Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
January 16, 2022
Confusion reigns supreme! What to eat and how to eat it?
So many diets. Everyone has their “perfect” way of eating. Plant-based, animal-based, and everything in between.
Is there an answer to the question, “What is the best way of eating to maintain wellness now and into the future?” After extensive research, I can finally say, “Yes, there is a best way of eating! And I’ll tell you why.”
Today, Paleo, Keto, and Carnivore diets are popular ways of eating that attempt to reflect how our primal ancestors may have met their nutritional needs over thousands of years. Each of these diets have their advocates and critics. Each eating lifestyle also has similarities and differences. But they all have one thing in common. Each is healthier than the Standard American Diet which over 88% of the US population eats today.
Our Evolutionary Way of Eating
The evolution of our human species over that last 2.5 million years has depended on nutrients in a bioavailable form and a healthy gut. Both have allowed for survival, a strong body, a robust immune system, and the creation of complex cognitive abilities.
Humans are omnivores. That means that we can eat animals and plants. However, our species has always favored eating animals from nose-to-tail. And current research proves this fact.
The proof comes in a detailed paper put together by a group of researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel and at the University of Minho in Portugal. These three archaeologists published their cutting-edge research in March 2021 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
The investigators stated, “It is hard to convince a devout vegetarian that his/her ancestors were not vegetarians, and people tend to confuse personal beliefs with scientific reality. Our study is both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary.”
These scholars used genetics, metabolism, physiology, morphology and archaeology of tool development to settle the question: “Were Stone Age humans specialized carnivores or generalist omnivores?
The scientific team came to this conclusion: Stone Age humans were specialized carnivores until about 20,000 years ago. Then, some plants were brought into their diet.
The scientists based this statement on facts:
- Human stomach acidity is extremely acidic, indicating a meat diet in which the acid not only would kill harmful bacteria that was decaying meat but also would break down animal protein.
- Human fat is stored in large numbers of small fat cells like other carnivore predators, whereas omnivores have few but large fat cells. Humans can make use of these high fat reserves by rapidly turning them into fatty acids and ketones for energy when needed.
- Areas of the human genome are closed off to enable a fat-rich diet, but the areas of the omnivore genome are open to enable a sugar-rich diet.
- Archaeological evidence supports a meat-based diet based on the artifacts discovered around the skeletal remains.
- Stable nitrogen isotopes in the bones and teeth of prehistoric humans point to consumption of meat with a high fat content.
- Specialized tools for obtaining and processing vegetable foods only appeared more recently along the evolutionary continuum.
And the nutrients obtained by eating the whole animal from nose-to-tail are bioavailable and work in tandem to provide what is vital for humans to function without creating inflammation or damage in the gut or in the immune system.
You may ask, “How do we know the ancestral way of eating is still relevant today?”
Look no further than some of the primal societies living and thriving today. These peoples eat a high animal-based diet and have little to no chronic diseases. Examples are …
- Hiwi: From Venezuela and Colombia whose diet is 75% animals
- Ache: From Paraguay whose diet is 78% animals
- Inuit: From the Artic whose diet is 96% marine animals
- Hadza: From Tanzania whose diet is 48% animals
Chronic Disease is Out of Control
Look at chronic disease in the US. Some scary statistics are …
- The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) stated that 60% of Americans live with at least one chronic disease, and chronic diseases are responsible for 70% of deaths each year in the United States. In addition, at least 72% of our society is overweight or obese.
- In 2010, a published paper demonstrated that 93.9% of adults in the United States had some form of gum inflammation (gingivitis).
- In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published their results in the Journal of Periodontology. It showed the prevalence of severe periodontal disease (periodontitis) was estimated to be 47.2% for American adults. For adults 65 years old and older, the prevalence jumped to 70.1%.
- The CDC reported that approximately 91% of U.S. adults aged 20–64 had dental caries in permanent teeth. The prevalence increases to 93% for those above 65 years old.
- In a 2019 issue of the journal, Metabolic Disorders and Related Disorders, a peer-reviewed study showed that 88% of US population is metabolically inflexible.
These chronic diseases and disorders are directly correlated to how we eat as a society, the missing nutrients in our food, and the poor absorption of these nutrients into our body.
If you are not including some animal-based foods in your diet, you probably are not getting adequate amounts of these vital nutrients in a bioavailable form, which are critical for overall wellness. Also, these nutrients are in proper ratios and biologically balanced when you are eating animals from nose-to-tail. To try to compensate, you would need to take processed supplements and synthetic products which are not balanced biologically and may have other chemical substances labeled as “inert or other ingredients” …
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (DHA and EPA)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin A (Retinol)
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine_
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Anti-Nutrients & Potentially Toxic Substances
Some plants have innate biochemicals which they use as protection but could damage your gut and interfere with the absorption of necessary nutrients. And if you are eating only plants, an accumulation of these elements (which are often referred to as anti-nutrients or potentially toxic substances) may cause harm in your body …
- Trypsin Inhibitors
- FODMAPS (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols)
- Sulfites, Benzoates, and MSG
- Non-protein amino acids
- Alkaloids [includes solanine, chaconine]
- Phytic Acid [Also Called Phytate]
Three Ways of Eating
Based on the previous facts that are debated by many yet supported by evidence, Paleo, Keto, and Carnivore “styles of eating” emerge to be most like our ancestor’s diet. What are the similarities, and what are the differences? And which is the right option for long-term, optimal health?
A Paleo Diet is designed to resemble what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate thousands of years ago. There is no “one and only one” way to eat. Paleolithic humans thrived on a variety of foods depending on what was available in their timeline, where in the world they lived, and the season of the year.
Some ate a low-carb diet high in animal foods, while others followed a higher-carb diet. But obviously, none ate processed foods, and none were exposed to man-made toxic elements in the environment.
A Ketogenic Diet (i.e.: keto diet) is a low carb, high fat diet that offers many health benefits. Currently, there are 413 peer-reviewed papers which have been published in PubMed about the subject.
In a keto diet, the drastic reduction in carbs puts your body into dietary ketosis.
In ketosis, your body becomes efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain along with many other health benefits. Alternating between being a “fat-burner” and being a “carb-burner” may be the healthiest of all worlds. Most likely our primal ancestors were efficient in burning fat or carbs for fuel as necessary.
A Carnivore Diet stems from the evidence that human ancestral populations ate mostly animals from nose-to-tail and that high-carb diets may be a significant factor in today’s high rates of chronic disease. With a strict carnivore diet, all plants are eliminated. A carnivore diet can create dietary ketosis quickly and for a substantial period.
Comparison of Paleo, Keto, Carnivore
Here is a comparison table of What to Eat and What to Avoid for Paleo, Keto, and Carnivore as suggested by some experts.
My Take – The Best of the Best
Personally, I have experimented with all three diets. After all my research, I tweaked and integrated the most essential elements of each to create my Better Belly Blueprint. My goal for this way of eating was to improve the health of the gut, provide all the necessary bioavailable nutrients that our DNA code requires, and to cycle into and out of ketosis on a regular basis. My bottom line was to enhance my immune system as best as possible.
Looking at a typical plate of food, animal-based foods eaten nose-to-tail make up at least 70% by volume, and specific fruits and vegetables make up no more than 30%. It is critical that these plants are low in phytates, oxalates, and lectins.
Phytates, oxalates, and lectins are some of the toxic substances known as anti-nutrients. They can damage the gut microbiome and the gut epithelial lining. A damaged gut will lead to systemic inflammation that has been shown to increase the risk of all chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, dental diseases, skin rashes, and many others. However, it may take time before the manifestation of disease – months, years, or even decades are not out of the question.
Overall, the Better Belly Blueprint is a high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate diet. Here is what a plate of food might look like:
Changing Your Way of Eating
I know that changing your way of eating can be overwhelming. As humans, we have emotional ties to food, as well as many years of habits formed believing which foods are “good” and which are “bad”. Your diet is a HUGE component of your overall health and can be the factor that saves you from metabolic disaster. We now know your gut and metabolic health are what can prevent you from developing chronic illness, fatigue, and even cancers.
I don’t expect you to just take my word for it. I want you to try it out for yourself. That’s why I share my Better Belly Blueprint Recipes on my website. Start incorporating these meals into your daily eating plans and take notice of the results! I prepare these dishes frequently for my wife and me. (By the way, my wife doesn’t always like what I like.)
If you’ve been following my story, you’ll remember I was following a Paleo diet and lifestyle for about 6 years before my cancer diagnosis. I was feeling great. My oncologist believes that my diet and lifestyle kept the undiscovered cancer at bay for as long as possible. Little did I know then that I still was missing key nutrients and putting some harmful elements in my body. When I began to eat and live a Paleo lifestyle, I may have delayed the manifestation of cancer, but I wasn’t fixing the problem. I didn’t know a problem existed!
Since then, I’ve done an immense amount of research (along with trial and error using myself as N=1) to figure out what I was missing. This has saved my life!
I DON’T HAVE A CURE FOR CANCER!
I DON’T HAVE A CURE FOR CHRONIC DISEASE!
But I do know how to improve my way of eating and lifestyle to enhance my immune system. And a robust immune system is the ticket for healing your body and defending it from disease.
I want to help your body ward off chronic diseases, which is why I developed my Balanced Metabolic Coaching Program and summarized the process in this PDF. I created a set of metrics that can help monitor your current metabolic health and assembled tools to assist your body to achieve optimal health as best as possible. As I stated, a robust immune system is your best defense against any type of illness. This regimen has not only worked to extend the quality of my life, but it has worked for many of my clients!
You can learn more about my Balanced Metabolic Coaching Program HERE. I invite you to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me. There’s no obligation – we’ll have a conversation about your health and goals to see if we are the right fit for working together.
Regardless if you sign up for coaching with me or not, I hope that you’ll take my research and learnings to heart. Your life depends on it!
Schedule a ”30-Minute Free Consult” with me to answer some of your questions and determine if we are a good fit for a coaching program! CLICK HERE.