Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Nutrition Debate #19: The Archevore Way of Eating a la Dr. Kurt G. Harris, MD

I mentioned in my last column that I had a “peripheral interest” in Paleolithic Nutrition and in Dr. Kurt Harris’s Archevore Way of Eating in particular. It is peripheral because I have been a Type 2 diabetic for 25 years, and for the last 8 years have been eating (mostly) a Very Low Carb dietary. VLC is a very effective way to control blood sugar and lose weight.

If you are overweight, or have Metabolic Syndrome or diabetes, to improve your health Dr. Harris advises you not to eat the Archevore way. He recommends that you eat with special macronutrient ratios to address those medical conditions.

But, if you are not overweight or have Metabolic Syndrome or diabetes, Dr. Harris counsels that by emulating the “evolutionary metabolic milieu” he describes in his 12 step program, this “pastoral diet” can improve your health. He counsels the follower to “go as far down the list as you can in whatever time frame you can manage. The further along the list you stop, the healthier you are likely to be. There is no counting, measuring, or weighing. You are not required to purchase anything specific from me (him) or anyone else. There are no special supplements, drugs or testing required.”

Dr. Harris’s 12 step program is taken directly, verbatim, from his blog at

1. Eliminate sugar (including fruit juices and sports drinks that contain HFCS) and all foods that contain flour.
2. Start eating proper fats. Use healthy animal fats to substitute fat calories for calories that formerly came from sugar and flour.
3. Eliminate gluten grains (wheat, barley, rye, malt). Limit grains like corn and rice, which are nutritionally poor.
4. Eliminate grain and seed derived oils (cooking oils). Cook with Ghee, butter, animal fats, or coconut oil. Use no temperate plant oils like corn, soy canola, flax walnut, etc.
5. Favor ruminants like beef, lamb and bison for your meat. Eat eggs and fish.
6. Make sure you are Vitamin D replete. Get daily midday sun or consider supplementation.
7. Two or three meals a day is best. Don’t graze like an herbivore.
8. Adjust your (Omega) 6’s and 3’s. Pastured (grass fed) dairy and grass fed beef or bison has a more optimal 6:3 ratio, more vitamins and CLA (natural conjugated linoleic acid). If you can’t eat enough pastured products, eat plenty of fish.
9. Get proper exercise – emphasizing resistance and interval training over long aerobic sessions.
10. Most modern fruit is just a candy bar from a tree. Go easy on bags of sugar like apples. Stick with berries and avoid watermelon which is pure fructose. Eat in moderation. If you are not trying to lose fat, a few pieces of fruit a day are fine.
11. Eliminate legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, soy beans).
12. If you are allergic to milk protein or concerned about theoretical risks of casein, you can stick to butter and cream and avoid milk and soft cheeses.

“No counting, measuring or weighing is required, nor is it encouraged.” “Archevores typically range from 5-35% carbohydrate, from 10-30% protein and from 50 – 80% fat (mostly from animals) but wider ranges are entirely possible if you are not dieting and you are meticulous about the quality of your animal food sources. If you are trying to lose weight, really minimizing fructose and eating 50-70g a day of CHO as starch is recommended. If you are at your desired weight and healthy, 20% of calories as carbs are plenty for most very active people.” “Archevore diets tend to be lower in carbohydrate than the Standard American Diet (SAD) because you can only eat so much, and eating animals gives you lots of fat. But it is emphatically not a “low carb” diet as you do not count anything. You just avoid certain foods that happen to be largely carbohydrate. Note that “Fat” and “Carbohydrate” are macronutrient categories that each contains good and bad. Saturated and monounsaturated fat is generally good. More than 4% of calories from PUFA (whether n3 or n6) is bad. For healthy non-diabetics, starch (glucose polymers) is good. Excess fructose is bad. In wheat, the carbohydrate starch is not the major problem. It is the gluten proteins and wheat germ agglutinin that come along with the starch. So, forget “carbs vs. fat.” It is Neolithic agents of disease versus everything else. Most Archevores only know macronutrient metrics in retrospect, as they don’t target numbers just like wild humans didn’t target numbers. If you are not trying to lose weight and you like to eat potatoes and rice, EAT THEM. Sweet potatoes, white rice and white potatoes are well tolerated by most people, and starchy vegetables per se are not Neolithic agents of disease. Many active people without diabetes or metabolic syndrome feel and function better with a fair amount of starch in their diet. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).” (end quotation from

So, if you are overweight, or have Metabolic Syndrome or pre-diabetes or diabetes, well…carbohydrates do count, as Dr. Harris makes clear. Woe is me. Next week we will start a 4-week series on “Know Your Fats.”

Dan Brown. 4/24/11

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