What is the PaleoEdge?
PaleoEdge is the short Mesolithic bridge between the late Paleolithic period and the beginning of the agricultural Neolithic age. The diet was one of a hunter-gatherer with the beginning of plant and animal domestication. The PaleoEdge diet transforms the power and speed of a hunter, with the brute strength and endurance of a farmer into the modern athlete. The diet is designed with roughly a 50/50 animal to plant ratio with the principles of the hunter-gatherer, the addition of early agricultural foods and fermentation, and the modern processing machinery and natural preservation techniques of the present.
Cultures from around the world have perfected meals over thousands of years, and only recently have we lost these traditions. You will find that each culture has different combinations of foods, but often share the same principles: local and fresh plants, some raw, some cooked, some fermented, bone broths, animal foods including organ meats and seafood. By tapping into your local food supply and following traditional dietary principles, you are obtaining the highest nutrient density of your food and the most favorable genetic expression of your DNA. Today we can also take advantage of modern preservation methods of adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms that are now available from every corner of the world to help adapt to a more stressful (emotionally, psychologically and environmentally) society.
What is the Philosophy behind the PaleoEdge?
The Paleo diet is based on the pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer model of eating. The idea is that since grains and dairy did not enter the diet until roughly 10,000 years ago, the body has not adjusted to consuming these foods and functions optimally without them. Interesting enough, gluten in grains and casein in milk are two of the most allergenic foods. The principles of the Paleo diet are sound: wild fish, grass-fed meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds with a focus on protein, fat and carbohydrates in proportion to your activity level. However, without agriculture, most of the foods we consume now would not exist. It was through selective breeding that we have the animals and plants we have today. We also would not have oil presses needed to make olive oil and coconut oil, food-based supplements, ergogenic aids, that glass of “Paleo friendly” wine or shot of tequila, the modern advances of grass-fed whey protein powder, or the adaptogens encapsulated from around the world. Therefore the modern Paleo diet isn’t really accurate; it’s a hybrid.
Why We Should Learn from our Neolithic Mistakes
According to the book Neolithic by Susan Foster McCarter:
Like most people, you may have always assumed that hunter-gatherers were usually hungry, tired and sick; and that things were much better once people began producing their food and living in permanent villages. In fact, the opposite is true: hunter-gatherers were extremely healthy and Neolithic farmers were not. Paleopathologists tell us that foragers had excellent teeth, they were rarely malnourished, they were taller than most people today, and they didn’t suffer from endemic or epidemic diseases.
We know this because the evidence is in the skeletal remains. The skeletons are early Neolithic farmers show scurvy (vitamin C deficiencies), rickets (vitamin D deficiencies), poor dental health, bone infections and a stature roughly 6 inches shorter than the hunter-gatherers. So despite an abundance of food, people were often hungry and malnourished. Why? Because the diet shifted to a grain based diet of porridge and unleavened bread. Is a diet high in porridge, unleavened bagels, pasta and improperly prepared whole grain dishes the best approach for the modern athlete or sedentary individual?
What also happened during this time was that diseases became rampant as we moved into close quarters with each other and other animals. Rodents, flies, lice, fleas, hookworms, intestinal parasites and mosquitos transmitted disease in these new breeding grounds, and work moved to the indoors away from the sunlight which was a natural disinfectant. McCarter “Dogs gave villagers rabies and possibly measles, cats gave them toxoplasmosis, they caught the common cold from horses, influenza from pigs or chickens, tetanus from pigs, horses, cattle and dogs and diphtheria, tuberculosis and measles all came from cattle.”
It could also be argued that certain types of dairy and grains – especially fermented – have allowed cultures to thrive and demonstrate superior health once indigenous people learned the importance of preparation and combination. Weston A. Price demonstrated this in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. The high mountain Swiss with raw cow dairy, sourdough rye, and weekly bone broth, and the Gaelics of the Outer Hebrides with their steady diet of cod, lobster, crab, oysters and fermented oatmeal both proved to balance their diet with agricultural foods without sacrificing their health. Dr. Price found evidence of perfectly straight and cavity free teeth in these cultures, along with the absence of disease. The Eastern Europeans use fermented dairy and dark sourdough rye and have been able to thrive in the harsh climate with the aid of agricultural crops, and have produced some of the hardiest people in history.
Our modern civilization has become a hybrid culture of cities that deliver food from farms all over the world. We still live in close proximity to each other with animals and not only have to deal with bacteria and viruses of the past, but the new diseases of the future like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune disorders and allergies. Today we have thousands of chemicals that our bodies are not designed for and are struggling to detoxify. We have food that is not only grown in nutrient poor soil, but often shipped half way around the world, stored for weeks and improperly cooked; leaving only traces of its original nutritional content. This has is created the need for a new model utilizing supplementation of herbs, mushrooms, and minerals to prevent deficiency and toxicity.
The PaleoEdge Principles
For men, I recommended following a higher fat, moderation protein, carbohydrates mainly from fruits and vegetables based on activity level, and low fiber allocation of foods for the highest levels of testosterone.
For women, I recommend following a higher fiber, moderate protein, moderate to lower fat intake, and adequate carbohydrates for optimal estrogen and progesterone levels. I do not recommend low-carbohydrate diets for women.
1. Animal protein: Wild fish (salmon, cod, herring, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, arctic char, shrimp, squid, oysters, crab, low-mercury tuna), wild meat (elk, boar, buffalo and venison), grass-fed (not grain-fed) domesticated meat (beef, lamb, chicken, duck, goat), organic pastured liver, heart, kidneys and pastured eggs.
2. Vegetables, Fungi, Herbs and Spices: All vegetables, mushrooms, herbs, and spices are excellent. Consume garlic, onions, leeks, broccoli, cabbage (esp. sauerkraut), Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, turmeric, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, oregano, rosemary, parsley, basil, cardamom, shiitake and maitake mushrooms all for anti-cancer compounds. Choose organic sweet potatoes, taro root, squash, peas and carrots for glycogen storage for heavy training. Choose more raw, watery vegetables during the warmer months, and cooked vegetables during the colder months. Add fermented vegetables with meat and sea vegetables like bladderwrack, wakame, nori, kombu and dulse with fish or other meals for iodine.
3. Fruit: Choose organic and wild berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, elderberries, strawberries, cranberries etc.) for anti-cancer compounds, vitamin C and various other nutrients. Choose low glycemic and fiber-rich fruit like apples and pears (best for women), and electrolyte rich watery fruits for exercise like oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, grapefruit, berries, mango, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, apples, peaches, and apricots. If you are trying to keep your sugar intake low, stick with berries only. Eat what is in season as each one provides different compounds for the weather to help you adapt.
4. Nuts, seeds, and oils: All raw nut and seeds are recommended to be prepared by soaking/sprouting and dehydrating. Extra virgin coconut oil, pastured lard, pastured tallow, pastured duck fat and ghee are the only cooking oils recommended. Use cold pressed, unfiltered olive oil for salads and very low heat. No canola, grapeseed, sunflower, safflower, soy or corn oil.
5. Minimal grains and legumes: Optional. The Neolithic founder crops were emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, barley, lentils, peas, chickpeas, bitter vetch and flax. There is also evidence of domesticated rye in the Natufian culture of the Eastern Mediterranean and in northern Europe. It has been suggested that wild einkorn grain was harvested in the late Paleolithic and early Mesolithic Ages, 16,000-15,000 BC.
Today, the majority of wheat today no longer resembles the wheat of our ancestors and is the cause of many modern health issues. I recommend avoiding all wheat products, and choosing slow-rise sourdough rye or einkorn if you are going to have bread. If you are in a position where you can’t avoid wheat, choose sourdough bread. The ingredients should only include flour, sourdough starter, water and sea salt. If it says “yeast” and contains hard to pronounce preservatives, it’s not real sourdough. Fermentation helps break down energy depleting gluten and mineral blocking phytic acid. One study published in 2007 in the peer-reviewed Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that when wheat bread was thoroughly fermented, it reduced gluten levels from roughly 75,000 parts per million to 12—a level that technically qualifies as gluten-free. Sourdough rye is the traditional bread of cold climates like Scandinavia, Switzerland, and Russia.
I’m not convinced from a clinical and anthropological view that oats, buckwheat, and white rice are as sinister as wheat. Rice has had issues with heavy metal contamination and toxins have been found to be high on oats. Lentils provide an inexpensive source of protein and fiber when prepared correctly (higher fiber benefits women’s estrogen levels but not men’s testosterone), chickpeas are made into hummus and freshly ground flax can be added to a meal for extra fiber. Most beans (chickpeas are an exception) are avoided due to the digestive strain it causes many people due to improper soaking and cooking techniques. You can, of course, choose to avoid this category altogether and you will not be deficient in any vitamins or minerals.
Examples of real sourdough:
6. Minimal Dairy – grass-fed, raw, fermented and whole fat only: Optional. Goats and sheep were among the first domesticated animals by the Neolithic farmers around 10,000 to 11,000 years ago, while cows were speculated to be domesticated about 7,000 to 8,000 years ago. One theory of the pervasive intolerance of cow dairy in the western world is believed to be caused by the breeding of A1 cows instead of A2 cows. A1 milk contains the amino acid histidine whereas A2 milk contains proline at the same position of the amino acid structure. Scientists believe a gene mutation is thought to have occurred around the time of domestication in different parts of Europe, whereas the mutation does not appear to have taken place in African and Asian domestication.
Another theory is that pasteurization is to blame and that people who cannot tolerate pasteurized dairy can consume raw dairy without a problem. People do often tolerate goat and sheep’s milk without any problem and is recommended if there is any sensitivity. Grass-fed whey protein powder and butter from cows is often tolerated by those with a sensitivity, however, goat versions of both can be purchased. Gouda and brie are the top recommended cheeses due to their high vitamin K2 content, important for getting calcium into the bones instead of the arteries. *Due to chemical contamination in the fat content in animals – especially milk – I do not recommend buying any commercial dairy products. Small, isolated farms with grass-fed dairy would be the best choice, otherwise, skip it.
7. No refined sugar, artificial sugar, artificial colors or words you cannot pronounce: Eat food from the land, not from the laboratory.
8. Fermented drinks and tea: Kombucha, water kefir, Kvass, and other fermented drinks are recommended for energy, immunity, and recovery. Organic black tea, green tea, and Yerba Mate are all excellent coffee substitutes for numerous health benefits.
9. Adaptogens: Utilize the advantage of being able to obtain mushroom (reishi, maitake, cordyceps and coriolus) and herbal adaptogens (ashwagandha, rhodiola and eleuthero root) to increase resistance to biological, chemical and physical stress, along with power, speed, endurance and immunity from around the world.