Today’s Paleo nutrient analysis

March 29th, 2011  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  16 Comments

Had the incredible pleasure of attending Robb Wolf’s Paleo seminar in Toronto this past Saturday March 26th. There are so many brilliant insights to share, but here’s one that stuck in my mind: the nutrient density of Paleo-style eating.

Not only is a diet with abundant veggies, fruit, meats, fish & seafood, nuts/seeds/fresh oils tasty, it’s also much higher in nutrients (and nutrient availability) than the standard North American fare. The nutrients in these foods are generally much better absorbed in their native form, and with a higher fat intake (so that fat-soluble vitamins can be absorbed).

Additionally, this diet contains little of the antinutrients that can inhibit nutrient absorption — in other words, even if you eat “fortified” foods, those foods might contain substances that can prevent you from absorbing even the added minerals. (An example of this would be the phytic acid in grains that binds to many minerals such as zinc or iron.)

Here is what I’ve racked up after only half a day’s eating.

925 calories – 18% carbs, 52% fats, 30% protein (66 g, on track for my 1 g protein per lb of bodyweight — and of course the protein score is 100% complete).

Of that fat, 43% is saturated and 35% is monounsaturated. Of the remaining polyunsaturated fats, nearly half is omega-3 fatty acids (i.e. the super-good stuff).

Estimated glycemic load is 15 out of a possible 250, and the GL was bumped up by my higher-carb postworkout meal. This is a low-glycemic, low-insulin-spiking diet.

  • Vitamin A – 461% of RDA, and much of that is the animal-derived, nutritionally active retinol group form, rather than the plant-derived, less-active carotenoids.
  • Vitamin C – 110% of RDA
  • Vitamin D – 2% (typical, since we get most vitamin D from sun, but that’s cool because I popped 4000 IU of D3 this morning)
  • Vitamin E – 35%
  • Vitamin K – 399% (since most folks are low in K, this is awesome)
  • Thiamin – 39%
  • Riboflavin -105%
  • Niacin – 103%
  • Vitamin B6 – 77%
  • Folate – 140% (and note that this is the valuable food folate type, not the crap folic acid with which cereals etc. are “fortified”)
  • Vitamin B12 – 172%
  • Pantothenic acid (aka Vitamin B5) – 64%
  • Calcium – 20% (though I ate a couple of chicken bones yesterday, so maybe that makes up for it!)
  • Magnesium – 49%
  • Potassium – 48%
  • Sodium – 11%

(Notice here how the ratio of potassium to sodium is reversed from what it normally is in a Western diet, as is the ratio of magnesium to calcium. Most Western diets are too high in sodium and too low in magnesium.)

  • Phosphorus – 73% (an important and lesser-appreciated mineral in bone building)
  • Iron – 65%
  • Zinc – 37%
  • Copper – 36%
  • Manganese – 88%
  • Selenium – 140%

Not only that, my veggie intake included some fermented kimchi type stuff (homemade), so there are plenty of friendly little probiotic critters swimming around inside my GI tract now.

In other words, I’ve hit near or over the RDA for many important nutrients by lunchtime.

Can you say this about YOUR diet? Run it through and let’s see what you come up with!


  1. Foakleys says:

    March 29th, 2011at 9:53 am(#)

    What was on the menu?

    And yes, this paleo eating is awesome!

  2. Mistress Krista says:

    March 29th, 2011at 9:59 am(#)

    Breakfast was an egg frittata with parsnips and cauliflower plus a little coconut oil; coffee with heavy cream.

    Postworkout meal was banana, butternut squash, and chicken.

    Lunch was chicken livers and chicken breast over a spinach salad with homemade kimchi carrot coleslaw and a fish oil-olive oil vinaigrette.

  3. Rachel says:

    March 29th, 2011at 10:15 am(#)

    And what tool do you use for logging food intake? FitDay has been marginal for too long; I need a new tool.

  4. Cate says:

    March 29th, 2011at 10:30 am(#)

    What I’d love is a good kimchi recipe since I love the stuff but can’t find it easily around where I live. Share?

  5. Jaime says:

    March 29th, 2011at 10:50 am(#)

    Here, I think, the payoff of a big salad for lunch. Is it possible to overdose on Vitamin K?

    After breakfast (fruit/yogurt/soy milk/kale smoothie), snack (macadamia nuts and, yes, starbucks) and lunch (salad w/ tuna, dark chocolate) I’m at 119 calories. So I’m not packing as many nutrients into my calories as Krista, but I’m still happily surprised by these numbers:

    1199 calories

    25% carbohydrate, 57% fat, 18% protein

    Glycemic load: 30

    60g protein

    Vitamin A 246%
    Vitamin C 417%
    Vitamin D 11% (I took 4000 IU this morning, too!)
    Vitamin E 41%
    Vitamin K 769%
    Thiamin 36%
    Riboflavin 36%
    Niacin 64%
    Vitamin B6 51%
    Folate 63%
    Vitamin B12 47%
    Pantothenic Acid 17%

    Calcium 54%
    Iron 57%
    Magnesium 68%
    Phosphorus 68%
    Potassium 55%
    Sodium 37%
    Zinc 28%
    Copper 52%
    Manganese 169%
    Selenium 160%

    Oh! I just remembered there was peanut butter in my smoothie. (In case there was any doubt if I’m strictly paleo.) So another 125 calories or so, and whatever else is in that.

  6. Jaime says:

    March 29th, 2011at 10:51 am(#)

    Ha, that should say 1199 calories, not 119.

  7. Mistress Krista says:

    March 29th, 2011at 11:09 am(#)

    @Rachel: I like or MyPlate from Livestrong, although MP does a crap job of nutrient analysis. It’s just easier to use than ND in some ways.

  8. Michel says:

    March 29th, 2011at 11:50 am(#)

    I’ve been eating mostly Paleo for about six months now, and liking how I feel (who’d have thought that all that heartburn was coming from bread!). But I still have a niggling feeling that the regimen is a bit high on the meat intake, mostly from a sustainability standpoint. What are your thoughts on a more veggie-heavy Paleo inspired diet?

  9. Mistress Krista says:

    March 29th, 2011at 12:20 pm(#)

    Michel: Why do you worry about meat-heaviness? What about it in particular bothers you?

  10. Michel says:

    March 29th, 2011at 12:30 pm(#)

    Partially a sustainability issue: while Paleo is a good diet, it certainly wouldn’t scale well, population wise. And I doubt that Grok had that much meat to go around.

    What I have found about Paleo is that substituting fruits and veggies for bread/potatoes/pasta has made a huge difference.

    I’m just now reading the Thrive Diet by Brendan Brazier, and it’s gotten me thinking about how plant based diet can also work for health and to support a training regimen (in my case stronglifts 5×5).

    I know there’s no one right answer for diet, but I can’t argue that after the initial Paleo ‘Flu’ that I felt so much better overall. I guess I’m just questioning whether that much meat is actually necessary.

  11. Mistress Krista says:

    March 30th, 2011at 3:12 am(#)

    @Michel: How much meat are you expecting should be consumed? Plants make up a significant proportion of the PD.

    What do you propose as an agricultural alternative? Large-scale monocropping is not sustainable either.

  12. shaun says:

    March 30th, 2011at 4:43 am(#)

    Read so many positive things about Paleo but at 240lbs (with 70lb to lose) does this mean I would need to eat 240g protein per day!? Just sounds like an awful lot of protein to find.

  13. Michel says:

    March 30th, 2011at 6:35 am(#)

    I don’t pretend to have all (or many!) of the answers. It’s a complex question, for sure. I don’t have any nutritional or diet education other than what I’ve researched for myself. Like I said, I do like how eating Paleo is making me feel. But I’m starting to question whether meat or eggs three times a day is necessary — perhaps there’s a more veggie heavy version of Paleo that could be attained.

    I guess I’ll have more to say once I finish the Thrive Diet — was just curious about what your big squishy brain thought of the idea of a more plant-based Paleo regimen (say, meat one meal a day, or maybe meat only a few times a week).

  14. Mistress Krista says:

    March 30th, 2011at 7:44 am(#)

    @shaun: If you have more body fat to lose, the protein intake is adjusted. Leaner people need something like 1 g per lb of body weight; folks with more body fat % are probably fine with something like 0.75 g/lb. So 240 x 0.75 = 180. Even 140 g/day (1 g x lb of lean body mass by your calculations) would be a good start.

    If you have body fat to lose, bear in mind that protein is the most satiating nutrient. The more protein you eat, the fuller you feel. A menu of lean protein + higher-fibre veg + a little bit of good fat is top-notch for fat loss while still feeling satisfied.

    Protein isn’t hard to find if you choose well. A cup of shrimp gives you about 40 g. A palm-sized portion of fish or lean meat is around 30 g. 2 eggs + 3 egg whites is 24 g. Etc.

  15. Trishy says:

    April 26th, 2011at 6:23 pm(#)

    I am curious how many Paleo eaters restrict their meat to grass-fed, pasture-raised animals. I would imagine that at least some of the nutritional benefit of the Paleo diet would be lost with slaughterhouse meat, and of course who the hell wants to support the slaughterhouse industry. I would love to eat meat at dinner every night, but when you’re paying the real price of meat, it’s too expensive to have all the time.

  16. Zoom says:

    April 29th, 2011at 9:30 am(#)

    Hello Krista,

    Long time lurker/reader of your site. As it is, reading this got me thinking… and this type of daily eating is simply what I gravitated toward as someone who’s amazingly sensitive to what I eat (physically speaking), before really knowing about the term ‘Paleo’. I’m glad it’s categorized and available in written format.

    I just wanted to say that for someone with squirrelly blood sugar and a hypersensitivity to stimulants (caffeine, sugar, etc), it works quite well. :-) Just in case those who are hypo- or hyperglycemic, diabetic, etc read this.


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