The Origin Diet

Scientific evidence reveals that in prehistoric times — before the low-carb diet, before the all-protein diet, even before calories were counted — obesity and chronic disease rates were dramatically lower. In The Origin Diet, Elizabeth Somer, one of America’s most popular and respected nutritionists, helps us get back to these beginnings. This book will give you a simple but specific daily program guaranteed to improve your health and help you lose weight-quickly and easily.

Somer does not suggest that we should live in caves, but she does advise painless changes in the way we eat — such as incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into our diet — to help align the body with its evolutionary needs. Based on the results of hundreds of scientific studies, The Origin Diet will show you how to

reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, osteoporosis, cataracts, memory loss, and even depression
reverse the damage of atherosclerosis and bone loss
lose those extra pounds — and keep them off
use the Origin Pyramid as a guide in planning and preparing easy, nutritious meals
have more energy and enjoy life more
Adopt just a few of the suggestions in The Origin Diet and you will notice changes in your weight and risk of disease, such as the lowering of blood cholesterol levels. Take on the whole program and you’ll experience significant improvement in how you feel, think, and live.

The Origin Diet offers a tempting, healthful array of recipes and menus, including such delicious dishes as Sweet Potato Chowder, Ginger Barbecued Salmon, and Spicy Turkey Stew. You’ll also discover great tips for making exercise a part of your daily life, as well as helpful idea s for reducing stress.

The process is tried and true. People who have followed the Origin Diet have lost weight, lowered their cholesterol levels, experienced more energy, slept better, and cut back on their medications. By simply following the Five Stone Age Secrets found in this book, you too can regain the lean, fit, healthy body nature intended.

ELIZABETH SOMER, M.A., R.D., is a nationally recognized nutrition expert and award-winning writer. She is a former consultant to Good Morning America, a contributing editor to both Shape and Eating Well magazines, and the author of six books. She lives with her family in Salem, Oregon. Her Web site can be found at

“Brimming with solid research and sound advice, The Origin Diet will bring you back to your dietary roots by revealing why you must eat like your ancestors to maintain health and how you can easily and successfully do it in today’s fast-food world. All you have to do is open this book, and you’ll be opening up endless possibilities for a healthy, long, and vital life.”
–Debra Waterhouse, M.P.H., R.D., author of Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell and Outsmarting Fatigue

“Elizabeth Somer’s writing is always a treat. The Origin Diet is not a gimmick or a quick fix — it gives us many compelling reasons to seek out fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. After reading Somer’s well-researched argument for returning to the habits of our ancestors, you will be eager to incorporate her many tips, strategies, and recipes into your daily life.”
–Barbara J. Rolls, Ph.D., professor and Guthrie chair in nutrition, Penn State University

The following is an excerpt from the book The Origin Diet: How Eating Like Your Stone Age Ancestors Will Help You Live Longer, Feel Healthier, and Lose Weight
by Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D.
Published by Henry Holt; January 2001; $23.00US; 0805063358;
Copyright © 2001 Elizabeth Somer

You Were Born to Be Healthy, Lean, and to Live Long

Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution.

Finally, it all made sense. I leaned back after reading an article on evolutionary nutrition and sighed in relief. My mind was racing with possibilities. So, before you bite into your next double cheeseburger or quench your thirst with a cola, I’d like a moment of your time. What I have to say will change your life!
I’m a research junkie. I read hundreds of studies every month and have done so for more than twenty years. As editor-in-chief of the newsletter Nutrition Alert, contributing editor to Shape magazine, and frequent correspondent for national news media, I pride myself on presenting accurate, timely nutrition information. From my thirty-two file drawers brimming with research, I can pull reams of studies that show vegetables lower cancer risk, saturated fat causes heart disease, fiber curbs appetite, calcium strengthens bones, or any other topic you desire. I have read the reports that obesity is on the rise and can describe in detail every theory to explain this epidemic. My files are jammed with research on how frailty associated with aging has more to do with sedentary living than with getting older, and that belonging to a support group can lower disease risks. I know the studies that formed the basis for the dietary guidelines and the Food Guide Pyramid. But, up until that one article, I had understood only the whats of nutrition. I was filled with a thousand whys:

Why do vegetables lower cancer risk?
Why does saturated fat accumulate in arteries, blocking blood flow, and leading to heart disease, while fish oils lower our risk?
Why do our bodies absorb only 10 percent of the iron in our diets (which places up to 80 percent of women during the childbearing years at risk for iron deficiency), but up to 95 percent of the fat?
Why does our risk for many diseases, from cancer to cataracts, increase as we age?
Why do we gain weight when our bodies are so perfectly designed to be fit?
The article on evolutionary nutrition explained the whys simply and clearly. It was an “Ah-ha” moment when decades of research fell into place. It began my quest to know more. The end result is this book.

Hello Grandpa!

Still haven’t touched that cheeseburger or cola? Good. Now stop for a moment and think back. I mean way back. Neither of these foods, or any processed food for that matter, ever graced the lips of even one of our ancient ancestors, dating back tens of thousands of generations.

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. These diets served our ancestors well. In fact, our Paleolithic grandparents lived free of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, cataracts, and other modern diseases. They also remained lean and strong throughout life. The most fit, the smartest, and the strongest lived to pass on their genes from one generation to the next like an unbroken chain. Today, that nutritional legacy lives in us.

Agriculture developed about ten thousand years ago, followed later by the Industrial Revolution. These two events brought cataclysmic changes to our dining habits, converting us from hunters and gatherers to farmers, then to drivers of cars with automatic gears and power steering. These last few thousand years are only a minute in evolutionary time, accounting for little or no change in our biological makeup.

Therein lies the problem. It takes tens of thousands of years for the body to adapt to even small changes in the environment. Our biochemistry and physiology remain fine-tuned to diets and activity levels that existed tens of thousands of years ago. Escalating obesity and disease rates are just some of the results when genetics collides with lifestyle. In essence, we remain cave dwellers dressed in designer jeans, genetically programmed to thrive on a diet of nuts, seeds, leaves, honey, and wild game, but gorging on doughnuts, cheese puffs, domesticated beef, soda pop . . . well, you get the picture.

The more I researched the anthropological and archeological data, the more my years of nutrition research fell into place. We don’t need vegetables just because they’re good for us. It’s when we don’t supply the body with the fuels and building blocks it needs that the system breaks down, just as our cars would stall if we were to pour sand or grease into their fuel tanks. Our diets today are killing us because they are as alien to our bodies as breathing in carbon monoxide! Suddenly, it all made sense. If we returned to our dietary roots (and tubers) and ate in balance with our evolutionary makeup, we’d live in harmony with our bodies, experience an extraordinary state of good health, and sidestep just about every chronic disease, as well as maintain a healthy weight and live longer!

My Six Promises

My background in nutrition gave me the edge when reading the hundreds of studies on archeology and anthropology that went into researching this book. I know how to decipher this information in light of today’s nutritional needs and lifestyles. I also knew how to glean the best research that would give the most thorough and accurate account of what our bodies need, both in light of evolution as well as in today’s modern world. What I learned was:

When we eat and move in balance with the way our bodies evolved, we do much more than just avoid disease. We achieve a level of health and vitality that many of us have never before experienced. That level of health is not only possible, it’s embedded in our cells. It’s our inherent biological right.
Don’t worry. You don’t have to live in a cave, hunt woolly mammoths, or eat only wild greens and roots to achieve these goals. You can still have your favorite recipes, eat in restaurants, and order takeout. On the other hand, the Origin Diet in this book will ask you to consider giving up (or at least cutting back on) foods like bacon, soda pop, and cream (not common items on a Stone Age plate!).

The rewards are worth it. Adopt even a few suggestions in the Origin Diet and I guarantee you’ll feel better within weeks. Practice most of the guidelines and you will see noticeable changes in your weight and disease risk, such as lowering of blood cholesterol levels. Take on the entire program and you’ll experience significant improvements in how you feel, think, and live. You might even reverse the damage already done by past poor eating habits, turning back the clock on numerous diseases, such as atherosclerosis and bone loss. All because you’ll be fueling your body with the foods on which it thrives.

This is much more than a hope. It is a promise. Live by the Five Stone Age Secrets and follow the advice in the Original Dozen discussed in this book, and I promise

you will reduce your risk for all major age-related diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, osteoporosis, cataracts, and even depression;
you will think more clearly, including having better memory throughout life;
you will stack the deck in favor of living longer and spending those extra years healthier;
you will lose weight and keep the weight off;
you will have more energy; and
you will enjoy life more.
A Tried-and-True Plan

Those aren’t empty promises. Many people have taken me up on the challenge and found that the results are even better than they imagined. People who have adopted the Origin Diet and Workout Program in this book have lost weight (up to thirty pounds in fifteen weeks!), lowered their risks for heart disease (including dramatic reductions in blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure), increased their energy, found they slept better, had fewer cravings for sweets, experienced improvements in mood, and even reduced medications. It makes sense. Reconnect with your body’s ancient heritage, fuel your body in harmony with your evolutionary roots, and you will maximize your health, energy, and mental ability.

We influence our destinies by the foods we eat. You can sidestep disease, boost your energy, maintain your mental clarity, lose unwanted extra pounds, live longer, and enjoy life more if you return to a style of eating more closely attuned to the natural needs of your body. You’ll find out how in the following chapters. Enjoy your journey back to the future!

Copyright © 2001 Elizabeth Somer

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