Monday, May 16, 2005


Back in 2000, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (Vol. 71, No. 3, 682-692, March 2000) published a review by Loren Cordain et al about the macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets.

Their findings included
  • Most (73%) of the worldwide hunter-gatherer societies derived >50% (56–65% of energy) of their subsistence from animal foods, whereas only 14% of these societies derived >50% (56–65% of energy) of their subsistence from gathered plant foods.
  • This high reliance on animal-based foods coupled with the relatively low carbohydrate content of wild plant foods produces universally characteristic macronutrient consumption ratios in which protein is elevated (19–35% of energy) at the expense of carbohydrates (22–40% of energy).

So, most of the hunter-gathers are eating 56-65% of their energy from animal foods, providing 19-35% of their calories as protein and just 22-40% of their calories from carbohydrate.

In a "real world" 2000-calorie a day diet, what does such a macronutrient mix look like?

19-35% of calories from protein = 380 to 700 calories or 95g to 175g of protein, with most coming from animal foods

22-40% of calories from carbohydrate = 440 to 800 calories or 110g to 200g of carbohydrate

The remaining calories, from fat = 500 to 1180 calories, or 25-59% or 55g to 131g of fat

These ratios are very much in line with controlled-carbohydrate nutrition ratios, which generally holds that carbohydrate is limited to 40% or less for daily calorie intake. The mix of fat and protein calories in a controlled-carb approach is highly individualized and the goal is to include quality protein in adequate amounts and only include quality fats and oils.

It can be understood, without a great stretch to the imagination, that the carbohydrate foods consumed by hunter-gatherers are nutrient-dense, whole foods and do not include refined, sugar-added packaged foods or highly processed foods.

While the average American isn't going to go forage and hunt for their meals today, they can use this information to choose wisely the food they will eat. Nutrient-dense non-starchy vegetables, low-glycemic load fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and quality proteins are all a good start to eating a healthy diet for the long-term.

These "hunter-gatherer" foods are readily available in any supermarket along the perimeter of the store.

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