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The Origin Diet: How Eating Like Our Stone Age Ancestors Will Maximize Your Health Hardcover – January 1, 2001
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A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
"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
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.
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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".
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.
Our ancestors did not consume legumes (beans, which includes peanuts), grains (including corn), dairy products, or starchy vegetables until several thousand years ago. Our body is a machine that evolved over millions of years of principally animals parts and lots of animal fat. We are designed to eat these things. Somer says saturated fat is bad even though there is no evidence to support this and ample evidence that suggests it is good for us. Consider that the only food nature has specifically designed for us is breast milk which happens to be loaded to the gills with those great dietary evils saturated fat and cholesterol.
Somer tells us to include fiber in our diets even though our requirement for it is zero. Many of our ancestors ate no fiber and were incredibly healthy. Consider that fiber is simply undigestable plant matter. Our bodies cannot digest it so it excretes it from the body. Unfortunately, most modern dietary gurus hold the view that is is some kind of holy nutrient...and Somer wholeheartedly bought into their views.
I am also troubled that Somer lists Dean Ornish as a reference, someone who promotes vegetarianism which is the complete opposite of what our ancestors ate. Their have historically been no vegetarians until recently. Consider that vegetarian Hindus in India have have 13 times as much heart disease as as Indians eating the fattiest diet (almost all of which is animal fat). In Crete, consumtion of animal fat has been increasing for decades yet heart disease has been declining during that time. In France, obestiy rates were very low up until 1995-1996. The only thing that changed was that they began consuming less animal fat and more carbohydrates, thereby moving away from what they are genetically programed to eat. As a result, diabetes and obesity have been skyrocketing. This is on top of the fact that they are on average conuming less calories than before. Vegetarianism is as natural to humans as donuts are to a lion.
Somers diet is more like the modern low-fat USDA food guide pyramid than an Origin diet. Save your money. For better resources look for the writings of Michael Eades, Loren Cordain, Weston Price, Mary Enig, and Sally Fallon. They truly understand what our ancestors ate and base their writings on facts.