personally, I read the book for it's nutritional advice, but Somer also explores her "Origin" theme -- that returning to the diet/ lifestyles that humans evolved on (as much as possible) will lead to the most vital health possible -- from multiple angles. She includes information on exercise, environmental conditions (i.e. household toxins, getting outdoors, including exposure to fresh air in our daily lives), and stress-management. While these sections can be helpful, her nutritional program will likely pose the most rigorous challenge to readers.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on March 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
I applaud Elizabeth Somer for attempting to educate people and assist them in improving their diet. I also appreciate that she is encouraging people to eat less processed and refined foods and instead focus on whole foods. Outside of this, her book is unbelievably innaccurate and in many ways unhealthful.

Repeatedly she tells us to eat whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy products, fortified soy milk, and only lean meat, all while proclaiming that we should eat like our ancestors. Our ancestors ate none of these products. Lets look at the facts:

Our ancestors ate a diet composed principally of animal fat, animal organs, and animal meat, usually accompanied with small amouts of non-starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds, and wild fruit (as opposed to the sugar-laden monsters that dominate most supermarkets, which have been bred to taste like candy). They did eat wild game, however, when they did they ate the entire animal which contains significantly more fat than muscle meat that people commonly buy in supermarkets. Somer tells us to avoid red meat, even though the large game our ancestors ate essentially was red meat - low-fat poultry would have been completely foreign to them. All paleolithic cave art is dominated by pictures of rhinos, lions, reindeer, bears, mammoth and other large animals. Animal bones that have been found in caves all come from large animals - there is nothing remotely resembling a chicken bone. Just about every tool that dates to the paleolithic era is quite large and clearly designed for cutting big animals. Next time you find someone cutting a chicken breast with a machete I will give your "lean meat" a reconsideration.
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