Paleo Plants and Carnivory

From what I gather, it’s been difficult to pinpoint the role of plants in the diet of our ancestors for a variety of reasons.  For example, evidence of plants on cooking tools and dental remains is suggestive but doesn’t disprove the possibility that said evidence came from preparing the plants for some other purpose (eg, tools, weapons, or medicine), or that the stomach contents of an herbivore was ingested (which gets partial credit).

That said, after reviewing a few studies on the topic (see below), it’s safe to say that plants were eaten, probably frequently, and the types & quantities varied seasonally & geographically.  Collectively, the data suggest we aren’t carnivores.

…you had to have something to hold you over until the next fish fell prey to your deadly hunting spear…

One group of researchers sought evidence of plant consumption on, as mentioned above, [cooking/eating] tools and dental remains ranging from an estimated 10,000 to 130,000 years ago (Henry et al., 2014).  More specifically, they were looking for phytoliths (evidence of grasses) and starch granules, and they found significantly less of the former.  This led them to conclude that the starch granules likely came from ingesting starch-containing plants directly, rather than from the stomach contents of an herbivore.  If the latter were true, they would’ve found more phytoliths because “herbivores consume large quantities of phytolith-rich grasses.”  Based on certain physical characteristics of the starch granules and their knowledge of what grew in the area, the authors speculated that the starch granules came from plants of the waterlily family, possibly some grass seeds,  and a few others.

Dates, too.  Sweet, delicious, dates.

Dates, too.  Sweet, delicious dates.

No, this doesn’t mean Wheaties are back on!

While such a study isn’t capable of determining how much plants contributed to the diet, the authors concluded: “Our results indicate that Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals probably consumed as many plant species as modern humans did.”  The phrase “as many plant species” doesn’t indicate how much, but rather how many different types of plants.  Qualitative, not quantitative.

Another study sought evidence of plant ingestion by analyzing fecal remains found in Spain, circa 50,000 years ago (Sistiaga et al., 2014).  They compared metabolites of cholesterol (from animal foods) to those of phytosterols (from plant foods), on a more quantitative level.  Their results showed that while the majority of the diet was likely animal-based in this population, vegetation was not absent, suggesting omnivory as opposed to plant avoidance or frank carnivory.

Lastly, this study focused on the diets of modern hunter-gatherer societies, and showed that when honey is present, seasonally and geographically, it comprises a relatively large proportion of the diet (Marlowe et al., 2014).  For example, during the rainy season in the Congo, the Mbuti get up to 80% of their calories from honey.

And in Tanzania, seasonal honey harvesting by the Hadza is proportional to the amount of rainfall:

honey harvesting

The rainy season is a time when hunting is less productive and honey is most available.  Thus, honey fills an [essential] energetic void… just not 365 days a year.

Given that these groups are still around today, the researchers were able to estimate the relative contribution of various foods to the overall calories (at one point in time):




Conclusion of part 1: there may have been certain times of the year in specific places on Earth when the diet was meat-based, I won’t deny this, but an increasing amount of evidence suggests omnivory predominated.

Part 2.

Are we carnivores that should avoid plants because they’re harmful?

No, that’s ridiculous.


Thirty thousand-year-old evidence of plant food processing (Revedin et al., 2010)

Ecogeographic variation in Neandertal dietary habits: evidence from occlusal molar microwear texture analysis (El Zaatari et al., 2011)

Diets of modern hunter-gatherers vary substantially in their carbohydrate content depending on ecoenvironments: results from an ethnographic analysis (Strohle and Hahn, 2011)

Paleolithic human exploitation of plant foods during the last glacial maximum in North China (Liu et al., 2013)

OK, so do we *need* to eat plants?  Of course not.  Do we *need* to eat meat?  Of course not (eg, 1, 2, 3).

You’ll see in the blogosphere that most bloggers have the gist of it – there’s no concrete proof that plants [or meat] is absolutely necessary in the diet… this is nutritional sciences; that’s the nature of the beast.  For someone who thinks metabolic syndrome is best treated with a low-fat calorie-restricted diet, I doubt any of my blog posts have changed their opinion… I feel similarly about this issue.

Given my personal bias (which is moar animal protein btw), I feel dirty admitting this, but based strictly on the literature (assuming the bar isn’t set ridiculously low), there are many more studies demonstrating the safety of meat-avoidance (vegetarianism) than that of plant-avoidance (carnivory).

The longest (and one of the only) decent study on human carnivory I know of is Stefansson and Andersen.  N=2.  They didn’t get scurvy! #winning?

My take: vegetarianism and carnivory are not ‘hedged bets.’  Do you *need* to eat meat or plants?  Obviously, you need to eat foods from at least one of the groups.  But, need =/= optimization.

adding meat to a vegetarian diet = adding plants to a carnivorous diet ?

Sauteed green leafies, Brussels sprouts, mixed nuts, berries, ‘shrooms, sauerkraut, etc., etc... these are all very nutrient-dense.

Speculation: potential consequences of micronutrient insufficiencies and/or imbalances?  maintenance of an elevated level of body fat (role for leptin signaling?) …skeletal muscle protein synthesis and turnover are expensive processes, involving many enzymes and their requisite [micronutrient] cofactors…  also, GI problems, mood disorders, etc., etc… maybe I’m over thinking it, but, well, that’s what I do.


Does eating ‘nose-to-tail’ cover all your bases?  Place your bets!  it may have worked for S&A, but scientific support for this is sorely lacking.  Incorporating a variety of plants, cooked & raw, into your diet doesn’t make it a high carb diet! …the few carbs in the plants mentioned above are largely fibre.


And they’re good calories.  By that I mean, besides being real food, low in net carbs, and very nutrient-dense, they don’t hijack your appetite.  In one study, participants were instructed to add 43 grams (a little under 2 ounces) of almonds to their diet (Tan and Mattes, 2013).  This should’ve added about 250 Calories to their total food intake, but the results showed that the calories were completely compensated for, and in some cases, even more so.  That is, they participants spontaneously ate less [other stuff]:


Are these foods healthy because they displace something worse?  That might be the case for switching from regular soda to diet – wherein almost anything that replaces the calories is an improvement.

Nuts and many other plants aren’t healthy because they’re not high fructose corn syrup, they’re healthy because they’re good calories.

strawberries choc red wine

And anyway, carnivory excludes coffee, dark chocolate, and red wine.  If that’s paleo, count me out.

Affiliate discounts: if you’re still looking for a pair of hot blue blockers, Carbonshade  is offering 15% off with the coupon code LAGAKOS and Spectra479 is offering 15% off HERE. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this then this.

20% off some delish stocks and broths from Kettle and Fire HERE

If you want the benefits of  ‘shrooms but don’t like eating them, Real Mushrooms makes great extracts. 10% off with coupon code LAGAKOS.

For full access to all new articles (or if you just like what I do and want to support it), head over to Patreon! Three bucks a month gets you in and there are many other options. It’s ad-free and you can cancel if it sucks ????

Also, I’m open to suggestions so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me directly at

Become a Patron!


calories proper


Be Sociable, Share!
  • Microfossils in calculus demonstrate consumption of plants and cooked foods in Neanderthal diets (Shanidar III, Iraq; Spy I and II, Belgium).

    The nature and causes of the disappearance of Neanderthals and their apparent replacement by modern humans are subjects of considerable debate. Many researchers have proposed biologically or technologically mediated dietary differences between the two groups as one of the fundamental causes of Neanderthal disappearance. Some scenarios have focused on the apparent lack of plant foods in Neanderthal diets. Here we report direct evidence for Neanderthal consumption of a variety of plant foods, in the form of phytoliths and starch grains recovered from dental calculus of Neanderthal skeletons from Shanidar Cave, Iraq, and Spy Cave, Belgium. Some of the plants are typical of recent modern human diets, including date palms (Phoenix spp.), legumes, and grass seeds (Triticeae), whereas others are known to be edible but are not heavily used today. Many of the grass seed starches showed damage that is a distinctive marker of cooking. Our results indicate that in both warm eastern Mediterranean and cold northwestern European climates, and across their latitudinal range, Neanderthals made use of the diverse plant foods available in their local environment and transformed them into more easily digestible foodstuffs in part through cooking them, suggesting an overall sophistication in Neanderthal dietary regimes.

  • plants were eaten… this doesn’t mean they were critical to the evolution of the human brain. just that they were eaten…
    and with the exception of modern hunter-gatherers, there is little evidence suggesting plants were a major source of calories… that’s not to say they weren’t, just that I haven’t seen much that said they were.

    • Tim Steele

      It is possible that the massive consumption of tiger nuts (cyperus esculentus) contributed to the explosion seen in brain size during the reign of Paranthropus boisei aka ‘nutcracker man’.

      Tiger nuts are not nuts at all, but the rootlet (tubers) of a grass sedge that were easily harvested, high in Omega 3, PQQ, and resistant starch.
      Amazing things, tiger nuts, and available from Eaten for millions of years. A pound of tiger nuts gives about 2000 kcal, and they have a great supply of protein as well.
      Great post!

      • Thanks, Tim!

        Tiger nuts seem interesting… do you soak ’em? eat ’em raw?

  • Tuck

    “Do we *need* to eat meat? Of course not (eg, 1, 2, 3).”
    You do (defining meat broadly).

    Vitamin B12 is only available from eating meat, it is an essential nutrient (the body cannot produce enough of it to sustain life), and it is one nutritent that vegetarian populations are typically deficient in. (There are no non-industrial vegan cultures, which tells you something. A vegan diet is only possible with industrially-produced vitamin supplements. Otherwise a vegan diet = starvation.)

    • I wouldn’t go so far as to say that a vegan diet sans B12 supps is “starvation”

      many (but not all) of the studies on vegans say that B12 supps are routinely taken. However, vegetarians, particularly Lacto- and/or Ovo-vegetarians may not need to do this.

      • Tuck

        Lacto/Ovo vegetarians are at less risk of B12 deficiency than vegans, but not without risk:

        “Vitamin B12 nutrition is problematic
        in India due both to lactovegetarianism and the expense and scarcity of meat ingestion
        even in omnivores.”

        BTW, to get good research on vegetarian diets, I’ve found you need to look at what’s coming out of India. The US/British stuff research has too much hooey…

        • I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a proper study on vegetarianism (or carnivory) – they’re all either uncontrolled or confounded :/

      • Tuck

        This is a great study on what meat deficiency looks like in practice, and how to fix:

        “The ubiquitous plant-based diets, with their high phytate and fiber content, decrease iron, zinc, and calcium bioavailability and lack vitamin B-12…”

        “Meat Supplementation Improves Growth, Cognitive, and Behavioral Outcomes in Kenyan Children”

        • “adding meat to a vegetarian diet = adding plants to a carnivorous diet ?”


      • Jack Kruse

        you need DHA for more than you need meat or veggies…….nice post Bill. I agree with the chocolate, berries and wine too! Maybe we can share some one day.

        • Thanks, Jack!
          I’ll be sure to look you up if my travels bring me to the Gulf area.

      • rs711

        Technically starvation only refers to calories. But yes, any nutrient or mineral deficiency or other imbalance is in effect a secondary aggravating factor.

        I think there is much merit to Peter @Hyperlipid’s approach: evolution + the cell. The cell as a unit of study in nutrition has been more enlightening than epidemiology ever portended to. Sadly, anthropology suffers the same inclination (hypothesis generating, not necessarily testing).

        Jack Kruse approaches the subject in an alluring manner but at a level of chemistry, physics & math at which my opinion is not all that meaningful. I ask 2 friends of mine (1 an Imperial College London Chemist & and the other an Engineer from Brighton, UK) for some schooling on that matter – I’m left with a lot of “in principle, yes”. So I’m trying to build some of those bases in the mean time. He certainly gets the main things right. I’ll continue to follow his work & someday get to Ling et al.

    • This Old Housewife

      Also, all these stories we keep reading about people who’ve lived well into their 100’s never mention any veganism or even vegetarianism, but they DO mention the bacon and other processed meat consumption, the alcohol, the eggs, the steaks, and of course, the religion and social interaction. Occasionally, you see one or two of them mention some sort of exercise–whether it’s out walking around an indoor track with a walker, or doing a modified weight training session, or even marathoning.

      Drawing from this little bit of info, I wonder how long predominant plant-eaters truly live without the aid of science. If we didn’t have those cute little sublingual B-12 pills, the vegan DHA supplements, and other “little helpers”, I bet they wouldn’t live long–certainly not into the 100’s.

      • FWIW this isn’t about veg*sm or any other silly ideologies, I’d like to snip that part of the discussion off before they all land here and turn it into a ‘tard zone. It’s more about where the line lies between “necessary” and “optimum” and “can get away with” levels of direct plant consumption.

        What we know for sure is that you can get by and even thrive without veggies etc, but is just a bit just that little bit better? There’s no body of evidence either way so this is all exploratory, what we do know is that there are some hyper-responders who simply can’t function on even small amounts of non animal foods – these folk who know this tend to be extreme self-experimenters, so who knows how many others have gone a life of misery with an “undiagnosed plant allergy”, or whatever you want to call it.

        Our ancestors have likely nearly all eaten plants to some extent at some stage, but I’m willing to bet there were bell-curvers within any population who never did as well, and likely many generations of entire populations who never partook of any meaningful plant life – so just because some or even most did, doesn’t mean they had to, or even should have. Invoke religion for eg, worshipping a/many deities has been a mainstay of our species as far back as we can figure, or consider the pursuit of altered consciousness through narcotics/booze which is rampant over our history, though I’m sure many folk were again just not interested in that part of life – again they are “nice to haves” if you want them, but unnecessary. But maybe life is just a little better with them…?

        In the end it comes down to our lifestyle and current society, I can live without wine and dark chocolate and popcorn just as easily as I can dodge bread and brussel sprouts and Snickers – but there are some plant products I’m willing to consume now and then because I consider their net benefit on lifestyle outweighs whatever “harm” they may instill – so I choose to keep wine and dark choc and sometimes popcorn on my menu.

        Anything much else from the plant world beyond trace taste additives I’m unconvinced provides any further benefit to my life. I never did get into pot, sadly.

        • “What we know for sure is that you can get by and even thrive without veggies”

          That wording is too strong for something that is barely supported by one “n=2” study. Both men experienced bouts of illness despite eating very ‘nose-to-tail.’

          there’s no way of knowing if this was related to diet, but it can’t be overlooked when words like “thrive” are being thrown around.

          not getting scurvy =/= thriving

          • Huh? Man I don’t give a rats about Stefansson et al these days, and especially vitamin C and scurvy and crap like that – it’s all been done to death, they’re great conversation pieces though, and I credit them with opening my eyes all those years ago to even *consider* that maybe being a salad dodger wasn’t as radical as it seemed.

            That “strong wording” is based on what we know are essential nutrients to sustain a healthy human – none of which require a vegetable. They can be a delicious vehicle for fat and possibly fill a nutrient hole in our imperfect lifestyles, but that’s not the point.

            Yes, I’ll be the first one to point out the RDI’s are likely massively flawed – especially for those of us not encumbered by chronic hyperglycemia/insulinemia, the vit C thing is a prime example – but I’ll be surprised if in my lifetime they discover a vitamin/mineral/whatever in a plant that we can’t get in a more bioavailable form via being a secondhand-vegetarian.


            Of course I’ll probably die from that one specific deficiency, can you please tell the scientists to call it Simmonds Syndrome?

          • rs711

            Murphy’s Law –> Simmonds Syndrome

            laf 🙂

          • “I credit them with opening my eyes”

            me too. These studies provide insight into so many aspects of basic nutritional sciences… should be included in multiple lesson plans – necessity of fruit&vege, plant vs animal fibre, safety of high fat low carb…

            “it’s all been done to death”

            …in the blogosphere? because I don’t know of many studies on human carnivory… is there perhaps a collection of them over at HighSteaks?

   i found this, and yes, you get more than partial credit for inspiring this post 🙂

          • George

            Steffanson et al. didn’t eat necessarily nose-to-tail, just “meat”, in Steffanson’s case well-done.
            Owsley Stanley III was a better test case, running on meat and dairy from 1958 till his death this century (with some use of spices).

            I would put the question another way – what proportion of the population could survive and breed on only animal foods eschewed by veg*ns (excluding honey if you think that makes it fairer), vs what proportion on foods approved by veg*ns, with no supps for either group?
            I am pretty sure the all-animal foods diet would do least harm, or do harm to a lesser number, on classical nutritional grounds alone, without even factoring in toxins and antinutrients.

          • Yeah, I’m quick to conclude “nose-to-tail” when I hear brain… guess that makes me easy.

            As to your thought experiment – assuming smart people designing the diets in both groups – carnivores would likely fare better than strict vegans*, but omnivores would “win.”

            *the addition of a variety of fermented plants might level the playing field a bit.

          • This Old Housewife

            the RDI’s are likely massively flawed

            Lord knows. Your average vitamin is geared for keeping kids alive, and not adults. Way back when I still had the brains to do complicated math, I figured out that a One a Day “Max” pill was only good for people up to 77 lbs.–this was back when I was using them on my cat, as advised by my vet.

          • How’s the cat?

          • Michael

            “barely supported by one “n=2″ study”
            Be that as it may, for me all that counts is personal experience. And why should I disregard that?
            Yes, I do eat plants: chocolate and wine (mostly daily); olives (sometimes). Spices are down to pepper and chili. No herbs and garlic, etc.
            A few years of experimentation have taught me that more vege = more trouble. That’s all I need to know, really.

          • I do not recommend disregarding personal experience!

            some feel the need to prove their personal way-of-eating is scientifically superior; other’s acknowledge that what they like may not be the “best,” but I suspect there aren’t very many of these people in the field of nutrition…

        • “WHAT WE DO KNOW is that there are some hyper-responders who simply can’t function on even small amounts of non animal foods”

          Ash! come on, dude, this is setting the bar pretty low… you require gold standard randomized crossover studies if something disagrees with your opinion, but will cite some internet n=1’s if they agree…?

          …or, honestly, am I missing a large body of evidence on these “hyper-responders,” who, for all intents & purposes, are human carnivores?

          • Hardly gold standards dude, simply very high level of CAUSAL MEDICAL INFERENCE (to deploy a Lustigism) before an assertion is made that something must or must not be done.

            I always try to start from a minimalist (proscriptive) baseline, anything that is imposed as a should or should not from there needs pretty good reasons why or why not.

            I get it, these RCT studies which constitute golden scientific proof will NEVER be done to any of our standards, which is why this topic is all just spitballing.

        • “It’s more about where the line lies between ‘necessary’ and ‘optimum'”

          I don’t care about vegan / carnivore / paleo / JERF / or whatever other dietary ideology… what’s optimal here & now?

          Fortunately, this isn’t the case, but if that turned out to be corn oil, Spam, & tofu burgers, then that’s what I’d be advocating.

          • Yep, back when I gave a crap I started setting up a site called – the front page still says this:

            Tired of all the buzzwords and fad diets and Cult Of Ego surrounding most of the diet and health trends dominating nowadays, we are putting together an approachable no BS reference resource for all of the lifestyles which come under the umbrella which makes the most sense – Low Human Intereference.

            Whether it be Paleo, Primal, Caveman, Ketogenic, Atkins, Masai, Raw Vegan, whatever… we’re not here to tell you which path to choose – we’re all on the same train, it’s up to you to choose which carriage you’re on – all we aim to do is provide as much or as little information as you need to make the choice as to which lifestyle best suits you.

            Right now (October 2012) the site is young and unorganised, we are just building up our database of resources, check back in soon for full rundowns on every worthwhile lifestyle, without the dogma and garbage.


      • “all these stories we keep reading about people who’ve lived well into their 100’s”

        not to sound too pessimistic, but given the vast differences in the diets, environments, & lifestyles of the various peoples who live into their 100’s… I think there’s a lot of luck involved.

        That said, my favorite is the Cubans: “Cuba’s high number of centenarians say their longevity is down to laying off alcohol, but indulging in coffee, cigars and sex.”

        • This Old Housewife

          Okay, I give. 🙂

    • Why are your only two options veganism or carnivory?

      If you eat organic produce, grown using manure, it contains Vitamin B12 & Vitamin K2. Eat shit. 12 billion dung-flies can’t be wrong.

      Where do carnivores get dietary magnesium? Here’s a clue:- Oh, noes. They’re letting the side down.

      • Jack Kruse

        oysters are where you get it……

    • This Old Housewife

      Wrong–chlorella and blue-green algae also contain B-12.

    • WhatEverWorks

      > Vitamin B12 is only available from eating meat

      That statement ( with the word *only* ) is not correct : What about the B12 in raw egg yolk and milk ??

      > the body cannot produce enough of it [B12] to sustain life

      The body produces B12, but what is *enough* ? :

      > The body has a special circuit between the digestive tract and the liver. Bile, which is made in the liver and needed to digest fat, is secreted into the beginning of the small intestine. It is then reabsorbed at the end of the small intestine (the ileum) and taken back to the liver where it is used again. This circuit is called enterohepatic circulation. People normally secrete 1.4 µg/day of B12 into their small intestines via their bile (5). Consequently, healthy people can reabsorb about .7µg B12/day from their bile

      Eating meat is no 100 % full guarantee to completely eliminate all risk of getting B12 deficient : see other risk categories in

      > Others at risk for B12 deficiency include:
      – Vegans, vegetarians who also don’t eat dairy or eggs, vitamin B12 is found only in animal products
      – People with problems absorbing nutrients, due to conditions such as Crohn’s disease, pancreatic disease, and people who have had weight loss surgery
      – People who are infected with Helicobacter pylori, an organism in the intestines that can cause an ulcer. H. pylori damages stomach cells that make intrinsic factor, a substance the body needs to absorb B12
      – People with an eating disorder
      – People with HIV
      – The elderly

      I don’t see a problem in supplementing B12 :

      > In Western society today, it is easy for vegans to ensure an adequate B12 intake. Vegans who supplement with B12 can have superior B12 status to non-vegetarians who do not supplement. In fact, due to a decrease in the ability to absorb B12 from animal foods as people age, the Food and Nutrition Board says that all people (not just vegans) over age 50 should “meet their RDA mainly by consuming foods fortified with B12 or a B12-containing supplement.”

  • Tuck

    BTW, does honey count as a plant food or an animal food?

    If you choose plant food, in what way does honey differ from the flesh of a cow? 😉

    • meme…

      • George

        Vegans don’t eat honey. ergo, animal food. Refined food too, just not by humans.

        • Tuck

          Good logic, I like!

        • Do vegans consume human breast milk & human placenta? It comes from consenting animals, after all.

          • Purposelessness

            I know vegan parents who didn’t give their baby breast milk for vegan reasons, so, i dunno, some out there don’t..

        • I’ll buy it.

          and sauerkraut? (do we draw the line at microbes?)

          • Michael

            This has been thought about for a long time. Certainly certain early Jain sects argued exactly that more than two thousand years ago. These people ideally preferred starvation, including abstinence from water (which also contains microbes).

  • rs711

    We’ve shown humans to be omnivorous. We’ve failed to identify biochemical agents essential to us in plant foods but shown them to be present in non-plant foods.

    1: in a hunter-gatherer context of scarcity & competition, the wider the range of edible stuff the better off we’d be. Particular plant components don’t appear truly essential to our biochemistry but their role as a general alternative food source makes them absolutely crucial to survival (…maybe not thriving?).

    2: (for the sake of argument, lets assume a particular modern context) this modern context grants us access to a world-wide range of high quality foods (of all types). Without scarcity ‘alternative’ foods become more like ‘preferences’. So, are we better off* mimicking a ‘scarce & highly competitive environment’ (aka purposely including plants)? Or by maximizing what is essential now that this is possible?

    *better off; performance? reproductive success? longevity?

    – variety: plants + animal foods. But in a modern context reaching across the globe, even just “animal foods” presents incredible variety, just of a certain kind…Nutritional sciences might benefit from narrowing down a definition of a “varied diet” that appropriately reflects context (e.g. HG vs modern or world-travel vs local availability).

    – It’s not survival of the fittest but survival of the most adaptable. Maybe we retain this trait partially through vared movement patterns & diverse foods, overpowering the seemingly obvious advantage of maximizing that which is truly ‘essential’. Maybe. Maybe not.

    – Gluconeogenesis + fat stores: what an incredible hybrid (tri-brid! when including amino-acid conversion) machine! Vegetation appears as an inefficient participant to FUELLING such a machine. My guess is it’s more likely to play a ‘tuning’ role rather than a fuelling one.

    – Plants do things more akin to medicine than feeding. Maybe plants are better suited to immune modulating effects or play more of a niche role for specific cells (colonocyte feeding via fermentation). Furthermore, we don’t eat big ol’ handfuls of weed buds (typically) but our bodies did co-evolve receptors for endo & exocannabinoids, pretty much everywhere. Maybe we should consider this type of relationship with other plants too, rather than *assume* that their main function must primarily be as nutritional elements simply because we can chew & swallow them.

    Bill – great post. Nutritional science is still soooo far from a general theory of nutrition. Resolving our omnivory with what we know so far far about essential biochemical components is an excellent place to start. Although a lack of ‘starting places’ isn’t the issue 😉 !

  • What’s the best dietary source of Magnesium? Here’s a clue:-

    “For someone who thinks metabolic syndrome is best treated with a low-fat calorie-restricted diet, I doubt any of my blog posts have changed their opinion…”
    There’s a reason why metabolic syndrome is best treated with a low-fat, calorie-restricted (i.e. carb-restricted) diet. See Excess liver glycogen and excess liver fat need to be cleared. A deranged liver stores dietary fat as liver fat.

    Why are you so stubborn in insisting that a VLCVHF diet is the best diet for Met Syn/T2DM? It isn’t. Get over it.

    I believe that ~10% of the population have some kind of gluten enteropathy. This means that ~90% of the population don’t have a problem with gluten grains. So, just because eating grain dust is bad for us, everybody shouldn’t eat recognisably whole grains? That’s an unbelievably stupid thing to say.

    I’m starting to think that VLCVHF diets are causing a loss of logical thinking skills. :-/

    P.S. Good science is about considering all of the evidence, not cherry-picking studies that support your beliefs & rejecting studies that contradict your beliefs.

    • rs711

      I disagree – science is about evaluating all the available evidence while carefully discarding that which does not fit experiment. Evidence has the awful tendency to contradict itself. One cannot possibly represent “all the evidence for & against” a claim. Holding Bill (or anyone else) to that standard isn’t playing nice. What’s more realistic, is selecting evidence that best represents the agreement between theory & experimentation.

      I apologize my ‘unbelievable stupidity’ irked your sensibilities – it lashes out like a hungry vegan at times.
      Leaving aside the “I enjoy it” argument (which isn’t unimportant, granted), can you please give us one reason to consume grains rather than other animal foods (ranging from water creatures, land thingies & flying whatevers)? I’m genuinely interested in reasons why and can’t seem to find many based in reality. My bias certainly obfuscates my efforts.


      • Evidence can be contradictory. This is usually because either the methodology has been “tweaked” to yield a desired result, or statistics have been used to “lie” about the results. E.g. Riera-Crichton used statistics on food consumption patterns over the years to “prove” that Fat is slimming, so I used statistics on Bray et al to “prove” that Carbohydrates are slimming. Two can play at that game, lol! See

        “…can you please give us one reason to consume grains rather than other animal foods…”
        Way to go with the logical fallacies. You’ve just created a false dichotomy of “either/or”. Whatever happened to “both”? I’m definitely not a vegan (unless there’s such a thing as a vegan who eats meat & animal produce).

        This is why I’m getting fed-up with posting comments here. This blog is becoming an “echo chamber” for VLC nut-jobs. Talking of whom, I see that Jack Kruse has up-voted your comment to which I’m currently replying. Jeez!

        • rs711

          No false dichotomy – I’m just setting up a simple thought experiment whereby one assesses replacing one food with another.

          I do not know you personally and so did not say or imply you were a vegan – as far as I can tell (my ‘unbelievable stupidity’ aside).

          I agree that you should not post here or anywhere else if it makes you feel fed-up. Pro-tip: using ad hominem attacks as a marker for when to end a conversation is generally quite useful.

          I’ll make use of that now.

          • “No false dichotomy – I’m just setting up a simple thought experiment whereby one assesses replacing one food with another.”
            You said “…can you please give us one reason to consume grains rather than other animal foods…” That’s an either/or choice, which is a false dichotomy.

            “I do not know you personally and so did not say or imply you were a vegan – as far as I can tell (my ‘unbelievable stupidity’ aside).”
            The way this conversation’s going, you wouldn’t want to know me personally anyway. I never said you implied anything. I was merely providing (useless) information.

            “I agree that you should not post here or anywhere else if it makes you feel fed-up. Also, using ad hominem attacks as a marker for ending the conversation is quite useful. I’ll make use of that now.”
            What would be nice, would be for people who post comments here to display a little critical thinking, rather than just say “Well said” to someone else’s comment, or talk a load of nonsense. I won’t hold my breath.

      • “I disagree – science is about evaluating all the available evidence while carefully discarding that which does not fit experiment.”
        I think you mean “while carefully discarding that which does not fit my beliefs.”

        So, Riera-Crichton et al: To you, a good study or a bad study? You’ve been very quiet on this subject.

    • Jack Kruse

      I disagree yet again with Nigel. My sensibilities are quite different than most, Focus on what matters. Wisdom is knowing what not to think about any longer……..The literature is filled with garbage. I believe it is the mark of an educated mind to sow doubt and disruption where dogma lives. I constantly seek to “unknow” things. Test everything that can be tested. As soon as you think you know something, that’s when you stop questioning it. Understanding kills curiosity. Understanding kills your progress. Remain curious by asking better questions once you think you have wisdom in your pocket. Good results are difficult when indifference predominates. You must seek your answer. When we are seeking our answer, we cannot be indifferent about the questions we ask, because we want the answer that brings transformation. So, the first questions that lead to the right answers we must ask of ourselves: Am I making a positive deposit into my future? What will I reap from this decision? What is motivating me to take this action? When we ask ourselves the right questions we will lead ourselves to the right answers. The problem is not to find the answer, it’s to face the answer. Begin to live with the answer than die with the question.

      • See my comment below. I’ve been reading PubMed for long enough to know the difference between a good study and a bad study.

        You VLC’ers are creaming yourselves over Riera-Crichton. Ooh, look! Carbs are fattening and fat is slimming! Yeah, right! <- the only time that a double-positive ? a negative.

        If you can't see what a pile of utter poo Riera-Crichton is, then you seriously need to re-think your diet, 'cos it ain't doing your mental faculties any favours!

        Ciao for now.

        • rs711

          I’m a slave to the pull of pointing out the painfully obvious sometimes. Here, it’s that saying “I’ve been reading PubMed for long enough to know the difference between a good study and a bad study.” makes you sound like a real hurt-b*tthole in this circumstance.

          • Aw, bless!

            As a nerd, I’m just pointing out the bleedin’ obvious. It’s what we do.

          • Jack Kruse

            Obvious to your perception of reality.

          • Jack Kruse

            I never allow my critics to dull my shine Nigel…….I revel in who I am. If that makes me pompous so be it. When you fuel your life’s journey on the opinions of others, you end up on a dark curvy road holding a gas can………
            I challenge all conventions including my own. This makes me a target. An alternative “point of view” can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding. People only see what they want to see……or feel what they want to feel. When nature touches you deftly you become new. When your flesh is waiting, nature has electricity in the merest contact it makes with you. Nature’s touch has a memory for our souls. To know a nature’s library is, in some measure, to know the possibility of the human mind. I have no time for people who take away from my vision. I will explain it to the nth degree, but I won’t compromise for a critic. We have an obligation to ourself only Nigel. You can only change yourself. You can’t let other people tell you who you are. You have to decide that for yourself. Health improvements always begin with I, not we. Looking for a critic to bail you out shows the strength of your argument. Ignore the critics Nigel, only mediocrity is safe from ridicule. You should be dare to be different. Those are but a few of my comments for you.

          • I’ll take that as a “Yes, I lied & made sh*t up, but don’t be a hater”. As a retired Electronics Engineer, I know electrical/electronic BS when I see it.

            See also

            Cheers, Nige

          • Jack Kruse

            Sorry Nigel, I do not let people put words in my mouth. I speak freely. I evaluate the people in my life and then demote, or promote or terminate. Ultimately you are the CEO of your life. Those people were demoted and deleted. What they said and believed matters little to my journey. You seem to share many of their beliefs but I engage you because I sense you have more sense then they did. So I engage you even though you really have no idea of who I am. What you think is based upon the views of others and that is a reflection of how you operate and not how I am.

          • Jack Kruse

            Nigel the natural truth’s are bigger than my ego, and being able to stand among the naysayers with this knowledge, and, more importantly, the experience of how Nature is running the show, has me in a place that is far beyond the dark ages of my past.

          • Also, nice deflection away from the subject of Riera-Crichton et al. 😀

          • George

            What’s a Riera-Crichton?
            What is its relevance to this post?

          • “What’s a Riera-Crichton?”
            It’s “Riera-Crichton et al”. Please don’t misquote me. See,%20calories%20out%20framework.pdf
            “Our structural VAR results suggest that, on the margin, a 1% increase in carbohydrates intake yields a 1.01 point increase in obesity prevalence over 5 years while an equal percent increase in fat intake decreases obesity prevalence by 0.24 points.”

            “What is its relevance to this post?”
            Its relevance to this entire blog is:-

            So, what do you think of Riera-Crichton et al? Good study or bad study?

  • “I might point out however the Neanderthal remains from Shanidar cave were from sick individuals (who were likely rendered unable to hunt food and/or made sick(er) from subsisting on plant foods..?) Frequently, the evidence pertaining to Neanderthal diets points to significantly higher meat consumption than plants”

    -Anna Fagan (,

    • Jack Kruse

      True Bill. Cunnane and Crawford’s book showed detailed studies showing Neanderthals had more brain mass but we have no idea if that mass was helpful or not. I personally think it hurt them thermodynamically and this is why they died out……….The more powerful the brain the more energy constraints it places when brain specific nutrients become sparse.

      • Brain mass is no guarantee of superior intelligence.

        Of course, maybe some species are so far beyond our type zero intelligence that we can’t even recognise them as such, and to them we’re just interesting sorta cunning things.

        • Jack Kruse

          True Ash but here is the point youre missing……..125 more gms applies a thermodynamic constraint on energy. IT becomes a bigger hog of energy and if the environment goes against you this can extinct you. CMRO2 is tightly coupled to CBF. This is neurosurgery 101. So more brain tissue carries a big price and can hurt you regardless of its function. The physiologic quality of the remains is tied to DHA content as Crawford has elegantly pointed out for 20 yrs while paleo has ignored.

          • I think DHA content is a huge factor, but it still doesn’t explain dolphins and whales for which diets are almost certainly significantly beyond what we are capable of consuming.

            The metabolic rate of oxygen on a given species also isn’t a flat line – just our experiments on humans and rats shows we are remarkably pliable, and even shown to require next to no oxygen for cerebral ability at all for extended periods.

            There’s more to it.

  • “adding meat to a vegetarian diet = adding plants to a carnivorous diet ?”

    ^^ YES

    You might not die for many years of eating only meat (or only plants) but that doesn’t mean you wont feel a fuck of a lot better if you correct your shit depleted vitamins/minerals you are inducing upon yourself with your weirdo diet.

    I’ve been eating a relatively low animal protein VLC/mild keto diet for quite some time. I’m also told I might have kryptopyroluria (haha) which increases a person’s need for zinc/b6/a. acid (note: I have no idea how true that is, but it IS Intriguing given my response to zinc supplementation…).

    In spite of the fact I”m not at all vegetarian and eat *ample* amounts of nuts which put my zinc status as very adequate, I responded to a 50mg zinc tablet with an amazing health improvement.

    -My sense of smell and taste returned (I could hardly smell anything prior to zinc)
    -White spots on nails disappeared
    -Skin quality improved tremendously. Less acne, stronger, more supple, more even.
    -Fertility improved
    -Weight regulation became much easier.
    -Mood way, way better. Also less paranoid/fearful/bizarre, easier to socialize and interact.

    I was not eating a vegetarian diet and eating plenty of zinc rich nuts and still a zinc tablet improved my whole world.

    Relatedly, vitamin C. Prior to supplementing vitamin C, I had easy bruising, and much greater fatigue. I no longer bruise easily and my fatigue is worse if I stop my vitamin C supplement, even though my diet has enough plants for vitamin C.

    People can live for YEARS and simply not die on all kinds of crazy eating plans. Continuing to live and being optimally well are very different things.

    I also think most of us will need supplements, especially if we are on restricted diets for reason or other. The anti-supplement behavior / advice of diet gurus is dangerous. I believe Jimmy Moore for example irresponsibly doesnt supplement and doesn’t advice it, meanwhile he eats this insane diet comprised of butter and limited bits of meat/veg. ANYONE on a ketogenic diet should be on a multivitamin, end of freaking story. I know some of us need to be keto (I sure do) but that doesn’t mean you have to end up like an epilepsy patient with a selenium level of 0 and gross deficiencies.

    The %s of vitamins/minerals in food is considering an ideal; realize tha tmost of the food we eat is quite a bit more poor in nutrition than calculators would suggest, and also consider that negative energy balance (losing fat) INCREASES need for some minerals such as zinc.

    As a rule of thumb restricting more than you need to is a stupid idea, and also a rule of thumb, thinking you don’t need supplements is equally as stupid.

    • I spent a lot of time growing up in the country, much in areas very inhospitable to anything that sprouts and is edible by humans, but rich in creatures of earth air and water which I routinely caught/killed and ate.

      You know what I find a “weirdo diet”? One where you leave most of an animal and have to scour the earth scavenging a bunch of stuff from a gazillion sources and packets of crap that tell you what’s *supposed* to be in it on the label – to fulfill some abstract nutritional concept. Eating several times a day/constantly. Planting something that might sustain you a tiny bit many months from now. Being hungry. Obsessing over food. Having to do anything more than cut and heat something to make it edible.

      These concepts all seem like unnecessary suffering over something pretty simple, and frankly, a very weird subsistence.

      • Fermentation though I want to think of as a beautiful thing.

        • Alcohol induces hypoglycemia which destroys my emotions, and tends to promote hypoglycemia even into the next day if I really drink a bit.

          Different people different issues. 😀

      • As we’ve discussed previously, I find meat makes me much hungrier, and every time I attempt to eat a large quantity of meat my blood sugar regulation is poor, and my emotional state definitely is.

        I love meat so much I will gladly eat a pound of raw beef. Almonds are much more satiating with zero ability to cause hypoglycemia , OTOH a pound of raw ground beef is something I must limit. EVEN RAW ground beef.

        A lot of people find it “weird” that lack of sleep can be cyclically escalating , and simple sunlight light can fuck me up as well, but that’s wooo’s life. Just because you don’t have these issues doesn’t mean they are self inflicted by not following some hypothetical “ideal” human diet (which actually isn’t and the overwhelming majority of evidence suggests plants are totally natural part of human diet).

        • I don’t know why anyone would think sleep issues are weird, I think we’re all on the same page here that circadian biology is one of the big players.

          FWIW I’m not the one spouting an “ideal” human diet – I’m the one asking questions as to why others assert that something is necessary or must be avoided, I only ever get “because other people do it” as an answer.

          As mentioned elsewhere – I start from an absolute baseline, what is required (as far as we know right now), nothing more. I don’t consider that to be the ideal, but it’s a place to start and then add stuff as evidence proves beneficial.

          From there we’re trounced with people/authorities saying you MUST eat broccoli/bread/fiber/nuts/potatoes/seed oils/bananas/glucose/blah blah blah and must AVOID meat/sat fat/cholesterol/etc etc – and every single time you investigate the reasons for these assertions, they fall in a heap.

          As far as I’m concerned the ideal diet is the one that covers your bases without needing to be obsessive, and has enough fun stuff to make you happy without significant detriment.

          • Michael

            Look, stop being so reasonable. Your diet is weird, and so you are a weirdo. Get with the program and start eating your soaked tigernuts.

      • redneck

        I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t spent lots of time hunting (and not gathering, because there’s nothing worth it) who really got this.

        • >I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t spent lots of time hunting (and not gathering, because there’s nothing worth it) who really got this. —

          This needs to be understood.

          Yeah, I’m a namby pamby city boy approaching 40 nowadays, and as much as I love the ideology of being an ugg ugg caveman hunting big game once a week or so that’s not the reality – I now buy my meat almost daily just like everyone else from a butcher or supermarket.

          However, I HAVE lived that life (and intend to return to it), a life where you eat what you kill, and you kill for your life.

          Edible plants are a luxury.

          • “>I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t spent lots of time hunting (and not gathering, because there’s nothing worth it) who really got this. —

            This needs to be understood.

            Edible plants are a luxury.”

            …i sense a new straw man in the works…

            to a degree, this goes back to what Jane Plane was saying… most people won’t eat an entire jar of nuts simply because they have access to it.

            Some people will, and they should avoid nuts & seek help 😛

          • Not a straw man, a corn man.

    • +1!

      pet theory: many people suffer from sub-clinical nutrient deficiencies… possibly more so when losing weight because eating less.

  • Regarding nuts, an important benefit of almonds and other high fiber nuts is that they regulate GI flora.

    I never realized this but my many, many years intake of nuts is likely why I seem to tolerate a VLC diet better than people who went carnivore retard ending up with more GI problems. When I cut my intake of almonds down my GI suffers, not improves. Ive spoken to lots of people who went on meat only diets for long periods who claim their GI flora was destroyed and they seem to benefit from supplementing fibers like resistant starch.

    Almonds are perfect snack food for a ketogenic diet. They are not totally protein deficient (relatively high pro), >75% fat and quite high in fibers.

    • I had an almond tree as a kid, unfortunately what we have now though is ridiculously easy access to overdo them. When getting them from the tree it takes hours to harvest even a handful and then you’ve somewhat depleted your tree, good luck stuffing yourself on them – such nuts in such an environment are nothing more than a rare snack.

      Right now though I have 1kg of the things sitting in my cupboard that I got for $5 bucks, the reason I don’t just sit there and pig out is a purely reasoning one as I don’t like the idea of spiking myself with excess phytic acid or fiber – and I know I couldn’t trust myself to just eat “a handful” when there is a ton of them there.

      Cashews are even worse for me – hyper-palatability speaking, gosh I love ’em.

      If anything I’d go for macadamias as a “snack” item, I find their nutrition profile much less toxic and they get sickly very quickly. Ickly mickley frickley.

      • The thing is ash almonds are hyper satiating, and for people who have significant blood glucose disorders and must subsist on a fat based metabolism, quite a useful snack as they are almost entirely fat with enough fiber/protein to be relatively balanced.

        YOu likely have such impulse control problems with almonds because you limit yourself to an almost entirely meat based diet. It’s normal to overdo a “treat” food that one does not eat regularly; however, if almonds were part of your daily diet, you would find they tend to penalize overconsumption by extreme fullness and almost NO insulin release. OTOH, with extremely insulinogenic treat foods this fails to occur because they induce an endocrine disordered state with glucose swings. Almonds do not qualify at all, just like 90% chocolates.

        Meat is vastly more insulinogenic and conducive to reactive low blood sugar for any hypoglycemic. If I eat a pound of meat I will be in woo regret land. If I eat 5 ounces of almonds I am extremely stuffed and sluggish and cant eat any more with NO hypoglycemia.

        Once more I would like to emphasize that I do NOT prefer almonds/chocolate to sizzling steaks covered in butter, or quarter pounders with bacon and cheese. I eat the diet I eat because I must eat a 70% fat diet and limit protein for blood sugar as well as mood. Meat is vastly more tasty and pleasurable to eat than relatively bland, low sugar plant food.

      • This Old Housewife

        Have you tried subdividing them into those small snack-size zippy bags? That’s what I do, and it helps me limit our intake to 1 bag daily (1/4 cup). Hubby gets his bag packed in with his lunch.

    • rs711

      Macadamia, Walnuts, Almonds & Brazil nuts are my favorite.

      Do you know if these people you mention ate nose-to-tail by any chance?

      Amongst these: lack of plant fiber, bacterial hitch-hikers, phytonutrients, plant sterols, potentially missing hormesis from toxins…which of these most likely underlie your “carnivore retard” scenario? All of the above? None?

      • Your jib.

        The cut of which.

        That is what I find approving.

  • Purposelessness

    I think it’s safe to say that our ancestors also ate plenty of insects, and that we should maybe try that too.

    Who knows, maybe we can live without meat or plants, when we eat plenty of grubs! Animal protein AND fiber in a nifty little package.

    More humane than keeping mammals as foodstuff and easier to digest than an all plant diet. More sustainable than either large scale agriculture or those meat factories vegans don’t like!

    Really I don’t see any drawbacks anymore.

    • $10/oz
      per OUNCE! …that’s probably about 10 grams of protein 🙁

      • Purposelessness

        I’m sure it’d get cheaper with increased production. Economy of scale?
        They should be chapter than other animals, shouldn’t they?

        • eventually, I suppose.

          unless we hunted & gathered our own… but that’s way more icky then buying commercial cricket flour or freeze-dried crickets.

          • Purposelessness

            Every time I’m at the pet food store i ponder the crickets and meal worms. I could fry them in butter. I bet they’re like shrimp.

            I wouldn’t gather my own grubs for the same reason i wouldn’t shoot my own deer – i have no idea how to tell they’re healthy. Maybe they have parasites or ate heavy metals, who knows.

            But i bet protein bars from cricket flour or sausage made from 50% pork 50% bugs would be palatable even for the non iron stomachs

          • “But i bet protein bars from cricket flour or sausage made from 50% pork 50% bugs would be palatable even for the non iron stomachs”

            I concur. Haven’t heard much about the Chapul bars, but people seem to like exo’s… 40 crickets per bar!

  • Joanne asked:

    Neanderthals prob consumed as many plant species as modern humans “did” – dates?

    • To the best of my understanding, “modern humans,” in this context, refers to early humans like “Cro-Magnon Man” (I think), as opposed to Neanderthals. They overlapped in time (prior to 18000 years ago?), but were technically a different specie or subspecie. For example, the most recent evidence from Neanderthals in that study came from 18000 years ago, whereas that for “Modern Humans” was from 10000 years ago… but there was significant overlap from 18000 to ~100000 years ago…

  • Pertinent to this discussion maybe?

    Paul Jaminet in a Feltham interview today’ish re-iterates his prescription of 30% carbs in the diet in the form of “safe starches”, and that “a certain amount of carbohydrates in the diet are a must”, but yet again doesn’t explain WHY? Hit up 13mins in:

    Does anyone see a pattern forming…?


    I wrote some stuff down on facepalmbook:


    Edit again for anyone not following the links, I love Jaminet’s stuff, I just wish they’d cite reasons instead of go to fairy land.

    • rs711

      saw that yesterday: argument usually touches on the thyroid downregulation & gut mucus deficit. If this turns out correct then this means we’ll have discovered an “essential carbohydrate”. Incredible claims require incredible evidence. It may just be that carbs ‘help’ yet aren’t essential (WhoTF knows…really).

      Check out (~ > halfway): Dr.Ames’ e.g. on ‘organic’ celery & mutagenicity…u’ll love this Ash haha.

      • “Gut mucus deficit” and “glucose deficiency” are circular logic, much like the “oh if you stop eating low carb you’ll get fat again” or the “oh you’re only not an alcoholic if you’re not drinking alcohol” thing. Re-hee-hee-heaaaally!??

        Not sure how to download that podcast. I have shitty internet and have to download stuff to watch/listen as “streaming” often ends up starting over and over.

    • Jack Kruse

      He is FOS.

      • Michael

        I agree. I never thought so, but latterly one does begin to wonder, especially after that disingenuous write-up about Seth.

  • julia31

    Get All The Support And Guidance You Need To Be A Success At Managing Your Weight Loss Goals!

  • Perhaps I was wrong… broccoli is a health hazard!

    • LOL yeah, posted that on HS last night (site’s down from hackers on a different site :), just don’t give brocolli to grandma unless she has teeth.

  • Esmée La Fleur

    I have yet to find a single plant food that leaves me feeling the same or better after I eat it. Every single one makes me feel worse.