The diet industry is as fad fueled as the fashion industry. Ultimately the difference is that as we sport the latest fashions, we usually recognize that they will change in time and that our hairstyle or denim cut is not the be-all end-all of our lifelong wardrobe. Why is there a need to come up with the next eating trend or the next weightloss food-scheme? Why do we need to use in-vitro physiology to eliminate a single macronutrient from our diets? Or find overly simplistic food paradigms like the adoption of an ancestral diet? Perhaps the fact that we sit too much and eat too much is the problem. Perhaps we should evaluate the state of the food industry rather than evaluating fad diets first hand one by one. The Paleolithic diet, in my opinion, is a perfect example of our constant attempt and need to use science to corroborate our fads.
Firstly, let’s consider our Paleolithic ancestors for a moment. I have been told and have even read that scientists, doctors and nutritionists agree that following a Paleolithic diet is healthier than modern diets. From my investigations, I see dissention amongst researchers as to what the Paleolithic diet even looked like, let alone conceding that Paleolithic were healthier than Neolithic diets. If comparing the modern North American diet to that of any pre-industrial diet, I would think it is safe to say that the average North American eating regiment today is atrociously synthetic and unnecessarily high calorie/low nutrient based. As such, any other diet wins the debate hands down. The fact is simply that the Paleolithic diet worked largely because they were the only foods they could find, they only ate it when they found it and the amount of calories they burned trying to obtain it more than offset spikes in glucose from berry binging or their high fat mammoth leftovers. The real difference likely has more to do with meal frequency and energy expenditure than food choices. So why revert to such a primitive form of eating? Oh right because common sense doesn’t sell books!
If we are to look back into history for a sustainable diet, perhaps we should consider a homesteading diet; where we only eat what we can grow or raise ourselves? If we need to use isolated science to formulate a diet, maybe a caloric balance diet where people only eat as many calories as they need and use computer derived nutritional plans using whole/raw food choices. The last thing we should do is consider the quality of our food because that surely has little to do with all the metabolic disease, auto-immune, food allergies/sensitivities and cancer trends…right!? Instead, let’s look to our most primitive and circumstance moderated ancestors and eat like, we think, they did!!
Without getting too much into my dietary beliefs and teachings let’s take a moment to evaluate the “Paleo Diet” in its purest form; which is, in a nutshell: Eat meat, nuts, seeds and vegetation. Not the worst advice we have seen in recent diet fad history, but we owe it to ourselves to delve a little deeper. The most prominent problem is that the quality of these foods today, especially animal products and conventionally farmed vegetation are, to put it bluntly, polluted and toxic. Eating meat that is injected with questionable agents should not be at the heart of any diet in my opinion. Nor should a vegetation based eating regime that doesn’t differentiate between organically grown and pesticide/herbicide grown foods. The Paleo proliferators will maintain that it goes without saying that our Paleolithic ancestors’ diets were free of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, modified foods, antibiotic and hormone residues. Great so why is this not the main premise of the “Paleo” diet?
Is it convenient that our Paleolithic ancestors likely didn’t eat grains? Maybe, especially that our current ketogenic derived fads frown upon the consumption of “complex carbohydrates”. It is important to recognize that aside from the compromised state of the wheat industry in North America, the untimely and overconsumption of grains is far more consequential to its effects on our population than that of its inclusion/exclusion in our dietary practices. I don’t believe in anything in absolutes and challenge the notion that carbohydrates as a whole should be avoided. In my opinion, any person with adequate meal timing and portion control should be able to optimize their health and performance while including whole grains, root vegetables and even “sugary fruit” in their daily diet.
I would hate to be accused of being a “Paleo” hater, so I will take a moment to identify a few lesser known “Paleo” should-be staples. Firstly, nutrient dense and easy to grow microgreens are relatively high in fiber, protein and an array of micronutrients. This cholera filled fuel source is filled with vitality and vitamins and should be a part of everyone’s dietary habits. They are an immerging new superfood that should be at the top of this diet fad’s food lists; however, I have seldom seen microgreens even mentioned as a staple in the “Paleo” food lists. Yet another seemingly absent food from the “Paleo” list is insects. While entire continents continue to ingest them in various forms and in varying amounts, Western Culture spray them with chemicals, set traps to kill them and burn candles to repel them. They are not only abundant but they are an excellent protein source and likely the freshest animal food source available today. Have you not yet included microgreens and insects as part of your “Paleo” practice? Odd considering that other than half rotten carcass meals, they were likely THE most abundant fuel sources of our Paleolithic ancestors.
The truth is that food quality, meal frequency/timing, caloric intake vs. output are the real reasons most people should be looking to change their diets. None of which are addressed by the basic premises of the “Paleo” diet. Eating raw, unaltered or refined foods is undoubtedly a key to our nutritional success and as such I acknowledge the “Paleo” paradigm’s primitive simplicity. But poo-poo’n quality food choices like whole grains and legumes such as beans and peanuts, creates unnecessarily stringent dietary parameters. I prefer an informed approach, one of trial and error, of personalized evaluation and experimentation. If certain foods are inflammatory, then start by looking at their quality. Could the chemicals that are sprayed and/or injected on these foods have an impact on your intolerance? Could the preparation or lack of preparation of food such as beans affect their risk/benefit profile? Perhaps the simple practice of adequately soaking/cooking beans prior to ingestion absolves digestive concerns and allows for the incorporation of an excellent and nutritionally dense food choice into your dietary repertoire? Should we really revert back to the dietary practices of cave dwellers when we have nearly all of the planet’s known superfoods at our disposal? I maintain that education, self-discipline and simply eating with integrity are at the heart of our nutritional success as a species. Paleo fashion is the only thing I’m interested in; bearded and barefoot! But that is another story….
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